The first impression you get of the small village of Portofino when you arrive by boat is a crescent-shaped row of houses facing the sea.
Coming into the small port takes your breath away. Portofino is unblemished, with a dazzling, innate beauty. Its inhabitants love the village with deep-rooted jealousy, aware that they live somewhere perfect, unlike anywhere else in the world.
The magnificent Gulf of Tigullio is sheltered from strong winds by the Promontorio di Portofino, a natural defence against stormy seas and Saracen pirates. The bright blue, deep sea opens out in a vast expanse to the south. Small sailing boats and large yachts traverse it, in search of hidden coves. At the end of the promontory the lighthouse, still in full working order, keeps large ships en route to Genoa on the right path. From the village of Portofino, a stroll amongst the green gardens offers spectacular views across the entire gulf.
The area is scattered with houses and lavish villas. Getting to the top is not straightforward: people park near the main road and then climb up to the peak.
Tall, narrow and brightly-coloured buildings encircled by a portico, ancient fishermen’s houses, overlook the famous square, which is now the centre of the village. The portico once faced immediately onto the water, with the rooms on the first floor reserved for fishing activities. The staircases are steep, with tall steps. There isn’t much space, but the village had to be able to defend itself from potential pirate attacks; the houses form an unassailable wall. The women lived in an area reserved for families and everyday life, and there is still a small garden at the back.
This is all that can be admired from the Church of San Giorgio, named after the patron saint of Portofino, and Castello Brown, a powerful Genoese fortification designed to keep pirates at bay. There are still numerous lookout towers along the coastline, but nowadays they are disguised, converted into private houses.
Nature here is abundant. Portofino is located within a wonderful National Park, which offers protection to native species of flora and fauna. There are lush, well-tended gardens to admire, filled with thriving, colourful flowers. The aroma of blossoming cheesewood, magnolia, verbena and bougainvillea hangs in the air, and simple geraniums grow on balconies and beneath windows.
The allure of Portofino, the village, the park, the sea and the rocky coast, is bright and intense. No one season stands out for a visit: Portofino is always enchanting.