‘I found my love in Portofino’ is a song by Andrea Bocelli. While it’s not true for me - I met my match at secondary school - I have spent many hours wandering Portofino’s honeysuckle-scented streets. Spend five minutes exploring the small harbour town and you’ll understand why the sweet-smelling air, delicious food and numerous glasses of Italian wine might tip those rose-tinted glasses.
On a recent trip my boyfriend Louis and I were staying at the Belmond Hotel Splendido, which sits on the hillside overlooking Portofino. One afternoon we set off on a romantic cruise aboard the hotel’s Corsair 36, but as we puttered out of the harbour, leaving the fruit-pastel coloured town in our wake, it seemed I’d left my rose-tinted glasses at home. We’d been running late to meet the Captain, which caused sparks to fly, and now we were sitting on opposite boat cushions, the fizzle of tension still in the September air.
The evening was clear, with just a whisper of cloud overhead - and the setting sun sent an orange shimmer along the horizon. We swung out of the harbour past the Portofino lighthouse and headed for the open ocean. In the dim light the mountainous coastline of the Portofino National Park looked majestic and our Captain, dressed smartly in white, began telling stories of the families that live on the secluded hill.
Local rumours still circulate about the young Italian Countess who was found washed up in France, he explained as we gazed up at the clifftop villa where she was said to have fallen from. Whether she was pushed, jumped or simply slipped from her window ledge is still a great mystery in the town.
“Everyone’s got a secret on this side of the hill,” our Captain said, “especially this family...” and he pointed to a house perched at the top of some steep stairs leading from the sea. “It’s only accessible by canoe” he explained with a chuckle. I looked at Louis knowingly, his eyes a reflection of the olive trees scattering the coast. He lived in Portofino as a boy and knew some of the characters the Captain spoke of.
Turning a corner, the pretty bay of San Fruttuoso came into view, along with its tiny Benedictine monastery. The bay, only accessible by boat or foot, was named after the martyr bishop Fruttuoso who appeared in the dreams of five monks ordering them to bury his remains here.
A popular local hangout during the day, the beach was now abandoned and I joined Louis port-side, staring together at the tiny church and trellis-covered restaurant on the beach. We’d caught the public boat to San Fruttuoso earlier that day with hoards of locals, yet as we drifted at its entrance that evening it could have been our secret.
We set off again and soon we saw the town of Camogli glistening in the twilight. The soft-hued houses with flowers tumbling from their balconies seem to be stuck in a timewarp. We mulled over its beauty, deciding much of the Italian Riviera is best seen from the sea. As we turned back towards Portofino, Camogli’s church chimed ominously, its tolls ringing out over the water.
This part of the Riviera is an intriguing place, somewhat shrouded in mystery, popular with the rich and famous, but still as charming as when Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton frequented the Belmond Splendido. I was totally besotted, and as we leaned back to watch the dwindling sunset I realised I did find love in Portofino after all. Andrea Bocelli was right.
Double rooms from £366 per night at Belmond Hotel Splendido
Additional images from Alamy
The best mascaras for sensitive eyes: our favorite delicate formulations
For those with delicate eyes or skin, finding the best mascaras for sensitive eyes takes a little more care and attention.
By Ayesha Muttucumaru •
Kobe Bryant widow Vanessa publicly criticizes rapper Meek Mill for lacking 'respect' and 'tact' over song lyric
The widow of the late basketball legend has lashed out at the rapper for 'insensitive' lyric referencing her husband
By Selina Maycock •
This historic chateau in southern France is Airbnb’s most 'liked' photo from 2020
Warning: will trigger serious wanderlust
By Lydia Swinscoe •
You can now book a Riviera Travel European tour for 2022 with deposits starting from just £50
Travel company Riviera Travel has released their line-up of dreamy European tours for 2022, so that we can all book in something to look forward to
By Aleesha Badkar •
The UK’s most peaceful villages have been revealed and they're perfect for a relaxing getaway
So beautiful as well!
By Lucy Buglass •
Best UK staycations 2021 - the most beautiful places to visit in Britain
Put these beautiful UK staycation destinations on your list for future adventures
By Lauren Hughes •
Are river cruises safe from Covid? Here's everything you need to know
By Lauren Hughes •
Desperate for a post-lockdown getaway? Travel the beautiful waters of Italy with confidence with Riviera Travel - from just £919
They have some solid Covid-19 safety policies in place...
By Amy Hunt •
This coastal break is the ideal post-lockdown jaunt for those wanting to stay close to home
Head to the coast for a post-lockdown break with Riviera Travel
By Aleesha Badkar •
Riviera Travel launch UK tours for an idyllic staycation
Not all holidays have been cancelled!
By Rachel Hagan •