Once upon a time there was a sleepy little fishing village located on a peninsula in a half-moon shaped bay on the north west coast of Italy now known as the Italian Riviera. Like many ancient villages it had gone through a number of rulers over time from the Romans who named it after the dolphins frequenting the nearby waters, to a local abbey, to the Republics of Genoa, Florence, and the Kingdom of Sardinia, and,finally, the country of Italy. And then this quaint village was “discovered’ by affluent British travelers in the 1800’s. Portofino has never been the same since.
Tourism took over this tiny town perched between the hillsides and the sparkling green sea in the last fifty years, driven by songs, movies and books, and by the reputation it gained as a frequented spot – sometimes residence – of the rich and famous. The town itself has much less than 1000 permanent residents but visit during the summer months and you will find that difficult to believe as you stroll the tiny streets between tall colorful buildings, often with the days washing hanging overhead, and along the waterside quays. Moored in the harbor are not so much fishing boats now but scores of tiny pleasure boats and huge, luxury private yachts lording it over their smaller versions. Cruise ships call here too.
The half moon harbor between the sea and hills.
What is there to see and do in Portofino?
The area is great for the active visitor with water sports especially diving, swimming and hiking. Diving areas are restricted, so this activity has to be arranged locally. Enticingly, off the 11th century Abbazia di San Fruttuoso nearby, is an underwater statue Christ of the Abyss by Guido Galletti, said to be protector of sailors and divers.
If you wish to see ancient structures, there are the churches of St. George and of St. Martin, and Castello Brown high on the hill overlooking the town and the Mediterranean. The castle has a very un-Italian name as it was once the home to Yeats Brown, a 19th century British consul to Genoa. Wander about its gardens, explore the former belongings of the Browns’ or visit the unusual above ground tombs at San Giorgio (St George). Or you may wish to visit the Castle of the Counts of Biandrate with it association to the Knights Templar. If art is your passion, there is the Museo del Parco di Portofino.
Finish the day by visiting the shops seaside with recognizable names such as Armani, or by sitting in an outdoor café sipping wine and enjoying a local dish while watching people wander by and observing the marine activity in the busy little harbor.
Note: Traveling by car? Entry to Portofino is strictly limited to a set number of vehicles at a time in the summer which may result in a long waiting line. A cruise is probably your best option. Hopefully, this seaside town will not follow suit of the Cinque Terre region which now caps the number of visitors per year. This area is so beautiful it is easily overrun with tourists.
Your travel expert can advise you on the best time to visit this part of Italy.
Article first appeared in Real Travel Experts. Images courtesy of Bigstock & Pixabay.