Portofino in Italian means port of the dolphins. It is in the Italian Riviera, and our visit to Portofino was like walking into a postcard.
The Italian Riviera is the low brow, underappreciated, and less crowded alternative to the French Riviera with a beautiful breezy quality all its own. Yesterday, south of here, we visited the Cinque Terre and three of its little idyllic hamlets; but during the night we cruised north to the towns of Levanto, Sestri Levante, Santa Margherita Ligure, and Portofino, which all have more beaches.
In contrast, the towns to the south offered a mix of marble (Carrara), train connections (La Spezia), yacht construction (Porto Venere), and views from high up on mountains.
First stop was Portofino which is a tiny town of pastel houses around a small harbor. We had to tender ashore which means our ship couldn’t come in close to shore but waited offshore. We had to tender or take a smaller boat ashore.
Once closer we noticed these huge, very expensive yachts. There is a castle up on a hill overlooking the town. The hills around it are hilly if not mountainous. Like the Cinque Terre, I’m told it is surrounded by a national park and has many good hiking trails in it.
We are on a half day excursion to see both Portofino and Santa Margareta.
Touring Portofino we first walked through its streets of pastel-colored houses, high-end boutiques, and restaurants. The village fringes its Piazzetta, a small cobbled square overlooking its harbor, which is lined with super yachts.
We took a wonderful little footpath from the Piazzetta to Castello Brown, a 16th-century fortress and museum with art exhibitions and panoramic views of the town and the Ligurian Sea.
On the way, we stopped at a church to see an example of a poor man’s paving, which in this case was done by fishermen and farmers. Portofino used to be a poor village before its tourism days.
This is a marvelous little walk up to the castle and then to the lighthouse. The public path is very narrow with sometimes stone sides and a stone floor. It is also the path to the public beach, the only beach in Portofino.
If you pass the castle and keep going you eventually get to the lighthouse. In some places, the walls are covered with vegetation and the vegetation is very much like ours in Florida. There’s ivy on these walls. And in other places, it is a steep climb.
We walked on to the lighthouse for more views of the sea. There were great views of Portofino, too.
Homes here are very expensive and owned by soccer stars, actors, actresses, etc.
If you can’t get to Europe there is an authentic detailed full-scale replication of the Portofino Bay at Universal in Orlando.
Next, we boarded a ferry for Santa Margareta.
This is a larger city of people, with much less expensive real estate. There were cars, supermarkets, and all the amenities needed for life; and it was painted in the same way as the other villages. It is a growing city.
Afterword it was almost lunch so we stopped at a street cafe called Ristorante da Michele. We had a nice lunch of pasta with clams and a red sauce. It was very, very good.
Then we visited the Basilica of St. Margaret of Antiochia. It was as beautiful on the inside…
As it was on the outside. They built it in the 1650s on the site of a former 13th-century church.
What a great city for walking.
Tomorrow we sail to Saint-Tropez.