Portofino is Trending This Summer: Here’s Where To Stay On Any Budget - The Gloss Magazine

Portofino is Trending This Summer: Here’s Where To Stay On Any Budget

Pretty Italian fishing village Portofino finds itself trending once again this year as a source of travel, food and style inspo…

“Portofino in the 1960s was magic. Women in bright silk each with a gardenia in their hand. The bottle started then in my mind,” so explained Elsa Peretti of her iconic pendant bottle design for Tiffany & Co. This simple, elegant piece was inspired by the custom in which local women in Portofino carried gardenia flowers, some in small vases tied round their neck. Today Peretti’s pendant collection includes jade, lapis and gold variations; Portofino remains fragrant and fashionable. 

The pretty fishing village is picture perfect. Its yellow and pink houses, with balconies overflowing with geraniums, is featured in a new book Villeggiatura:  Italian Summer Vacation published by Assouline. “Villeggiatura” means taking your time and enjoying a stay whose sole purpose is rest and recreation.

Yes, a holiday in Portofino does offer this – especially if you take a traditional wooden gozzo to the pebbly beach of San Fruttuoso, explore the Portofino National Park or catch a glimpse of Christ of the Abyss statue submerged 15 metres under the sea between Camogli and Portofino. 

However, seeing and being seen is a huge part of Portofino’s attraction, as is its luxury accommodation options, ideal for those planning a special trip or celebrating milestone anniversaries or birthdays.

Dropping anchor in the bay is an essential stop in any A-list cruise of the Mediterranean. Last year the Kardashian clan arrived en masse, with suitcases full of archival Dolce & Gabbana pieces, to celebrate Kourtney’s wedding to Travis Barker at Portofino’s Castello Brown, part museum, part wedding venue. The entrance ticket is €5 – incredible value given the gardens and views. 

The short path or passeggiata, around the port culminates in the street theatre of the Piazzetta which has been a catwalk for international high society for more than 150 years. I recommend sitting at a bar table in the Piazzetta (try Winterose Wine Bar) with a Portofino spritz (made with Campari, prosecco, grapefruit juice and a splash of soda water) or a glass of Vermentino as a pre-dinner aperitivo. For dinner Ristorante Lo Stello is great for seafood, while the Trattoria Tripoli on the main piazza serves a delicious pesto lasagne.

Personally I feel, Portofino is more suited to a long weekend than a long holiday, and is an essential detour if you are visiting the Cinque Terre or have wangled a budget flight to Genoa. While you’re there, visit the lighthouse, and La Portofinese, an eco-farm which sells produce and can arrange tours, picnics and wellness experiences.

While it’s associated with celebrities and luxury accommodation, Portofino can be enjoyed on a budget too. You can hop on a direct train to Santa Margherita Ligure station from Genoa airport which takes about one hour, then it’s a 15-minute bus journey on the number 82 bus to Portofino which runs every 20 minutes from the station. There are daily ferries from towns such as Camogli, where more affordable accommodation can be found.

Where to stay: from five star icons to fabulous finds

Hotel Splendido

Much of the allure of Portofino is embedded in the DNA of Hotel Splendido – a former 16th-century Benedictine monastery perched on a hill overlooking the harbour with mature gardens filled with bougainvillea and wisteria. Audrey Hepburn was memorably photographed by Norman Parkinson in its gardens. The hotel was essential to the romance of Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor, who spent time here during the filming of Cleopatra in Rome, the hotel’s signature dish, Spaghetti alla Elizabeth Taylor, is dedicated to the actress. As the epitome of la dolce vita, it doesn’t disappoint. I was fortunate to stay as part of a special birthday celebration and loved its old-world glamour, relaxed attentiveness, and gallery of black and white photos of former guests.  Rooms are spacious and all are sea-facing. I found the black and white bathrooms particularly impressive (double bathtubs, divine products) and most enjoyed lingering over breakfast served on the Terrazzo restaurant.

Splendido Mare

This serves as an extension to the hillside Hotel Splendido and is right on the piazzetta. Regular guests have included Ava Gardner, who fell in love with Portofino when she was filming The Barefoot Contessa, and a suite (pictured) was named after her. Recently refurbished, rooms are decorated in elegant neutral colours, with natural materials mixing vintage and designer pieces. Their balconies have a unique view of the portside action and are perfect for people watching. Its DaVMare restaurant serves signature dishes such as platters of marinated raw fish and cappon magro – shellfish on a bed of vegetables (both great for those on diets!).  Accommodation starts from £567 per night for a king-size double, on a bed and breakfast basis (taxes and fees included); www.belmond.com.

Hotel Piccolo Portofino

Let’s face it, everyone who comes to Portofino wants to be able to throw open their window and have a great view. This historic villa provides this and is budget-friendly too. It’s modern, minimalist and a short four minute walk from a private (rocky) beach with a bar; www.hotelpiccoloportofino.it.

Casa de Mar, San Fruttuoso

This restored fisherman’s self-catering cottage on an medieval abbey site can only be reached by boat from Camogli year-round or from Portofino in high season. Casa de Mar was refurbished by the Italian National Trust (The FAI)  and is one of the Landmark Trust properties (worth investigating for unusual places to stay).  Perched high above the abbey roofs, this little house looks out over the blue Mediterranean. It has its own seaward terrace and a small garden, while pine trees, olive groves and a little beach are within walking distance. This is definitely one of the prettiest off grid locations and will fulfil any castaway fantasies;www.landmarktrust.org.uk.

B&B Tre Mari, Portofino

This pretty three-star “hometel” (is around €120 per night) just a kilometre from the centre of Portofino.  Cosy decor, an extensive book collection, secluded garden and very handy to the dessert restaurant Gelateria Bar Giorgio are other selling points; www.booking.com.

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