The Dream of Portofino

Jessica is viewing Portofino from the terrace of St George's church. So romantic!

Jessica is viewing Portofino from the terrace of St George.

Portofino: The Dolphin’s Home

Portofino meaning: The ancient Roman historian, Pliny the Elder, called Portofino «Portus Delphini», a Latin denomination that comes from the fact that a lot of Dolphins frequented the surrounding sea. Navigating is necessary for many people, for others, it is a pastime. There are those who work on the sea, those who idle, the poor and rich of the sea, those who earn millions, and others who spend millions. Immense noisy ports are necessary for the former while small quiet inlets are sufficient for the latter. Without a doubt, Portofino in Italy is one of the most famous refugees in Europe and one of the most adapted to shelter sporting boats. There is not one Italian, English, French, Belgian, or Dutch yacht that has not anchored here at least once. The delightful bay of Portofino reflects the perennial green of the pines that stretch out their airy branches over its deep blue waters and it is ringed by steep lush green hills, serenely profiled against the sky. Castles, villas, large and small, and cottages that can only be approached by steep foot-paths perch on hillocks or lie halfway up from the coastline: they are half concealed by vine and olive leaves and rest in blissful contemplation of the small underlying port and distant sea.

Along the edges of the bay are mirrored the pale pink fishermen’s houses which are topped by roof terraces covered with flowering geraniums. These houses border a square that declines into the waters of the port; here the fishermen haul up their «gozzi» (a special type of double-prowed boat used in the Mediterranean) and small boats as if on the shore of a beach. Under the pointed arches of the arcades around the square the greengrocers, tobacconists, barbers, carpenters, and fancy goods merchants await within dark shops to sell their commerce; the many boutiques display the latest splendid models in fashion; the restaurants have their tables set outside and attract passing gourmets coming from the entire globe.

The screaming half-dressed children play on the cobblestoned square and the women, sitting beside stalls laden with lace goods, seem to make the pillow lace spools dance between their fingers. The dream of Portofino is an oasis of peace situated in a spot of incomparable natural beauty where the houses and man’s belongings feign apparent poverty to please the rich dilettanti of the sea. These amateurs, too, in their enjoyment do everything possible to humiliate themselves: they go barefoot, many bare their chests and wear sailor-type trousers or else sit at the restaurants in their shirt sleeves. In this way, one can see kings, princes, princesses, famous actors and actresses, artists from all parts of the world, politicians, etc. pass through Portofino. “There is not one Italian or foreign tourist who does not visit Portofino at least once in his lifetime”, Salvator Gotta. In the first picture, Jessica dreams of Saint George’s Church.

Lara enjoys the sunrise ready to spend another day in the hamlet

Lara enjoys the sunrise in the hamlet

Where in Portofino

Aperitivo: Winterose at the end of Calata Marconi (left dock). Around 10 euro.
Eating Out: Da U Batti, behind the Piazzetta. Around 100 euro. Secret Scampi Recipe.
Beach: Cannone Bay, just a couple of minutes before Portofino.
Inspirations: Lighthouse of Portofino and the little wall above the yacht club in the walk to St. George.
Best Moment: From 8 p.m. during the season. Soo romantic!
Love Declaration: Terrace on the right of the St. George Church, Castle Brown, and little pier on Molo Umberto I.
Magic: If you have time, walk to Portofino during Christmas, it’s really magical. Embrace each other and let go!
Dolphins: 150 meters from the coast between Lighthouse and San Fruttuoso and in front of the Cervara Abbey. Best moment from October to March.
Whales: 500 meters from the coast between our lighthouse and Nervi (GE). Best moment from November to March.
Ducks: You can find them inside the little bay of the «Piazzetta».
Barracuda: Between the little bay of Cala dell’Oro and San Fruttuoso.
Wedding: Possible with a little patience to the Church of San Giorgio. Access needs to be discussed in Townhall.
Best picture: Go to Castle Brown. There is a deck with stunning views. Even San Giorgio Church deserves it.
Mothers and children: Access to the village and its surroundings is easy with prams. No problem. There isn’t a nursery in the city.
Keeping fit: Jogging along with the state of Portofino to Santa Margherita Ligure (about 3.3 kilometers).
Dine in the Evening: In season, Ladies are dressed in an elegant evening gown.
Parking: Required for cars inside the silos. Cost during the season € 7,50 / h.
Underwater: Christ of the Abysses at a depth of 17 meters in the San Fruttuoso Bay. Amazing!
With your dog: Required dogs on a leash. They are very welcome.
Disability: There is a lift in the parking measuring 82 cm. Arriving in Piazzetta is possible without too many issues. Floor sandstone.
Good to know: We have a Newsstand, Pharmacy, Police, Post Office, Yacht Club, a Park, ATM, and Captaincy.
Toilets: They are in the square of parking on arrival. There are also at the end of Molo Umberto I. Pier at the right.
Emotional Thing: Arrive in Portofino by boat at sunset. Absolutely!
St. George’s Bonfire: April 23rd. Emotional moment.
Parish: +39.0185.269337 – Mobile +39.333.217.9407 –
When: From April to October each day. In winter only at the weekend. At Christmas – most of the shops are closed – but emotions are amazing!

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Adriana enjoys a boat tour in the Portofino Bay

Adriana enjoys a boat tour in the Portofino Bay

Portofino: A Glimpse in Time

Like many Ligurian locales, the origins of Portofino lie shrouded in antiquity. Fanatics incinerated the village archives during the French Revolution, deepening the mystery. Still, it’s no secret that ancient Ligurians – the Tigulii – were drawn to this port, a perfect shelter against storms and a bounty of fish.

Historians credit Plinius with the moniker «Portus Delphini». Upon Roman conquest, the Holy Roman Empire claimed dominion, holding until Saint Adelagia, Italy’s queen, donated it and surrounding lands to San Fruttuoso Monastery in 986, to honor her spouse, Otho the Great, and son, Otho II.

In 1425,Tommaso of Campofregoso liberated Genoa from Milan’s rule and took Portofino, only to relinquish it to the Genoese Republic in 1430. By 1459, the castle and port briefly fell to Pietro Fregoso, then back to the Republic via Giovanni Coscia. In 1513, in a twist of events, the Fieschi and Adorno families seized the port. The Republic retook it soon, but it was only temporary.In 1527, Andrea Doria returned and claimed Portofino after a fierce fight, triggering a series of takeovers by the French, English, Spanish, and Austrians.

Finally, in 1815, the Congress of Vienna awarded Portofino to the King of Sardinia, closing an intense chapter in the port’s history. For those with a penchant for history, we’ve crafted an extensive article that delves deep into the storied past of Portofino. Discover, in concise detail, the captivating journey of this picturesque hamlet through the ages. A perfect read for both the history enthusiast and the casual traveler seeking to enrich their Portofino experience. Don’t just wander its streets; know the tales they tell.

Portofino: A Tourist Magnet

Though a fishing village at heart, Portofino turned heads in the 19th century as English settlers built villas and restored castles, respecting the lush landscape. Post World War I, Italian scribes spotlighted its charms in 1924, igniting a national fascination. A special shout-out to R. Calzini who penned around 20 features in the «Corriere della Sera» in 1924-25, immortalized on a plaque near the local cemetery.

This press storm triggered an influx of writers and journalists, both domestic and international, eager to etch Portofino’s beauty in prose and transform it into a touristic beacon. From 1925 onwards, chic crowds flocked here, revamping quaint fishermen’s huts into unique luxury dwellings.

In 1935, Comm. Ettore Bocciardo launched the «Mount of Portofino Organization» to safeguard Portofino’s authenticity from private alterations and regulate municipal building decisions. This ensured the antique fishing village vibe remained undisturbed. Traffic-free squares, no loud nightclubs; a slice of paradise, an «angolo di paradiso»: That’s Portofino for you. Portofino’s global recognition draws an elite crowd, securing its position on the world’s tourism map. As we say, Portofino is a world apart.

The Dolphins of Portofino running in front of the Lighthouse

The Dolphins of Portofino running in front of the Lighthouse


Today, Portofino is still a place known for international tourism and the jet-set lifestyle. The city is located in a small area – 2 km – making it rigorously pedestrian. It is often called the most beautiful «Piazzetta» in the world. It is a unique sort of salon en Plein air, filled with magic and charm. Within a few steps, you can visit famous ateliers and see some outstanding yachts at the marina decks – which host yachts from 8 meters up to 40. You may see fishermen organizing their nets and witness unforgettable sunsets of pastel colors on the bay. Many International fashion houses chose this amazing location as their home- included among them are Louis Vuitton, Dior, Gucci, Emilio Pucci, and many more. You can find these boutiques in «Via Roma», the main street starts from the parking area and ends at the «Piazzetta» or on the two piers Molo Umberto I and Calata Marconi.

Besides Shopping at the Ateliers, you may choose to visit many local boutiques that sell handmade clothes and lace, cashmere garments, bikinis, and other local products. The artistic life is also remarkable, with painters and artists’ studios. Portofino’s watercolors are famous for representing the «Piazzetta», or glimpses of marine life. Portofino is oftentimes a theatrical location for ads and TV shows. Hollywood star Charlize Theron, known as one of the world’s most beautiful women, inaugurated this tradition in 1998 when she became a charming representative for Martini, a brand that’s strongly linked to our city.

Throughout the years, television shows like Beautiful, the fashion show «Modamare a Portofino» and movies starring Humphrey Bogart and Ava Gardner, Gina Lollobrigida, and Rock Hudson; even MasterChef has featured Portofino as a location. Many illustrious brands have shot their products in Portofino including Zegna, with the old sailing competition; Fiat, for their Cabriolet Car; Dolce & Gabbana for the Ads with Monica Bellucci and Dior with the amazing video with Jag Jagaciak. Alitalianamed the Boeing 747-243B Portofino, with the abbreviation I-DEMF. More recently, people have been struck by a breathtaking performance of the amazing Andrea Bocelli in the «Piazzetta»: An emotional and unforgettable live concert! To end, in September 2017, Ferrari made his debut with the new V8 Grand Turismo called Portofino.

However, many might be surprised to learn that Lamborghini, long before Ferrari’s venture, had its sights set on the Portofino name. The ‘Lamborghini Portofino‘, is a concept car crafted by the iconic Italian automaker Lamborghini back in 1987. This brainchild, developed for Lamborghini by Chrysler’s Kevin Verduyn, made its first public appearance at the 1987 Frankfurt Auto Show.

Constructed by Carrozzeria Coggiola of Turin, the Portofino was built on an elongated chassis of the Lamborghini Jalpa. It retained the mid-engine layout and rear-wheel drive, powered by the same 3.5-liter V8 engine from the Jalpa, churning out roughly 255 horsepower and paired with a 5-speed manual transmission. What truly set the Portofino apart were its distinctive ‘scissor doors’ and a pillarless cabin design. The front doors, reminiscent of the Countach, swung forward, while the rear also adopted the scissor mechanism but rotated towards the back. A noteworthy design detail was the Lamborghini bull emblem set within Chrysler’s pentagon symbol, prominently displayed on the front hood, showcasing a blend of the two automotive legacies.”

Portofino Bay Italy by boat

Harley is arriving in Portofino Bay by boat. It’s always magic.

Things to do in Portofino

When you choose Portofino as a break, the first essential thing to understand is that over time, this village has coined a term that fits perfectly with the vacation you plan to have: Il Dolce far niente  (literally ‘sweetness [of] doing nothing, sweet idleness’). You come to Portofino because it’s top-notch because you want to disconnect from everything, wander, take your time, turn off the phone, and let the day take you where it’s meant to go.

We suggest a walk on the pedestrian street that goes from the «Piazzetta» on the right up to the Castello Brown, an 1870 mansion that was the residence of English consul Sir Montague Brown. The place has a breathtaking panoramic view of the bay and the Gulf of Tigullio. Shortly before that, enjoy the Chiesa di San Giorgio, where you can admire the Golfo Paradiso all the way to Genova, at the right of the Promontory until Sestri Levante, and some time the Cinque Terre. If you want to keep going, through the lush vegetation you’ll reach the Lighthouse. You’ll find yourself in an ancient location, in front of the «Mar Ligure» and its dolphins, whales, starfish, and other protected animals in this area of the Mediterranean Sea. Strongly suggested.

Why not kick it up a notch with a boat ride from Portofino to San Fruttuoso? Soak up the sights, take a dip in the dolphin sanctuary, and sip on an onboard cocktail. In the little square, to the right and across from Ristorante Delfino, you’ll spot some boats with sailors. Haggle a price and immerse yourself in the enchantment! On your way back, treat yourself to Portofino’s Paciugo – a local delight brimming with ice cream, candied cherries and blueberries, strawberries, peaches, and soft amaretti. Curious about the recipe?

In our APP, you can find several routes – we suggest bringing water and tennis shoes – that go from the Portofino towards Genova until the San Fruttuoso Bay. The latter is particularly interesting because of the landscape’s natural beauty and the opportunity to admire, 18 meters under the sea, the Christ of the Abyss. Moving towards Santa Margherita Ligure you’ll reach the Paraggi bay, which is famous for the unique emerald-green color of the water. Hit the trails on rugged, unpaved paths, explore both free and paid beaches, and dive into waters so clear, it’s like looking through glass. You’re within the Portofino Marine Protected Area.

If you’re a sucker for romance, if you crave heartfelt moments, or if you want to immerse yourself in tradition, you can’t miss out on one of the most romantic celebrations: every 23rd of April, the ‘Piazzetta’ lights up with a bonfire in honor of San Giorgio, the city’s patron saint.

After the Pandemic period, we improved our App after hearing a lot of guests in the community who continued to ask us to show tips about different locations in Italy too, where we know, they love to go. So the App has started to become a sparkling place where you can know only the best excellence about Italy and for this reason, we decided to create a marketing campaign called We Are Italy! 🇮🇹

Alright, now that you learned what means the symbol of Portofino and the Italian Riviera, download our iPhone App or Android App to discover Italy like a charm. You’ll find reviews on different locations: dining options, scenic hikes, grand hotels, retreats, what to see and where to meet people, how to move around, where to declare love, and more.

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Selfie Ban in Portofino

For the 2023 season, Portofino’s mayor has instituted a rather bizarre ordinance banning gatherings and selfies within the village. The exact rationale behind this unprecedented decision remains unclear. Sources suggest the village is overrun by day tourists from cruises—ironically after the mayor himself had previously advocated reducing the anchoring distance for cruise ships. Initially set at 0.7 miles (just over a kilometer), the distance was later shortened to 600 meters to encourage cruise ship visits to Portofino. Perhaps the mayor envisioned these quiet, obedient, and inconspicuous cruise-goers disembarking and neatly queuing up, awaiting instructions, much like puppets in a barracks. If the influx becomes a concern, the logical step would be to revert to the previous anchoring distances, set a daily cap on disembarkations, or make a definitive decision regarding cruises. Penalizing them for taking photographs seems a tad extreme.

Moreover, this ordinance has not gone unnoticed, drawing hefty criticism from the international media, arguably tarnishing the village’s reputation.

I Delfini di Portofino 🐬