A famous resort for the jet-set and wealthy, Portofino is a picturesque place that will appeal to everyone. The pastel town curves around the cove of a natural harbour, occupied by upscale shops, delectable restaurants, hip cafes and luxurious hotels with spas. The former fishing village still retains a sense of its marine-based past and is a truly enchanting town.
Arrive by boat for the best impression and easiest access - the squiggly road to get here is nerve wracking! With its isolated location, you'll see why it drew literary and Hollywood types looking for some solitude in a beautiful setting. The sapphire-blue sea contrasts sharply with the color-splashed houses and the deep green foliage on the hills that rise up behind Portofino. It is a place that is both worldly and natural at the same time.
Portofino was a Roman colony originally named Portus Delphini, supposedly for the presence of dolphins in the harbor. It served as a strategic point for many centuries; it was placed under the Republic of Genova in 1229, whose merchant marine used the natural port as a base. In 1409 it fell under the jurisdiction of the Republic of Florence then was passed around some of the area's noble families, like the Fieschi and Doria for a few centuries, before being acquired by the Kingdom of Sardinia until the unification of Italy.
Castle Brown. The Castello Brown is the defining feature of the hill above Portofino. The honey-colored stone structure was used to defend the harbor starting in the 1400s. It remained a fortress until the 1860s when it was purchased by Yeats Brown, the English consul to Genova, who transformed it into a stately residence. Several movies have been filmed here, and it's now the beautiful setting for many destination weddings in Portofino. There is a civic museum inside so that visitors can enjoy the period furnishings and paintings.
Punta del Capo Lighthouse. Take the pathway that leads to the lighthouse, a pretty white beacon that rests on the rock at the water's edge. It's a peaceful spot immersed in the green trees with splendid views.
Portofino Marine Protected Area. Portofino is a scuba divers' and snorkelers' paradise with coral reefs, marine life and unique habitats for fish and other water creatures. The area is a protected park to maintain the integrity of the ecosystem and marine landscape. Fishing and diving require permits.
Abbey of San Fruttuoso. Take a boat ride to the little island of Fruttuoso and the medieval abbey founded by Benedictine monks. The lovely setting in the traditional fishing village includes the abbey, cloister and church in Byzantine style. In the bay is the submerged statue of Christ of the Abbys, a protector of sailors and divers that is at the seabed, 60 feet down. An unusual underwater procession takes place every July to lay a wreath at the statue.
Piazzetta. Known formally as Piazza Martiri dell'Oliva, locally it's simply referred to as "La Piazzetta" - and it's the hub of civic and social life in Portofino. Here you can enjoy a leisurely cappuccino, a glass of wine, or a gelato from one of the sidewalk cafes and watch the world go by. You just might see a celebrity or two blending into the crowd!
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Explore nearby towns
A beautiful seaside town, Santa Margherita Ligure has all the appeal of Portofino without the crowds and prices.
On the Italian Riviera, Chiavari is a lively city of about 28,000 people that has a lot to offer.
Lavagna is a delightful city on the Ligurian coast, the crescent-shaped slice of land that abuts the French border.