We recently visited Lake Como and decided to extend our vacation so we could drive 2 hours to the Italian Rivera to visit Portofino. We simply rented a car from Hertz in Como (straightforward and easy) and then dropped it back to the airport in Milan (also stress free).
The drive to Portofino is mostly highway driving in the early stages but then you hit the mountains and start going through many winding tunnels until you hit the coastal town of Santa Margherita leading you via the coastal road of Portofino.
Entering Portofino you can’t help be amazed by its postcard level beauty - the ocean on one side filled with massive, private yachts and on the other side imposing mountains all dotted with pastel color houses and hotels. The main road literally ends at the Piazzetta (town square) where the town comes alive with hundreds of tourists, designer boutiques and many restaurants as well as access to all the boats, yachts and ferries. Portofino certainly lives up to its reputation as a glamorous place, especially during the summer, as you can spot many celebrities and palatial yachts that get bigger and bigger. However, it also preserves its authenticity with cobbled streets and tiny stores and an amazing wild side since the village is also the center of the Portofino National Park and Marine reserve, leading to fantastic hikes up and through the mountains.
One morning from literally our hotel entrance (Splendido), we took one of the hiking trails up to the top of the mountain from where we witnessed the most amazing views that went on for miles and then climbing down the other side we ended up straight onto a pebbled beach with a typical Italian restaurant – it reminded me of the restaurant featured in the movie Mama Mia. It was so random but a refreshing beer at the end of our two-hour steep trek was the perfect way to end our adventure. As we were on the other side of the mountain instead of walking back, we jumped onto a super-friendly Canadian family’s boat who kindly offered to take us back to the Portofino port. With a 30 min boat ride is perfect to witness Portofino from the sea and we even got a great view of Dolce & Gabbana stunning home on the cliffs edge..
During our few days in Portofino we stayed in two hotels – both equally fabulous but one being a lot more luxurious that the other.
Hotel Piccolo I really loved as its set in the mountain with its entrance on the main road and right across the narrow street the steps take you down to its private beach and restaurant. It was the perfect lunch spot to enjoy a large glass of rose and enjoy the view, not to mention checking out all the super yachts. While enjoying our lunch, Mr. Zara himself (yes the owner of high street giant Zara AKA Europe's richest man Amancio Ortega) moored his 154-foot yacht right in front of us! We were literally a stones throw away (see photos below) it did cross my mind to swim in front of his boat with the hope he would invite us on board !!! LOL
Even though the beaches are all pebbles, so its an “oh and an arh” to get to the water, but once you’re in the ‘Med’ its just amazing, so refreshing, so clean and utterly perfect.
The hotel has 23 rooms all furnished rather basic in whites or neutral palette with some rooms offering great ocean views. The hotel is just a few minutes walking distance from the hustle and bustle of the port/marina area.
Our other hotel was the Belmond Hotel Splendido which is set in lush terraced gardens on the steep, verdant hillside with fabulous views of the bay. This 16th century monastery building oozes elegance and sophistication. The interior is traditional with an opulent feel of white marble, antiques furniture and old photos of famous guests who have stayed at this immaculate hotel. The stunning well-manicured grounds are perfect for dining and relaxing by the pool. It’s a hotel where you don’t ever want to leave, as the view is just simply breathtaking that no picture can replicate. Again, you can take a simple 5-minute walk down to the harbor or take one of the walking trails from the hotel doorstep.
Every night we ate in the harbor but people dine early and most of the popular restaurants get fully booked in advance with reserved tables. So if there’s somewhere you want to eat in particular, book in advance but wherever you eat, trying the pasta is a prerequisite and a MUST!
Portofino is Italy through and through. Everything that you want to experience about this magical country you can find in this tiny, picturesque village perched on the ocean-side. Places like these deserve multiple trips back as they really do fuel the soul.
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