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Holidays to Portofino allow you to sample a slice of the glamorous Italian Riviera in northwest Italy. This fishing village has made a big impression on its long string of celebrity guests, including Grace Kelly and Liz Taylor who could often be found sipping cocktails at the iconic Hotel Splendido. The charm of Portofino exudes from its layers of palazzi running up the surrounding hills, all brightly painted in shades of sun blush pink, orange and yellow, and its seafront setting overlooking the Ligurian Sea.
A revolving door of super yachts moor in the harbour, while the town’s cobbled streets lined with flower clad buildings and boutiques fill the spaces between top notch trattorias. There’s an ever present scent of seafood being grilled on the charcoals as well as the sound of wine being poured as you walk along the promenade. Its timeless, elegant air attracts couples and adventurers seeking a heady mix of relaxation and sightseeing, and whose days are filled with strolls, boat trips and beach hopping, punctuated by al fresco lunches at seaside taverns.
At Citalia we’ll help you create a unique holiday, using 90 years of experience to take you away from the beaten track to an authentic holiday all of your own.
We point you in the direction to off the radar locations such as the sunset spot at Capo Nord, a rocky peninsula and restaurant where you can watch the sun dip behind the horizon right beside the sea.
If you’ve packed your hiking shoes, walking along the coastal route from the nearby village of Camogli is a treat and will help you escape the crowds of day trippers. You’ll encounter mostly locals here, having family lunches and cooling off in the sea. And once you’ve taken it all in, walk along the route, which skirts past coves, olive groves and pine clad hills to reach the Abbey of San Fruttuoso.
To see the Italian Riviera in all its splendour, you can also arrange a visit to Cervara Abbey, whose ornate Italian gardens overlooking the sea are a sight to behold. For more insight into the local gardens, make your way to the terraced gardens which rise out of Portofino where you can taste local produce, meet the farmers and take away celebrated family recipes.
The joy of discovering Portofino is being able to leave the map in the hotel room and aimlessly walk around. Take in the views over the bustling piazzetta from the Romanesque Church of St George while wandering through the gardens. Continue up the hill to the 16th Century fortress, Castello Brown, from where you can enjoy a panoramic view over Portofino and beyond.
Catch the ferry, or walk, to the impressive Abbey of San Fruttuoso, which sits right on the beach. Alternatively, explore underwater – specifically 56 feet – and dive or snorkel to see the submerged Christ of the Abyss statue.
Cast your sights further afield and hike around the vertiginous hills of Portofino National Park. Or, hop on a train from Santa Margherita Ligure to the region’s capital, Genoa, in under half an hour or head to the fashion capital of Italy, Milan, in just three. For more picture perfect seaside villages, the UNESCO rated Cinque Terre is a short journey by train or ferry. Here you’ll come across pastel coloured villages cascading into the water from rocky cliffs, and vineyards that grip onto steep terraces.
The cuisine in Portofino sings the praises of its seaside location. Liguria is famed for its seafood, which is so fresh that you’ll see fishermen bob into the harbour on wooden boats and pass their catch straight into a chef’s arms.
You can’t leave without trying the pesto alla genovese sauce. It’s tossed with fresh pasta such as trofie or penne, and served as it comes. It’s D.O.P protected too, using only basil from Genoa, pine nuts, Parmaggiano Reggiano, Pecorino, garlic and olive oil. You’ll find it at most trattorias and restaurants either serving it the traditional way or with their own twist. What’s more, it’s worth saving space in your suitcase for a bottle of Ligurian olive oil.
Liguria is also famed for its focaccia, a flat type of bread made with olive oil, which is best eaten straight from the oven. Try focaccia con il formaggio, a speciality from the nearby village of Recco, which is a cheese filled version of this delicious bread found in all good bakeries. It’s eaten with breakfast, lunch, dinner and as a snack.
Being so close to the sea, you can expect some excellent seafood dishes. Stuffed cuttlefish, ciuppin fish soup from Genoa – said to have been invented by fishermen – as well as spaghetti with mussels, anchovies from Monterosso and ravioli di pesce (fish ravioli) to name a few. Ligurian wines are also a perfect accompaniment to any dish, with eight DOC areas including Rossese di Dolceacqua, which is said to produce some of the finest red wines in the region.