PORTOFINO - ITALY'S ANSWER TO MONTE CARLO

Credit: Belmond Hotel Splendido

When people ask me; “What’s your favourite destination for a short getaway?”, more often than not I reply with “Monaco”. I’ve had a love affair with the Cotê d’Azur and the French Riviera ever since I was a child visiting on family holidays. Nowadays that love is the same if not more pronounced, as I’ve become entranced by the “dolce vita” lifestyle along the Mediterranean.

Despite this, it is Italy that has my adoration. Without question, it is my favourite country in the world. Now I understand that’s quite a statement, but those close to me know that when I’m in Italy there really is nowhere else I’d rather be. In recent years I’ve been visiting fairly regularly; exploring new regions, as well as returning to my favourites. I’ll admit my travels as of late have been focused in the north; Maranello, Genoa, Como, Bologna… In fact, I haven’t ventured as far south as Rome or Naples since I was a child. But on every visit, there’s always another destination I pass through which has me yearning for a return trip. One of these places is Portofino.

My first-time visiting was in the summer of 2017, and I loved it so much I returned a year later whilst on a road trip from Monte Carlo to Florence (I’ll save this story for another time).

With an area of 2.6km2 the expanse of Portofino is technically larger than Monaco (2.1km2), despite the town centre being significantly smaller and hosting fewer visitors each year. I like to think of the Italian town as Monte Carlo without the glamour, but instead with the flair of la belle vie. Where the Principality is very much focussed on living large and going all-out (or all-in at the casinos), Portofino has an aura of nonchalance which is typical of coastal Mediterranean hideaways. Wandering around the narrow side streets amongst the pastel-coloured houses and shops is almost therapeutic, and when you’ve seen it all, good food is never further than a stone’s throw. Lining the elegant yet miniature port are several restaurants, naturally with al fresco seating which face out into the bay where you’ll see everything from small rowboats to 200ft superyachts. In my eyes, there’s no better way to end an evening than with an Italian dinner adjacent to a yacht-filled marina.

Credit: Belmond Hotel Splendido

In terms of accommodation, the Belmond Hotel Splendido is probably the finest in the region. Perched in the hills of the Italian Riviera, the Belmond has been the hotel of choice for the likes of Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor. Its restaurants such as La Terrazza offer guests the finest Italian cuisine possible coupled with views over the Ligurian bay, whilst its heated saltwater pool is ideal for swimming in the cooler months.

Credit: Belmond Hotel Splendido

To compare Portofino with Monte Carlo is as difficult as comparing Sophia Loren with Grace Kelly, but for a quick trip to the Mediterranean it really comes down to personal preference. Whether you’re looking for a weekend of glitz, glamour, and jaw-dropping cars, or one of chic and traditional “dolce vita” living, it’s entirely up to you…

 


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