A trip to Italy could go either way, really. Those who have the expendable income and high-tone sensibilities could luxuriate until their soul stirs among the cobalt blue waters off the cliffs of Liguria, the Italian Riviera, sipping on expensive spumante and languishing in the golden sunlight.
Portofino, in fact, is a hugely popular resort town for such activities, full of high-end designer boutiques and harborside bars which effectively charge more for the view and the atmosphere than for their culinary offerings. Portofino is the destination to show off a new white Fendi bathing suit.
Visitors to the golden coast who are not necessarily enthused about dropping more than 500 euro a night for a room with a view are typically more likely to find themselves in Camogli, a neighboring town just down the way, blessed with the same water and the same seafood, the colorful mountainside Italian architecture peppering verdant green hills, and the same shocking blue coastline, only without the exorbitant price tags and yacht culture.
So, for the posh and the affordable, and the affordably posh in both Portofino and its humble and noble brother, Camogli, clock the list below.
An exquisite cliff-bordered coastline hovering above the crystal waters of the Mediterranean serves well as a proverbial feast for the eyes, but perhaps the actual feast offered at the decadent Ligurian restaurant at La Terrazza in Hotel Splendido is enough to inspire tears. The food matches the decor, which includes the stunning backdrop – simple and authentic, dominated by sea creatures, embellished only by clean and natural delights. Each plate is built of fresh catches from the Italian Riviera and delicately cooked and flavored with natural Ligurian herbs and spices. Since nearby Genoa is blessed with basil, it’s only natural that La Terrazza’s specialty pastas are heavily al pesto.
La Gritta, the famous American bar right along the harbor of Portofino has drawn tourists from all over the world for over 50 years. Hollywood starlets would dock at its shores and come up for a white wine or a margarita – its classically Italian nautical aesthetic matched with a view of the ships coming in from the floating dock makes this a perfect place to watch the sunset while enjoying a glass of wine. Those who enjoy La Gritta pay for the view, as cocktails can be expected to cost over 20 euros.
Life is splendid in Portofino, particularly when one is afforded the opportunity to spend a night at Hotel Splendido. The former monastery is perched along a cliff and was converted into a luxury hotel in 1901. Ever since then it has basked in the golden rays of the sun over the harbor and the glowing limelight of being associated with international playboys, Hollywood bigwigs, socialites and billionaires. Their heated saltwater pool is nestled high on the cliff amid Hotel Splendido’s lush gardens, outdoor spa facilities, tennis courts and restaurants all allow for breathtaking views of the harbor and the bright yellow and orange buildings across the way; while guests who prefer an immersive experience into the sea can rent the hotel’s private yacht and take an excursion around the coast.
The space that Bar Dai Muagetti occupies was found and dug up by local San Rocco inhabitants could protect themselves from World War II air raids. Now that the atmosphere is a bit calmer, it serves as a different kind of place of relief, offering visitors and locals a place to sit out cliffside among the lush flora of the Riviera coastline and nurse a glass of one of their handpicked wines while admiring the astonishing coastal views. Dai Muagetti is a convergence of the simplest and finest pleasures, a nice stop on the walk up along the cliffs from Camogli. As far as hidden gems go, this one is the best-situated.
The general rule is that you never turn down a meal with an old Italian Nonna and La cucina di Nonna Nina is certainly no exception. The restaurant looks more like someone’s elegant home dining room only with more tables, and the recipes used to create their beautiful seafood and Genovese dishes are directly passed down from several nonnas. The flavors of Liguria vary from season to season and likewise the menu at La cucina di Nonna Nina. In the summer, diners might see a Rabbit alla Genovese or Leer fish caught from the Camogli shores while the winter beckons fresh whitebait fish in a multitude of dishes and a hearty Sacripantina, a hearty Ligurian sponge-cake dessert smothered with butter cream – all their dishes are made from local seafood and produce.
Cenobio dei Dogi Hotel is a beachside getaway, nestled along the cliffs of the Italian Riviera with outdoor restaurants and 103 elegant rooms that offer garden views or shocking blue panoramas of Paradise Gulf. There are certainly many ways to pass the time in Camogli, but visitors to Cenobio dei Dogi require only one – the private rocky beach and their glimmering pool invite beach-combers and their kids to hang out all day.