I'm excited about this one, I won't lie to you.
It's the "Italian Riviera". Portofino, Italy.
I don't even know what to expect.
Except I expect to be impressed.
I always love a town that's situated on the water. From the start, I'm not disappointed.
Portofino is charming. Utterly charming.
It's said that Portofino is the most photographed port in the world.
Partially because of the very photogenic colors of the buildings on the town square.
I must say, I think I agree.
For those cruising the French and Italian Riviera, Portofino is a must.
There are but a handful of yacht berths in the center of town; the rest are delegated to anchorage in the Bay or just a couple of miles south in the little town of Santa Marghertia.
But this is where the action is. Here in Portofino.
So that's where we want to be.
There are very few places to stay overnight here ~ there are only (8) lodgings listed, total (we didn't really "get it" before we "got here"); and all are extremely expensive. Hotel Splendido is ranked #1, and while it's lovely (it's a Belmond, after all); it's also huge, and not the "vibe" we are looking for. And it's $1600 per night. You heard me.
We end up, instead, at Hotel 8. Just 18 rooms, nicely appointed ~ still expensive. Everything is.
We joked about finding these brass manhole covers about. They certainly wouldn't last in California!
Of course there's a Catholic church, though it's rather humble.
Charming nooks & crannies abound. I'm always tempted to follow the path, climb the stairs, navigate through (or over) the gates to see what's on the other side. Sometimes I just have to resist, as it's probably not appropriate. Who's anchor is this, I wonder? Why is it here? Is it someone who used to sail the seven seas? Was it a White Elephant gift at an office Christmas party? Did they buy it at a decor shop? What?!?
And just as in the rest of Italy, laundry day is announced by billowing clean sheets on the line. Don't you love the way those shutters open up from the bottom? So they let the fresh air in, but not the hot afternoon sun.
The town square is charming ~~ and bustling with activity.
We can see the ferry boat here, on the right, coming to drop off passengers for the day from nearby little towns & villages. The local fishing boats seem small by comparison. But all are dwarfed by the yatch. No, it's not a cruise ship, it's just a private yatch. And such is why you come to the Italian Riviera.
And here's another. We were completely shocked to see them stack these huge yatchs into the berths -- like matchsticks. We do a lot of boating, so we understand the logistics -- but we were amazed that they put these huge luxury ships "bumper-to-bumper". Of course, they have the "side thrusters" that enable the fine calculations to make this possible. Some are docked with joy-sticks -- no kidding! (So if your kid is video-game addicted, there's hope for future employment!) It was a fascinating pass-time, we recommend it (travel tip!) if you are in Portofino. It's about the yatchs. Give them some time. Sit on the benches and watch them come, and go, and dock, and......
Tonight we have the "Crobe"
And the German Fidufi
And the "2 J's of London"
(Just look at how small the hurcky deck hand looks...)
And the Ma-Ma; and the Fidufi....All.....bumper-to-bumper.
By now, everything's docked, and the afternoon's entertainment is waning, and we are thinking about dinner. Much to our surprise, we discover that the majority of the restaurants and cafes and bistros like these that were open to serve the swell of tourists during the day ~~ most have closed up tight in the wake of the day's final ferry.
And this is why you come.
We learned that it's totally a "Day-Trippin'" kind of town. There are only 500-some full-time residents here in Portofino; so when the tourists load up on the last ferry out; the couple of hotels in town have their own restaurants in-house; and those on the yatchts have their own staff to prepare meals strictly to their liking; there's not much of a customer base left as a dinner crowd.
So we feel fortunate to find this cute little Tavern open for dinner. We could eat at our hotel, but......I'd (always) rather be down here by the water.
It's fresh-made pesto gnocchi to start with, fried calamari (my favorite!), and some delicious fresh fish with capers & olives.
At our neighboring table, we recognize the owners of the German-based yatch. Steve has already looked up info on all the yatchs in the harbor......just for kicks. You know.....how big? How old? How much? So we know this one is licensed in Germany, and it happens to be the biggest in port tonight. We immediately notice that lots of money does not ensure the same level of happiness. What little conversation between the two of them is in English, not German. (We notice this a LOT when abroad. English is not only a common "2nd language", it is many times the "preferred" language.) It appears to be his birthday, she gives him a rather impersonal, albeit beautiful, Monte Blanc pen ~~ perhaps to sign all those important documents with. Otherwise ~~ well, they just don't seem that happy to be together. Unlike the two of us, Mr. C & I.
Later, as we stroll the harbor one last time before heading back to our hotel, we see this couple again. Her, inside (the yatch) alone, watching some television. Him, out on the upper deck (of the yatch), also alone, talking on his cell phone.
This is a huge travel tip: The reason that there are not dozens of hotels and lodging options in Portofino; the reason that those that ARE here are outrageously expensive; the reason there are not dozens of restaurants and the like -- is this: It's a Day-trippin' kind of place. If you want to stay here (like us) please don't disparage the hotel because it's not luxurious or because it's not beach front or because it's so expensive or because.....because you were not really educated about what this town is about. It's about yatchs. It's about sayin' (if you own a yatch,) that you stayed here, on the Italian Rivera. That's it. That's the gig. Come see if for what it is, enjoy it for what it is.....and let it go. Don't make it your honeymoon destination (unless you're on a yatch). And I'm talkin' to the Trip Advisor haters here ~~ don't judge the restaurants and lodging by any other standards. Please. Celebrate (with us) what it is; and please don't be disappointed in what it's not.
This is Portofino. A sleepy little town that became
The Yatching capital of the Italian Rivera.
And it's magnificent.
And, a side note: I don't think I would trade a life of love for one that is about money and possessions ~~ all without real love. In fact, I'm sure of it.
Even more in a romantic destination like...Portofino, Italy.