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Portofino

PONDER’S PORTOFINO

Portofino is like something straight out of a Fellini film; a highly styled, effortlessly chic enclave where the rich and famous come to shop, people watch and show off their new yachts. In terms of highly styled sophistication, Portofino is right up there with Saint Tropez and Puerto Banus. The entire place is la dolce vita writ large. You almost expect to see Sophia Loren or Grace Kelly come strolling along the waterfront at any moment. It is intimate, elegant, and, as experiences go, quite unforgettable.

The setting is irresistible. A sinuous sweep of houses, restaurants and villas painted in shades of deep terracotta, clusters around the edge of a gorgeous, green canopied semi circle of rolling hills. Pretty little Italianate villas peep out from among the hilltops, looking down on a quayside thronged with chic little, umbrella shaded cafes and designer gift shops.

Waiters in starched white aprons deliver food and drinks to people wearing sunglasses worth the price of a small car. The pace is easy, languid and totally casual. Portofino retains the lazy, languid vibe of the fishing village that it once was.

People watching is very much the order of the day here, but there are some sights- all within walking distance- that crave the attention of the mildly curious.

You could walk up to the Splendido Mare hotel, owned by Orient Express hotels, and enjoy an amazing lunch on the terrace, while enjoying fabulous views of one of the most sublime bays in Europe. Think ‘chic’ rather than cheap for this one.

Castello Brown is a sixteenth century house and museum that offers more great views down over the bay. Though part of it was destroyed in the Middle Ages, the great bulk remains intact. Parts of the 1992 movie, Enchanted April, were filmed here.

I would recommend getting off the ship as early as possible. Portofino is always a tender port, with very little accessibility other than by sea. Many tourist boats come direct from Genoa itself, not too very far away. Bottom line; it gets busy.

All things considered, a day in Portofino is a very memorable experience. Yachts as large as aircraft carriers dot the sparkling bay, making for an amazing backdrop to the entire pastiche.

And, this being Italy, an ice cream in the sun is a simple, unforgettable pleasure. Whatever you do, keep those sun glasses on, and try to look as if you’re completely unimpressed. You’ll fit right in.

Getting there: the tenders for most cruise ships drop passengers directly onto the main quayside, where almost everything is within short walking distance. Be aware that walking to both the Castello Brown and the Splendido Mare involves something of a climb; worth bearing in mind if mobility is a bit of a problem.

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