Perched on Italy’s northwest coast, Portofino is one of the most perfect, most photogenic fishing ports in the Mediterranean. Home to the exclusive Hotel Splendido, it has been a magnet for Europe’s beau monde, from Rex Harrison to Elizabeth Taylor, for decades.
Portofino is very small. The little streets leading up from the harbor can be explored in very little time. As well as expensive boutiques, there are cheaper souvenir shops and also general stores where you could put together a picnic if you are planning on a walk. Via Roma leads upwards from the harbor, and is the busiest street with a range of different shops.
The pretty Piazzetta by the harbor is lined with cafe and restaurant tables; a lovely place to relax with a drink and watch the boats go in and out.
Wandering the waterfront and the lanes, you will find yachting boutiques, jewelers (such as the inventive Gold For Ever) and art galleries. Ligurian painter Luciana Conti has an exhibition of watercolors at Vico Dritto, 23 (open April – October) – these include some lovely views of Portofino, with prints and posters to tempt the holiday-maker.
A very pleasant walk heads up to the right as you face the harbor. Up a series of steps, you come to the Church of St. George, a church with a cool, plain interior, dramatically situated on the narrow neck of the Portofino headland. As a lookout point, and probably as a site of religious significance, the spot goes back thousands of years. There are benches to sit on, and some great photo-opportunities looking back down over the harbour.
Continuing onwards, you will reach Castello Brown. This imposing building dominates the harbor; after its warlike purposes were over, it was purchased in 1867 by the British Consul, one Montague Yeats Brown, who made it into the charming dwelling you can admire today. The terraced gardens have wonderful views, while the building contains interesting historical exhibits and architectural features, as well as housing art exhibitions. A lovely story is attached to the two pines on the terrace. Apparently the Consul planted them to celebrate his marriage; one for his bride and one for himself. Today they are a striking feature of the Portofino skyline.
The walk heads on out to the tip of the promontory and the Faro (lighthouse). A little terrace provides a nice spot for a snack overlooking the turquoise Mediterranean, before you retrace your steps to Portofino.
The area around Portofino is a protected park and in July and August there are organized events and guided walks for those who want to see more of the area on foot.