For a quaint fishing village on the colourful coast of the Italian Riviera, Portofino attracts its fair share of the rich, famous and fabulous. Their yachts jostle for space in the harbour and you’ll spot them sipping expensive vintages at Hotel Splendido’s La Terrazza restaurant, where a lunch bill stretching into hundreds of euros is inevitable.
Clark Gable, Charlton Heston, Liza Minelli and Elizabeth Taylor holidayed here in yesteryear, whilst Rihanna, Beyoncé and Jay-Z, and Steven Spielberg have all checked in more recently. It’s cruising’s favourite Ligurian location, so here’s how to spend a day exploring pretty Portofino.
There is an unwritten rule that you must eat on the harbour when you’re holidaying on the Italian Riviera, so take your pick from the charming ristorantes that sit beneath striped canopies and spill out of coloured town houses façades. Ristorante Puny is the most famous of them all and has dished up authentic Ligurian delights to the rich and famous for years, yet isn’t overpriced and never feels like a tourist trap. Pappardelle al Portofino and salt-baked sea bream are the stars of a menu which stays loyal to its surroundings. The restaurant is closed on Thursdays and booking is a must at any time of year.
Nowhere is an afternoon aperitif better enjoyed than right on the water’s edge, which is where you’ll find yourself if the handful of tables outside the Winterose wine bar are already taken. Don’t be put off if you can’t get a table and are instead handed a couple of cream cushions and directed to the end of the harbour; these are the best seats in the house. The local wines on offer here have been selected by the knowledgeable and super-friendly owner of the wine bar and adjoining wine shop, and are served with antipasti gratis. Italian Riviera views, good wine AND free cheese and charcuterie? We’re sold!
Portofino’s most fabulous visitors don’t just moor their yachts here for the antipasti. The town is a millionaire’s playground and its shopping reflects this; Hermes, Louis Vuitton, Gucci and Prada are just a tiny selection of the high-end stores you’ll find occupying the cobblestoned streets. Fortunately, those with shallower pockets will find that Portofino’s charm extends far beyond its window shopping.
The 8th century Benedictine monastery in picturesque San Fruttuoso is unmissable. Accessible only by sea or on foot, this stunning structure snuggles into the coastline, fronted by azure waters and a gorgeous natural beach. Once upon a time, the monastery’s supporting archways would welcome boats delivering goods straight the cellar but now you’ll often find them empty, save for a few wooden fishing boats and an odd inquisitive visitor.
Castello Brown is another must-see when in Portofino. The castle has protected the harbour since the 15th century; climb the stairs marked ‘Salita San Giorgio’ and you’ll be rewarded with 360-degree views of what many deem to be prettiest coastline in all of Italy, plus the rainbow-bright town and the greenery of its National Park.
If you’re sailing to the most exclusive spot on the Italian Riviera, it makes sense to do so in style. Luxury cruise lines including Seabourn, Silversea, Azamara, Oceania and Regent Seven Seas Cruises all offer Portofino ports of call with added five-star service.