Written by Missy Johnston
Often called the “Pearl of the Riviera” Portofino, Italy has long been fashionable with what was once called ‘the jet set’, and today is a very chic port to visit on a luxury yacht charter. Originally a billet for Genoa’s merchant seamen, by the turn of the twentieth century it was a quiet, though very beautiful, fishing village. To add to its mystique, Portofino has a history buried in myth. Pliny the Elder claimed the Romans founded the town, naming it Portus Delphini, or Port of Dolphins, because of the large number that frolicked in the Tigullian Gulf.
Discovered by German and British holidaymakers in the 1920s, by the 1950s tourism had supplanted the fishing boats. Portofino thus became a favorite with, among others, Princess Grace and Richard Burton and Liz Taylor, whose other favorite island of Ischia, is also Italian. Set within an area of stunning natural beauty, the protected Parco Naturale Regionale di Portofino, the town today is a chic berth for yachts and offers exclusive boutiques, wonderful outdoor restaurants, and beachside cliffs that are speckled with pastel-colored villas.
Facades of Portofino
One can either have their yacht come in stern to in the tiny “downtown” Portofino Marina or anchor or find a mooring ball inside the harbor, or anchor just off the mouth of the harbor in the National Park. Either way, dockage or anchoring requires early reservations, and both are accompanied by a higher than usual price. This is, however, the ultimate of traditional Italian fishing villages, with building façade fronts sporting every shade of earthy Tuscan color imaginable.
Wander the little streets and enjoy chic shopping. Perhaps have a drink or tea sitting in the outside garden like area of the Chuflay Restaurant at Belmond Splendido Mare on the harbor, or a drink on the terrace at the Belmond Hotel Spendido, perched high above the harbor on a hillside. Enjoy a meal at a little restaurant or just soak up the ambiance and life of this little slice of heaven from the stern of your yacht.
What to Enjoy in Portofino, Italy
Chic Shopping: With shops selling goods from Missoni, Dior, Prada, Hermes, Salvatore Ferragamo, and Louis Vuitton tucked in along the main streets, and little alleyways, one can find quite a collection of chic fashions, to refresh, gelato cafes.
Walking: Head out of the main square on the southern side of the harbor along the point of land protecting the harbor from the Ligurian Sea to see the Church of St. George, Brown Castle and at the end of the point, the lighthouse. Walking along this point of land provides on one side, terrific views of Portofino Harbor and the villas perched on the opposite side of the harbor, and on the other side, the Ligurian Sea.
Hiking: There is an extensive network of trails through the hillsides that are part of the surrounding Portofino Regional Park. There are also many coastal paths that run along the inside of the hillsides surrounding the harbor and on the outside of the point of land extending out on the southern side of the harbor. Besides trails there are also little coastal winding roads that pass by fabulous villas in the surrounding hillsides.
Belmond Hotel Splendido and Belmond Splendido Mare: One a 5 Star Hotel perched above Portofino Harbor, considered one of the best hotels in Europe, and a terrific location for a cocktail with an outstanding view before sunset or a 4-course dinner. The second a harbor fixture, with a lovely restaurant, Chuflay, in a garden setting right on the harbor, great for a drink, tea, lunch or dinner.
This is a jewel of a little harbor, very protected, and tucked into the surrounding hillsides. The water is beautiful, ringed by the facades of old stucco buildings painted in a myriad of Tuscan colors. One can pop in for a quick visit, or spend time, relax, and enjoy the slower pace of life in this traditional fishing village housing a chic world within, when on a private yacht charter.