23rd January 2017
Portofino is truly perfect, I will tell you why. The proportions of the horseshoe shaped port are perfect. The subtle palette of pastel colours of houses lining the port are perfect. The balance between nature and sea is perfect.
And the position of Portofino is perfect, being practical for a moment here, it’s only a hop and skip from Genoa airport (40 minutes) if you aren’t lucky enough to arrive by boat, as one of my favourite writers Maupassant did, many many years ago and made the observation:
“On entering that emerald green cove, I felt such a sensation of repose, of contentment, of a pause in the useless frenzy in which we carry on our lives.”
These comments made over a hundred years ago, seem even more relevant now, maybe everyone has always felt like that, which is reassuring. But it’s true, I felt something, a thread of calm, that I can rarely access, but it was immediately there in Portofino.
Originally the humble houses that line the mountains were shelter for animals and humans but all this changed when Lord Carnavon, not content with discovering Tutankhamun’s tomb, became the first foreigner to discover Portofino as a holiday destination and created the Villa Altichiara, which brought him many years of joy, inviting famous visitors, including Baron Mumm of Champagne fame, who snapped up houses nearby. Industrialists, financiers and the film industry followed. Most of the houses in Portofino have been in families for generations, and although the idea of taking two months off work seems unthinkable now, multi-generational families would station themselves there all Summer. The Italian habit of being close to cousins and aunts must come in part from this brilliant tradition.
Portofino is also very glamorous and unspoilt, there are no tat shops, just a few Italian designer shops and pretty restaurants. My ex-mother in law Elizabeth Harris was married to Rex Harrison, who had a house there in the 60’s, and when I showed her the photos she sighed and said “Oh, it hasn’t changed at all”. She had recently given my daughters many pieces from her amazing couture collection, and now I know where those Pucci dresses were worn. My own mother was similarly nostalgic and said “Oh, your father and I spent our honeymoon at the Hotel Splendido”, so I am now convinced that I was conceived in perfect Portofino and I am going to perfect my Italian this year, so I can really be an impostor and pretend to be an Italian.
It was November when I went there and everything was closed up, but there were still some people walking around and craning their necks upwards, trying to imagine the cast of characters who live inside the amazing houses on the hills. Guiltily, I pressed a bell at a plain unobtrusive gate and the guardian appeared like magic, I walked through a floodlit tunnel and shot up in a James Bond lift for my stay in the Portofino estate that we represent, with its 360 panoramic views and staff that are devoted to the family who have owned the house for 30 years. I was pampered and spoilt and even though it was November, it was hard to tear myself away. If you want a really easy holiday, with fantastic staff, spectacular pool and direct sea access and Portofino just a couple of minutes’ walk from the main square, then this is the house for you.
The Italians do so many things best in my eyes, food, fashion, and certainly the ‘art of having a perfect holiday’, they have that down. Charter a boat for the day, play tennis at the Hotel Splendido, if you are male and under 30 get a Vespa or a Lambretta, (you will look unsexy and ridiculous otherwise), hang out and have a drink at Le Carillon, and you can play at being Italian at their most glamorous – and girls, just stroll along the dock in something cute, not eating a cornetto, and you can be Audrey Hepburn in Roman Holiday.
THINGS TO DO
Taverna Del Marinaio-0185269103
Portofino is diving off the rocks swimming but just a couple of miles away, Paraggi has a large sandy beach and a good restaurant.
Capo Nord-339 1889884
Taverna Del Marinaio- 0185287058
Trattoria Dei Pescatori-0185286747
Clubs And Bars
Il Covo Di Nord Est-0185290348
Private Tennis Lessons – Hotel Splendido
Flavio 0185261777 – Tennis Club
Santa Margherita-0185260208 – Golf And Tennis Club
Rapalllo-0185261777 – Scuba Diving
Santa Margherita-0185295748 – Scuba And Water Sport Centre – Il Grand Blu
Santa Margherita-0185295748 – Rent A Boat
Rent A Motorcycle – Massimo Capriccioli- 0185269039 G.m. Motors