More refined than Positano and less crowded than Capri, Portofino is the ideal Italian seaside village. Its winding streets are lined with the perfect mix of small boutiques and high-end ships like Louis Vuitton and Dior, its central piazza is filled with charming restaurants serving Ligurian staples, and it is blissfully free of the large groups who take over much of the Italian coast during the summer season. Once a quiet fishing town, Portofino was discovered by the jetset during the mid-20th century and it has not yet lost its luster. This month alone, visitors have included Sarah Jessica Parker, Cher, Kitty Spencer, and Kourtney Kardashian (many of whom anchored their yachts in the town's coveted berths). Here are six things that should be on every visitor's list.
Portofino’s famous piazzetta is where visitors go to see and be seen. The main square is surrounded by bustling restaurants, from traditional eateries like the celebrity favorite to small bars like , which is the perfect spot to enjoy a morning espresso or an evening apertivo. restaurant, which is located front and center, recently celebrated its 20th anniversary and boasts a sprawling outdoor terrace with one of the best views of the marina in town. The restaurant serves classic Ligurian dishes, like pasta served with Genoese pesto sauce, traditional fish soup, and warm octopus salad, and it is located inside the , which is the sister property of the iconic hilltop hotel. Don’t forget to stop at the nearby after your meal for a scoop of the best gelato in town.
Accessible only by boat or by a two-hour hike down a mountain, this beautiful beach is situated in front of a 12th century abbey. One of the most beautiful beaches in the area, it is surrounded by crystal clear water and lush hills. If you visit during the day, you can stop for lunch at which borders the tiny beach and specializes in fresh grilled seafood and pesto pasta. For a more exclusive experience, guests of the can book the hotel’s chic boat for an evening cruise to San Fruttuoso, followed by a private open-air concert in the Abbey’s enchanting courtyard.
is located on the terrace of Portofino’s 100-year-old lighthouse, and boasts some of the most breathtaking views in the area. The bar can only be reached on foot, and while the meandering path does include quite a few stairs, the chance to see some of Portofino’s most famous landmarks up close makes the walk well worth it. When you arrive at the lighthouse, which juts into the sea at the tip of Portofino, you can reward yourself with spritzes, wine, locally brewed beer, and plenty of snacks. The terrace can also be rented out for private dinners, where guests can enjoy gourmet meals while taking in the sunset.
First opened in 1901, the is an iconic hotel in Italy and has hosted countless celebrities and luminaries, from the Duke and Duchess of Windsor to Elizabeth Taylor and Madonna. Spread across a 16th-century building that was originally a monastery, the hotel boasts sprawling suites, a saltwater pool overlooking the Bay of Portofino, and perfectly manicured gardens. The property’s two restaurants serve sophisticated takes on Ligurian specialties, like locally caught seafood and homemade pasta, and the hotel’s bar features lively nightly performances by piano man Vladimir, who serenades guests with classic Italian tunes.
If you find that you have indulged in one too many plates of pesto pasta, offers private and semi-private yoga and pilates classes at their hilltop farm. The property is one of the few working farms left in Portofino, and it produces olive oil, honey, and wine. Its signature yoga classes are offered outdoors in the gardens, with sweeping views of the sea below. After class, guests can enjoy picnics, meandering hikes throughout the property, visits to the vineyards, or tastings of La Portofinese’s honey, which is produced from local beehives.
The only sand beach in the area, Paraggi is tucked inside a small bay in between Santa Margherita Ligure and Portofino. The perfect location to enjoy a relaxing beach day, Paraggi boasts soft sand (a rarity in Italy, where many of the beaches are covered with rocks), sparkling emerald green water, and beautiful views of the rugged coastline. While Paraggi’s beauty and comfort cannot be beat, it will cost you—the price of a pair of chairs and an umbrella can exceed $100 per day during the high season.