Paradise in Portofino
Portofino, Italy. Ligurian Coast. Fly: Fly into Genoa for a 30 minute drive. Fly to Pisa, Florence or Milan for a 1-2hr drive. Return flights from £45 Transport: Hire a car at Genoa airport and follow the signs for Rapallo, then Santa Margherita and then Portofino. Or take the train to Santa Margherita and then the boat to Portofino. We hired a car for £49 for 3 days. NB: Parking is difficult in Portofino, especially in high summer. There is a car park which charges 24e per 24hr but be warned as July and August tourism mean it’s nion impossible to find a space unless you stay in a hotel with free parking.
Who can turn down a return flight for £47? Not me. 4 cocktails in Leeds and i’m notching close to the £50 mark, so really this was a no-brainer. Especially when i’d heard fairy tales of Portofino being one of the most expensive places to visit in Europe. So off we go in the middle of October, leaving drizzly England behind with our sun hats in hand, a thong sandal packed and a slightly smug smile knowing mediterranean sun was beckoning. Ohhh how the mighty fall. Just as we landed, biblical style rain lashed the runway with a thick, heavy smog rolling over the hills (to be fair this did look quite pretty, even with this grey blanket). That taught us. But never one to dwell on the negative for long, we embraced the yellow tin can car and bombed it down to Portofino with surprising ease. Me being a nervous wreck back seat driver-her being an erratic, slightly scatty driver with a short attention span. Think it’s best for both of us if I take a tranquilliser next time. I’ve said it before and i’ll say it again: Italian driving rules=there are no rules! Unless you have nerves of steel and passed your driving test first time, be prepared to say goodbye to your hire car excess. On this occasion we were lucky because it was October and very few cars on the road. But I still have nightmares about August in Amalfi so if you are like me, get the train. I hear it’s really very simple to get around using the train and then you can arrive in Portofino the best way: via boat. Normally when you build something up in your head, it rarely delivers. Portofino, however surprised on so many levels. Folk filled me with dread saying things like “oohhh take your credit card love” and “have you won the lottery or something?” If only! But we were faced with prices similar to the UK and certainly not so steep it brought a tear to our eyes. With the exception of two coffees and two lemonades coming to 25e at La Taverna (I admit I did choke on my amaretti biscuit for a split second), but we had been sat on the most beautiful harbour watching the sun set over the rooftops for a good 3 hours, so, to me, it was worth it. The bed and breakfast was equally great value. 50e each per person per night for such a beautiful place really made our trip. Perched high on one of the the many terraces in the hillside was TRE MARI http://bebtremariportofino.it/ a spectacular building with a 1970’s glamourous vibe with, in my opinion, the best views in Portofino. Niro was our host and he was just the most deliciously helpful and friendly host you could ask for, carrying our bags up and down the 100 step path. The only snag, and to me it was a major plus after two tonnes of pasta, is the rickety stone step climb to the house. If you are at all arthritic or unable to move freely, don’t stay here. But I found it all rather fun. Kind of like total wipeout but without the inflatable balls. Breakfast was amazing (croissants, yoghurts, fruit, homemade cake) with a view to die for and the rooms were large, airy and with fabulous lemon print bedding (don’t ask just embrace it). Lets talk about food. You have to come here simply for the onion bread. Good lord! Some of the best food i’ve ever eaten. Onion bread, pesto, lasagne (not what you’d except-more like sheets of pasta with bolognaise) mussels, torta di mele (best apple tart), black spaghetti, fish, fish and more fish! So much better than the food in Amalfi but in Southern Italy’s defence, I could have just picked bad restaurants. The thing with Portofino, is that allllll the restaurants are deliciousoso, averaging 9e for a pasta dish and 6e for a carafe of vino rocco. This could be inflated in the summer months but September/October are great months to go for exceptional food and great service. Some of my favourites are: Tripoli (on the harbour front, Marco Valentino is the best waiter and Sebastiano is the excellent chef. Dolce and gabbana frequent here), La Gritta, Ileportico restaurant (Louis is the lovely owner) and La Taverna for the exquisite location and floating restaurant. Must See: Cinque Terre National Park, San Fruttuoso, Santa Margherita for drinks with the Milano weekend crowd (Sabot and Miami bars), private boat hire. All images taken by Lisa.