I found my love in Portofino, and my joy in Santa Margherita Ligure

Marina di Portofino

Driving in Italy is not for the faint-hearted. Driving down Strada Stradale 227, the road that connects Portofino with Santa Margherita Ligure and other parts of Liguria, might just be the most tense, Bond-like drive you will ever take in your life. In theory, it is nothing short of idyllic, offering amazing views onto the mare azzuro, Mediterranean vegetation and hidden gems in form of luxurious villas and beautiful beaches. In practice, however, it can become quite a frightening, how-will-I-possibly-survive-this experience. Among enormous buses, fast cars and slow people strolling down the narrow road without paying attention to the traffic, nerve-wrecking situations happen every five seconds, but the absolute worst are the buzzing Vespas: oblivious to road rules and honking nervously, they are driving left from your car, and right from your car, and behind your car and in front of your car, cutting in on you and cutting the bends and making you… well, hysteric.

Once the road and the stress of driving (and parking your car in the small village) is behind you, you can finally get out, breathe in the sweet sea air, look around and start enjoying one of the most beautiful seaside villages in Italy and entire Europe.

Portofino

According to historic sources, Portofino was founded by the Romans who named it Portus Pelphini, that is, Port of the Dolphin, because of the large number of dolphins present in the Tigullian Gulf. Life of the village revolved mostly around fishing until the late 19th century when it was discovered by the aristocratic visitors from around Europe. They flocked Portofino during summer, built their luxurious villas there and that is how the new, high-end life of the village began.

Piazzetta in Portofino, detailFishing boats in Portofino

We saw no dolphins in Portofino. We did see, however, yachts of all shapes, sizes and levels of luxury: island-like extensions of the village that is becoming too small for all its visitors that come every day, looking for the luxurious experience and trying to see – and maybe feel – the lifestyle of rich and the famous. And while high living and hedonism are undoubtedly important aspects of the Portofino experience, they are not the only ones. And if you look beyond expensive shops, villas and yachts, there is something else that defines the village – an atmosphere that is somewhat raw and unpolished, and that probably has something to do with the village’s fishing past. Looking onto the small harbor and the small fishing boats stubbornly pushing around the foreign yachts, you can imagine scenes of loud fishermen unloading their fresh catch and offering it to the villagers back in the time that was much more simple and grounded than today. And this hidden, but not completely lost aspect of the village, much more than the luxury and the high life, is what makes Portofino so special and so charming.

Piazzetta in Portofino ??????????????????? Portofino harbour

Portofino is beautiful, with its narrow streets, Mediterranean plants, pastel-colored houses, views onto the sea and lazy café terraces decorated with colorful flowers. It is also quite romantic, especially to those who can recall the popular song “Love in Portofino”, written by Leo Chiosso, composed by Fred Buscaglione and released in 1958.

I found my love in Portofino, perché nei sogni credo ancor
Lo strano gioco del destino, a Portofino m’ ha preso il cuor

Nel dolce incanto del mattino, il mare ti ha portato a me
Socchiudo gli occhi a me vicino a Portofino rivedo te

Ricordo un angolo di cielo dove ti stavo ad aspettar
Ricordo il volto tanto amato e la tua bocca da baciar

I found my love in Portofino, quei baci più non scorderò
Non è più triste il mio cammino, a Portofino I found my love

Ricordo un angolo di cielo dove ti stavo ad aspettar
Ricordo il volto tanto amato e la tua bocca da baciar

I found my love in Portofino, quei baci più non scorderò
Non è più triste il mio cammino, a Portofino I found my love

Non è più triste il mio cammino, a Portofino I found my love

Pastel houses of PortofinoA rhyno in Portofino Portofino, pink details

After our beautiful and memorable visit to Portofino, we felt it was time to go to the beach. Leaving the dreamy village behind to hungry tourists, we took the crazy road back to Santa Margherita Ligure, a lovely seaside resort lined with Mediterranean houses and palatial buildings cooling in the shade of palm trees that create funny shapes on the facades and the ground.

Santa Margherita Ligure, the waterfront

The heart of the town is its beautiful pebbled beach and the promenade that leads to it. With so many people soaking up the sun, children bathing in the blue sea and screaming with joy, it is quite a challenge to find a free spot, but if you don’t succeed, you can try to search for your place in the sun (or the shade) on the promenade. Lined with unavoidable palm trees, its benches are taken up by people reading their books, enjoying gelato or a snack, taking their afternoon nap or just sitting back and enjoying the view onto the beach, its parasols and the background of gorgeous architecture.

Santa Margherita Ligure, the beach

Portofino and Santa Margherita Ligure are such a small part of the magical Ligurian coast, but a visit to them is an overwhelmingly wonderful experience, even with the traffic craziness and the hordes of tourists. And when you forget the stress and start to fully enjoy the sun, the sea, the summery laziness and the cold drink in your hand, life in this small piece of paradise does seem to show precisely what the Italian Dolce Vita is all about.

Cristophoro Colombo in Santa Margherita Ligure

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2 responses to “I found my love in Portofino, and my joy in Santa Margherita Ligure

    • Yes, the Italians really do have a specific way of driving… I guess it’s all part of their charm! 🙂

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