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Travel:Portofino, Italy. 3/12-16/2024

Updated: May 4

This post is a continuation of a trip North of Rome along the Western coast of Italy.

Civitavecchia -3/6-7 (part 1) Carrara. 3/12/2024 (part 5)

Orbotello. 3/8 (part 2)

Livorno. 3/9-10 (part 3)

Lucca. 3/11-12 (part 4)

Ten years ago, when David and I first visited Portefino's enchanting coast,

like in the famous song , I fell in love with Portofino..

No one sings and says its better

"I found my Love in Portefino"

than  Andrea Bocilli, the Italian tenor. who preformed in the town in 2013

What a shame that this gifted yet impaired sighted singer can so passionately sing about a place blessed with divine beauty, he could never see.

The drive from Carrara to the Portofino coast, took about an hour an a half

What a blessing it is to visit this spectacular coast, during off season and avoid traffic jams and hordes of tourists. The best times to visit here are during spring and autumn, as during summer, the small town gets overcrowded, especially on weekends.

The narrow widening road leading toward Portefino village, at the end tip of the land protrusion, takes the visitors via 2 enchanting communities popular also with tourists :

We stayed at the latter, on our previous visit, in the grand Miramar Hotel which is highly recommended in Santa Margarita Ligure.

However, since many hotels as the Miramar , are closed during off-season and until the end of March when the season opens formally,,. we stayed this time at the Rapallo's Excelsior Hotel.

This exclusive seaside village which is the jewel of the Italian Riviera was the favorite of the rich and famous during its 1950s heyday. and is still one of the most popular and romantic seaside places in the heart of the Riviera .

Protofino nests on the Ligurian Seacoast, by a tranquil crescent harbor. The small picturesque town cradled by a piazza and clustered by tiny pastel houses, in yellow, green, and blue colors, on the backdrop of crystalline green waters on the sea side

and an olive groves and small vineyard on the hillside

Filled with summer yachts, and odd fishing boats and lined with outlets of Gucci, Pucci, Hermès and Louis Vuitton boutiques along with seafood restaurants, cafes and luxury hotels. hiking the hilly surroundings. great swimming and diving and boating are all wonderful opportunities the village offers.

Pliny the Elder (AD 23 – AD 79) referred to Portus Delphini (Port of the Dolphin) as on the Ligurian coast between Genoa and the Gulf of Tigullio. Apparently, back in Roman times, many dolphins frequented the cost, thus the town got its name "Portofino".

In the late 19th c, first British, then other Northern European aristocratic tourists began to visit Portofino, which they reached by horse and cart from Santa Margarita Ligure.

By 1950, tourism had replaced fishing as the town's chief industry, and the waterfront was a continuous ring of restaurants and cafés.

Only 500 now a days people live in Portofino – fishing families, shop owners, people with hotels or restaurants, and a few who work in Genoa.

The elderly are perched on the doorsteps, many women doing lacework, the men staring out at the sea.

The many incidental tourists who flock into the village, if lucky, park their cars at the

one limited garage above the village's harbor. or along the road prior to entering the village. Many just take the long walk by foot from Santa Margarita town.

The Benedictines established a monastery in the 1400s on the site of Hotel Splendido, only to abandon it in the 1500s after repeated raids by pirates. The building remained an empty ruin until the 1800s when a titled European family restored it as a summer villa.

In the 1850s, British aristocrats began making Portofino popular, believing that relics of St. George, England’s patron saint, rested in the parish church.

A Walk up the steps toward the Castle

Portofino’s most unforgettable view is reached by climbing several long, easy steps from the harbor to the Fort of St. George, built in the mid-1500s.

San Giorgio church is being passed on the way to the castle

Church of San Giorgio lies almost in the center of the promontory and was built

according to a plaque located inside the church, in Romanesque style in 1154.

( 12th c) but rebuilt was rebuilt in the original style in 1950 after the damages of the last war.

The church is dedicated to Saint George, a soldier in the Roman army and member of the Praetorian Guard for Roman emperor Diocletian, who was sentenced to death for refusing to renounce his Christian faith.

A tombstone reminds that St. George's relics were brought by the Crusaders in the 13c

This historic house museum located in Via alla Penisola, high above the harbor of Portofino, which is also known as .Castello di San Giorgio. is a site that has been used for military defence since Roman times.

In the early 16th c a military engineer Giovanni Maria Olgiati drew up plans for a full fortress in 1554. The structure was enlarged from 1622 to 1624, and survived in this form for a century and a half. The little tower was destroyed in 1798 by an English attack during Napoleon's Ligurian Republic. The castello was abandoned after the Congress of Vienna in 1815.

After being abandoned for years the English consul, to Genoa -  Montague Yeats-Brown purchased in 1867 the structure for 7,000 lire remodeled the property as a comfortable villa.

The views from every window of the the castle are absolutely stunning

A magnet for celebrities.

English actor Rex Harrison owned a villa here while Richard Burton proposed to Elizabeth Taylor in Portofino’s Hotel Splendido.

At the Brown villa the following photos were on display:

Winston Churchill and Aristotle Onassis

Marcello Mastroianni Kim Novak Edi Fisher and liz Taylor

Brown's descendants held the property until 1949, then sold it to an English couple who restored several ruined sections, and in turn sold it in 1961 to the City of Portofino, which now opens it to the public

The Enchanted April, a 1922 best-selling novel by Elizabeth von Arnim based on the author's stay in Castello Brown, is credited with making Portofino fashionable.[ 

The novel was the basis of a 1991 feature filmed in the Castello, with a cast including Joan Plowright, Miranda Richardson and Alfred Molina. The film was nominated for three Oscars

        The path leading to the Brown's castle continues to the lighthouse spot

The Light House at the End's Tip

A small bar at the remote spot, a true nirvana of breath-taking view on the Gulf of Tigullio

Bar Il Faro di Portofino (the Lighthouse of Portofino),

Back at the main square in front of the Harbor

La Piazzetta - Portofino's iconic main square overlooking the harbor

Alexander MacQween (1969 – 2010)

The famous British fashion designer and couturier who founded in 1992 his own Alexander McQueen label and was chief designer at Givenchy from 1996 to 2001, opened in 2022 also a store in Portofino

The store like many facilities closed

off-season, will reopen only in Aplil

A walk up to the the other side above

a 12c Romanesque Lombard style located above the harbor, with a beautiful black and white patterned mosaic pavement in front of it

Portofino by Drone

Is also one of the most picturesque attractive and charming in the Riviera di Levante

Its lively harbor, sea-front promenade, restaurants, cafes, ice-cream parlor, and chic shops, attracts many tourists.

The old town behind the harbor, is centered around Piazza Mazzini. The 2 quite extensive areas of beach, grand colorful buildings/ houses immediately behind the seafront, along with historic monuments as a small waterfront 16c castle, make it all a very popular resort town

Villa Durazzo - 1678 built royal where its apartments a small art gallery with paintings by 17th and 18th c artists, and gardens with views are on display

The larger of the 3 resort communities, with about 30,000 inhabitants Rappallo is also most charming resort town, and where we stated for 4 nights

Although the surrounding areas are very exclusive, sometimes a little snobbish, in Rapallo the atmosphere is decidedly more relaxed and welcoming, much closer to what is the everyday life of the inhabitants of Liguria.

The town is most probably of Etruscan or Greek origin from the 8th BC

Its strategic location right in the center of the Gulf of Tigullio, also added to its popularity

The oldest part of Rapallo is the most interesting and consisting of wonderful pedestrian streets and allyes with typical tall colorful facades. houses

Vittorio Veneto promenade, is the elegant seaside promenade in the shade of palm trees, with a succession of bars, ice cream parlors, hotels and restaurants.

 Many of the villas are built in the hills that rise immediately behind the city, protecting them from strong northern winds.

Rapallo has been known for its climate that made it over the years the winter residence of preference for most of the affluent Italians living in the North West of Italy.

The Castello sul Mare (Castle-on-the-Sea), erected in 1551 to counter the frequent pirate attacks.

The castle on the sea is located at the eastern end of the Vittorio Veneto seafront, surrounded by water and connected to the mainland by a pier.

and is undoubtedly the symbol of the city and is in fact reproduced on postcards, stamps and souvenirs.

The weekly local street outdoors flea and food market are on Thursday in Rappalo's harbor and on Friday in Santa Margarita Ligure

Hotel we stayed in Rapallo

Via S San Michele di Pagana 8, Rapallo. + 39 0185230666

This grand (1901) and only 5-star luxury hotel on the Portofino Coast, is set on "Ciappadea Cliff" over looking the coast between Rapallo and Portofino.

It has been since the early 1900s the symbol of the “Dolce vita”, which has conquered the international elite, thanks to its natural beauty and legendary art.

From the Hotel's Indoor/Outdoor Pool

Right from its inception, the first Italian casino built there acquired the hotel its prestige and fame. And though the casino was transferred to San-Remo in 1928, the hotel remained the high society favorite spot