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Portofino is the destination of choice for many of Europe's wealthiest tourists. Yachts are as common as cars and pretty little villas are built into the hills. The locals may thumb their noses at the tourists who invade this sleepy Italian Riviera town every day, but most earn their livelihood from tourism.
Stroll seaside promenades lined with palm trees or climb narrow alleys lined with towering, pastel-painted houses. Secluded coves, promontories crowned with medieval churches, fine beaches — Portofino and the Ligurian Riviera offer some of the finest scenery in all Italy.
The Splendido Hotel, generally recognized as one of the finer hotels in all of Europe, overlooks Portofino's harbor and is worth grabbing a coffee in if only for the glamour. Ernest Hemingway, Greta Garbo, Clark Gable and Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis are just some of the names that have graced the hotel's guest list.
The Church of San Giorgio is a great spot for viewing the bay. The small church was destroyed and rebuilt four times during World War II, and the church supposedly contains the relics of St. George. In fact, the city continues to celebrate St. George's Day, which falls on April 23.
There are several routes to take advantage of in the city. The trail from Monte Portofino, the mountain that overlooks the town, to the Abbazia di San Fruttuoso takes about five hours round trip, but is a beautiful hike. If this sounds like too much work, try a one-hour hike from Portofino to Cappella delle Gave. The tourist office (Via Roma 35, 0185-269-024) sells hiking maps and can help get you on your way.
Portofino is a playground for the rich, and that philosophy is reflected in the prices of food and drink here. Reservations are hard to get, and expect to pay a hefty premium, but the food is worth it. Also, being seen at any of the high-end restaurants connotes a certain social status that can't be measured in dollars or euros. Just remember that restaurants don't usually serve dinner until 8 pm.
Try to get a table at the ultra-exclusive Ristorante Puny (Piazza Martiri dell'Olivetta 5, 0185-269-037). If you're arriving by cruise ship, make a reservation weeks in advance. Any pesto dish will not disappoint, nor will the seafood selection. Il Pitosforo (Molo Umberto I 9, 0185-269-020) is another restaurant with a highly selective and exclusive reservation policy. The menu is pricey, but the seafood pasta is delicious. La Terrazza (16 Salita Baratta, 0185-267-801), in the Splendido Hotel, focuses on local favorites, using ingredients found only in Portofino.
Although the major tourist time for Portofino is the summertime for different events and festivals and is warmer, the weather generally remains temperate all year round.
Cruise ships dock at the Port of Portofino, just minutes away from Genoa. There is easy road access to the rest of the small communities of Portofino and Genoa.
Buses leave every 20 minutes to and from Santa Margherita Ligure. But Portofino is such a small town you should have no trouble getting around on foot. Taxis are available, but are rather expensive.
Document: U.S. and Canadian citizens need a valid passport.
Language: Italian, but you can get by with English in tourism areas
Store hours: The stores can have unusual operating hours, so it might be worth it to call ahead if you have your eye on a particular shop.
Safety: Portofino is a very safe area; however, like with any other destination, make sure to stay in well-lit areas at night and lock up your valuables.
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