I’m fortunate to be able spend much of my time exploring some of Europe’s most historic cities while writing our self-guided walking tours for independent travelers. So I’m often asked about my favorite experiences while travelling. And one of the most frequent questions: What is your favorite port?
For sheer beauty and a romantic setting, I don’t think any port can beat the magic of Portofino with its captivating harbor tucked away in a small cove along the Italian Riviera. This was once an ancient fishing village and a safe haven for ships seeking refuge from roaming pirate ships. But at the end of the 19th century many European nobles and aristocrats began coming here to build their summer homes. And since the 1950s, Portofino has become famous worldwide thanks to the international film stars and heads of state that have made so many well publicized visits here.
Portofino is one of our shortest self-guided walking tours, but the sites along the way are unique, from the historic Church of St. George to the Brown Castle perched high above the port and the 16th century Church of San Martino. But the real stars of the walk here are the views themselves.
Take a picnic lunch and sit on the Belvedere Terraceof the Brown Castle overlooking the port and you may never want to leave. And just a 15 minute walk along tree covered cliffs takes you to the nearby lighthouse with commanding views over the Ligurian Sea. Or, on the other side of the port, walk along the cliffs until you reach the incomparable beauty of the small cove nestled below the world-renowned and luxurious Hotel Splendide.
But the heart and soul of the port is the piazetta, the main square and central gathering place of the town. During the day, the square is bustling with crowds of tourists exploring the cobblestone streets and their luxury boutiques. But as the sun fades so do the crowds and you’re left with a quiet evening filled with charming cafes and relaxing tavernas. Now you can unwind with a glass of Italian wine and a delicious Ligurian seafood dinner while watching the lights of the city shimmer on the still waters of the cove.
If you’ve got a favorite port that can beat that, I’d like to hear about it!