Upon leaving the classical wonder of Rome, the Splendor continues its Dream Destination journey up the western coast of Italy as we sail north to Portofino. This picturesque Italian fishing village nestled in a cozy cove of green and blue is famous as a holiday resort for celebrities and artists who come from around the world to bask in the beauty, pleasant weather, and bright-green vegetation of Portofino.
Widely regarded as one of the most beautiful Mediterranean ports, you will find many mouth-watering restaurants and cafés bursting forth from the hillsides in bright and colorful structures built right next to the water. Portofino is so famous that there are replicas of its beauty all over the world, including an authentic, full-scale duplication at Universal Orlando Resort, an inspired recreation at Tokyo DisneySea in Chiba, Japan, and many restaurants which use the Portofino name to associate themselves with its famous beauty. Luckily, you will get to see the real thing with your own eyes.
Bask in Beauty at the Piazzetta
Tourists first started frequenting Portofino in the late 1800s, as British aristocrats began to reach the narrow cove by horse and cart from the north. By the 1950s, more and more visitors established vacation homes there, eventually causing tourism to replace fishing as the biggest industry. This surge of visitors was when the delightful seaside cafés of today began to emerge.
This area is called the Piazzetta, the small plaza which sits so close to the water that you can practically touch the bobbing fishing boats. This is where you can sip a glass of Nostralino, the famous local white wine, and experience true relaxation with a side of focaccia.
La Piazzetta also houses Portofino’s nightlife and social clubs, and many people come to the plaza simply to catch sight of A-list celebrities. There are many wonderful restaurants, like Morena in the main square, where you can stargaze while you eat at white-linen tablecloths and sip drinks with Ligurian olives.
There’s also the Excelsior, a club that looks like it was pulled straight out of the 1970s. Here you can try the signature cocktail of Portofino, which consists of pineapple, gin and cuaçao, and Paciugo ice cream that you may remember for the rest of your life, with strawberries straight from the vine and homemade whipped cream.
After you have gotten your fill of people-watching, there are still many landmarks which you can explore in Portofino:
Statue of Christ of the Abyss
This hauntingly unique statue of Christ was sculpted by Guido Galletti and placed about 50 feet below the surface of the inlet in August of 1954. Posed with arms outstretched in a blessing for peace, it was sunken in memory of Dario Gonzatti, the first Italian to use scuba gear. It now protects divers of all nationalities.
Castello Brown has one of the best views of the harbor as you stand amidst the beautiful gardens and grounds which date back to the 16th century. Initially a fortress, the castle was bought by an English nobleman named Brown in 1867, and his descendants owned the estate until 1949. The castle stands guard over the village and can be seen clearly from the main plaza. The path may be steep, but the hike is worth it to witness this must-see landmark.
There was even a best-selling novel about Castello Brown in 1922, based on author Elizabeth von Arnim’s stay in the magnificent castle. The work, The Enchanted April, is often cited as making Portofino fashionable to a modern audience.
Church of San Giorgio
On the way up to Castello Brown, you will see the Church of San Giorgio perched on a hill after only a brief stroll from the Piazzetta. The church itself is a small Catholic structure from the 1150s, built on a sanctuary Roman soldiers built for the Persian god Mithra, all-seeing protector of truth. It was tragically destroyed in the bombings of World War II before being rebuilt in the 1950s for the pleasure of all.
Church of San Martino
The equally beautiful Church of San Martino sits on the opposite hill of the Church of San Giorgio. This Romanesque structure is also from the 12th century, and while its grounds provide an impressive view of the Mediterranean, its beauty lies inside, with its stained glass windows, ceiling paintings, fantastic sculptures, and colorful mosaics.
Next Stop: Provence
After enjoying the beauty of this haven, the Splendor will be waiting to whisk you from Portofino to our final stop on this trip through paradise: the city of Provence in Marseille. Sit back and relax as we make our way to southeastern France to visit the wondrous social center of southern Europe.