PortofinoI was talking to my friend, Kate, who owns a bed and breakfast in Iowa, yesterday about her trip to Italy, especially her visit to Portofino. She got this faraway look in her eyes, and said, “It was my favorite place in Italy. This is where the breath stops. The feeling there is indescribable.”

When she was having lunch near the water in Portofino, she described a very conservatively dressed woman who got up from the table, walked across the road, and jumped in the water with dress, nylons, and shoes still on. She swam back and forth as her husband was yelling from the shore, in German to get out. She eventually did and came back to the table and finished eating dessert. I imagined everyone there clapping and cheering. I just don’t think that would happen in the U.S without someone calling ‘the authorities.’ My interpretation is that she was so overtaken with the beauty and the ‘feeling’ there that she wanted to break out from the old ways and enjoy life and the turquoise water.

Even though Portofino is a small area, there are very exclusive shops, especially expensive negligee stores.

Castello Brown sits on a hill above the village. You can reach the castle by a path near the Botanical Garden. The castle is open from 10AM until 7PM in summer and until 5PM in winter. The castle has a nice garden with great views of Portofino and the sea. The medieval castle became the residence of Yeats Brown, British consul to Genoa, in 1870.

On the way to the castle, you can visit San Giorgio Church, rebuilt after the last war. Another scenic pathway takes you clear out to the lighthouse, faro, on Punta del Capo.

As you would imagine, Portofino’s restaurants specialize in seafood. You’ll also find Genovese specialties such as the green minestrone. Most of the restaurants ring the harbor and have a high cover charge. There is a slightly less expensive restaurant called Pizzeria El Portico (no pizza at lunch time), and I hear they have a great seafood antipasto. Fred Plotkin, in Italy for the Gourmet Traveler, recommends the Trattoria U Batti for their pansoti con salsa di noci (ligurian pasta filled with greens and herbs, served with walnut sauce), and trenette genovesi (flat strands of pasta like linguini).

I know that Portofino is a major tourist area, but as I mentioned in my other Portofino post, I just want to experience it. Have you been there? Any tips?

Portofino picture © 2006 by James Martin, Europe for Visitors.

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