Not thinking we’d like Genoa as much as we actually did (it being a port city and all and we’d heard from some friends that they didn’t really care for it), we had planned a day trip on one of our three days in the capitol of Liguria to Portofino. After exploring various options and reading several reviews, we decided to take TrenItalia to Santa Margherita Ligure and walk the 3km to town.
The train trip was simple and inexpensive and after wandering around Santa Margherita for a little while, we struck out along the coast. The road to Portofino is lined by sidewalks for about 2/3 of the way out. Then, you can choose to walk the road (which I doubt you’d want to do in high season due to, what I imagine would be, an increase in automobile, truck and motorcycle traffic zipping along the coastline on the narrow winding road) or up along the hillside as the path climbs above the road and drops you just above the church in Portofino. The path itself is worth doing and as you near Portofino you start to get views of the Castle Brown and the end of the peninsula.
Winding around and down, past the church, you arrive in the main town square. This small fishing village was transformed into a destination for the rich and famous in the 1950s. “According to Pliny the Elder… Portofino was founded by the Romans and named Portus Delphini due to the large number of dolphins” inhabiting the bay (source). While none of the rich and famous were in town while we were there, we enjoyed a birthday lunch with several of the local elder signori at Taverna del Marinaio. We started with the insalata mista which, after many dressing-soaked salads in France, we were pleased to see came with just arugula, tomato and carrots for your own balsamic and oil application. On to the main course, we had the frutta di mare over spaghetti with a half bottle of a local white wine selected by the owner. As the sun started to recede behind the hillside and we sipped cappuccinos, the chorus of “tanti augguri a te” rose repeatedly from the table behind us as the rest of the tables joined in and cheered.
Sated and ready for our walk back, we took a few minutes to walk out past Castle Brown (a 16th century fortress) which was closed despite its sign saying it should have been open (c’est le vie, gotta leave something for next time I guess) to the tip of the peninsula and the lighthouse which is, no doubt, a great spot to catch the sunset or simply soak in the sea and sun and rest up for the return to Santa Margherita.
Passing back through the village and back to the path, we worked off a little spaghetti and clams to make room for dinner in time to catch the commuter train back to Genoa. A great day, start to finish, and one of those which we will fondly remember far into the future. In Portofino, la vita truly is dolce.