Historical Guests

Portofino, a World apart
February 2009

Don Giovanni of Austria in Portofino.

Don Giovanni of Austria, natural son of Carlo V. was the great admiral who defeatated the Turkish fleet at Lepanto. Besides the Venetians, the Genoese, and the Pontiffs, he had as his ally the winds. First,the northwest wind that pushed his galleys against the enemy, then the southeast wind which prevented the Moslems from attacking. His stepbrother, Philip II, was not so lucky with the winds three years later in 1574 when, on behalf of the very christian king Carlo V, he was sent from Naples to Genoa to try to calm the smoldering conflicts between the old and new nobility for governance of the city. In fact he was blocked by an opposing wind at Portofino and was a guest at Cervarawith an honorable welcome. It seems that he aspired to become master of the turbulent Genoa and probably held meetings with representatives of the old nobility who had occupied Portovenere, Sestri Levante, Chiavari, and Rapallo, lands east of the Republic.

Those who spreatthe news, who existed also in those times, have rifered – information fundamentally true – that the thirty year old Don Giovanni of Austria must have also profited from a boat owned by the monks to go fishing for red mullet at a particular point of which Abbot Andrea of Savigliano had confided to him the “armie”(1). In fact, may bee, satisfied with the abundant fishing and the savory fish cooked in the convent, he left two donations one for 80 and the other for 64 liras. When he arrived in Genoa, where he met with his young friend Gian Andrea Doria, his companion in the fortunate battle of Lepanto, he found messages waiting for him from his stepbrother Philip II imploring him to not bother with the question of Genoa but to leave it instead to his ally Gian Andrea to take care of.

(1) The “armie” are the coordinates permit seamen to establish points of reference from the sea.

Don Giovanni of Austria

Portofino, a World apart.