Saturday, August 18, 2007

July 2007 - Portofino, Italy - The Jet-Set Town

While Santa Margherita's aristocratic palazzi and hillside villas hint at old money, Portofino's mega-yachts and trendy shops screem new money! Nevertheless, Portofino is a beautiful little riviera town worth at least a day trip, especially if you're in need of a break from sightseeing and want to just stroll around, window shop and people (or boat) watch.

The harbor is narrow and cuts deep into the mountainous shore, making it an extremely protected inlet with very calm waters. The Romans founded Portofino for its safe and strategic position, which has been appreciated by countless others from Napoleon to the Nazis. Today, its a great spot to anchor your Hinkley or dock your Azimut.

As our ferry idled into the quiet harbor, passing all of those fancy yachts, we snapped this shot of us in front of the tiny fishing boats and famous pastel-colored wooden buildings exhibiting classic Italian architecture. This is arguably the most photogenic angle of this amazingly photogenic town. The Loews Hotels modeled its Universal Orlando property after this U-shaped grouping of buildings.

Here's a closer look at the pastel-colored buildings that guided us into the harbor.
From deep inside the harbor, you can see how narrow the opening out to the Ligurian Sea is and thus how protected it is. You can also see how jam-packed it is with boats of all sizes, taking advantage of the calm waters afforded by the protected position. Finally, atop the hill on the right, you can see the medieval Casetello Brown watching over everything.
Here's another shot of Castello Brown, amidst the lush hill of umbrella pines and cypress trees, peering down at the yachts.
And here's a close-up of the castel. I love the umbrella pine tree seeming to sprout up from within the castel walls.
We stepped off the ferry and right into the town's main square, which fronts the marina and is surrounded on 3 sides by cafes, haute couture boutiques, art galleries, and jewelry shops. It's basically heaven on earth for my sister April and anyone else who enjoys shopping on Fifth Avenue or Rodeo Drive. Nothing is really affordable, especially now that the dollar has the worst exchange rate against the euro since the inception of the currency, so we just strolled alongside those who arrived in mega-yachts and admired their extravagant purchases.
The flow of money was really astounding. You had to see all of the young blonds dripping in jewels exhuberantly swinging their Ferragamo, Gucci, Louis Vuitton and Pucci shopping bags with one hand and holding on to their grey-hair sugar daddy's with the other. For a brief moment we felt like we were back home, but thankfully the surrounding Italian buildings reminded us otherwise.

After our stroll, we sat down at a cafe along the harborfront and had a late lunch.
After that, we walked up the far side of the marina to get a closer look at some of the impressive boats, including the new wooden one behind me, . . .
. . . this old wooden one, . . .

and this sleek 90-footer.

Here's another shot of that one after it backed into its slip.

Our ferry back to Santa Margherita arrived so we hoped aboard and secured prime seats for our farewell photoshoot.
First the both of us, facing out towards the opening of the harbor.
Now just Casandra, slightly different angle.
And now the both of us again, same angle.
As the ferry gently throttled out of the harbor, we snapped this last shot of those colorful buildings and mammoth sailboats.
Just around the bend from Portofino's main harbor, the world-renowned Splendido Hotel balances on the hillside behind Casandra with magnificent views of the sea.
Sitting at the very tip of the promontory behind me is a beautiful renaissance villa.
And like that . . . it was gone. Portofino just disappeared before our eyes as the ferry accelerated away from the harbor, its mouth barely identifiable from only a short distance away.
After spending a very hot afternoon on and near the water in Portofino, we headed back to Santa Margherita to explore the heart of that town in the cooler temperatures of the late afternoon and early evening.

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