There is no doubt about it…Portofino is picture perfect!
This stunning seaside resort is a glistening jewel on the Italian Rivera. Tucked away in a corner cove of the scenic Ligurian coast, its charm and beauty is a winning combination that took it from a quaint fishing village to a playground for the rich and famous. And the hearty soil, sea air and sunshine allow grapes, herbs, citrus and olives to grow abundantly producing fine wines and dishes flavored with olive oil and indigenous mouthwatering tastes.
Narrow streets and pretty piazzas with olive trees grace the island. For fantastic views, head to Castello Brown, a 16th century former fort and castle that is now a museum. The centuries old churches of St. George and St. Martin are also both worth a look. Smaller just as beautiful seaside towns sit near-by and are fun to explore and ideal to stroll. They can be reached by a short motorboat ride. Visit Santa Margherita, Rapollo or Sestri LeVante, a favorite stop for writers Ezra Pound and fable storyteller Hans Christian Andersen. Close at hand too is the bigger port city of Genoa home to the magnificent Palazzo Bianco, Palazzo Rosso and Palazzo Doria Tursi.
Food and drink matter greatly in this region and the wine, gelato, fresh fish and pasta delicacies do not disappoint (see below). Seafood antipasto, Pasta di Frutte di Mari or Capon Magro, a unique salad with shellfish, egg, olives, anchovies and capers, are mainstays on menus and minestrone soup with basil and vegetables originated in these islands. Focaccia, the local bread, made with olive oil and sea salt is brought to every table. Have a drink on the terrace at the elegant Hotel Splendido or a meal at La Stella, Portofino’s oldest restaurant that is 8 generations strong and still serving delicious entrees over 160 years after opening.
SAIL: Portofino. Shop for colorful ceramica tabletop with lemon, herbs and olives motifs. Culinary specialties include pesto or olive oil and bottles of Pinot Grigio or the lemon liqueur Limoncello. For a splurge, fancy boutiques flaunt designer labels.
SIP: Pinot Grigio. Originating in the 1300’s, the Italians brought international recognition to this crisp dry light-bodied wine and its vines thrive along this coast. These gray-skinned white grapes grow in pinecone shaped clusters hence its name. Saluti!
SAVOR: Pesto alla Genovese. Pesto in Italy refers to any sauce that has grinded herbs but Pesto alla Genovese is the sauce that hails from the Ligurian region. This basil-based specialty blended with pine nuts, garlic and parmesan cheese is the one to try whether over pasta or as a condiment to fresh Branzino (sea bass) or minestrone soup. Buon Appetito!
Mara is the Tastes & Traditions Expert for Regent Seven Seas Cruises where she lectures regularly about the history of cuisine and culture and what to sip and savor in various ports. Watch her dining and wine tour videos on our website under multimedia.