I don’t expect that many of my readers remember famous song titled Love in Portofino performed by Dalida in the late fifties. OK, true, neither did I, until I saw it this morning. Her black&white clip has been posted on youtube channel few years ago where you can still watch it. Why am I writing about this old song? Because I still remember my parents singing this very song when I was a child. In my memory Portofino became a myth of a paradise, a place where the sun always shines and where literally everybody is happy.
It is always instructive to confront the myth with reality even if you sometimes end up with a disappointment I went to Portofino only once and I consider it a very important experience. As you might already know I am not a big fan of posh and trendy places and so Portofino is not my favorite holiday destination but if you are in Liguria, let’s say in Genova it is worthy to visit this tiny little town.
The place has a certain charm. The main part of the town is located on the natural harbor. Historically it was a fishermen village and in the late fifties it went through a transformation into a place visited by the celebrities. At some point tourism became most attractive business and the main resource for the local population.
When you are standing on the main square you may get the impression of being inside a doll house: everything is itsy-bitsy, the streets are narrow, the houses are thin, and only the boats and yachts are really huge. It gives you an impression of a monster entering a miniature world. The houses along the shore have lovely and typically Italian colors and photographed at dusk they create a fairy-tale impression. If you sit at the marina long enough you will see people from all over the world walking around and having fun.
Despite being beautiful I got the impression the town is somehow artificial. There are no fishermen and you need to be patient to see any locals at all. I am not saying that each poor fishermen village is adorable because of its authenticity but I think that Portofino failed in terms of keeping a right balance between old and new. The tourists come to Portofino to expose themselves, to watch each other. A delightful scenery of their meetings play a secondary role. The town is barely a background to the meetings of rich and famous, and those who would love to become both. Nobody is interested in history of this place, in its uniqueness, in meeting the locals, in the houses, unless it comes to a price.
Everything is freaking expensive in this place. I am able to agree that sailing and swimming is pleasant, and that sunny warm days in Italy are delightful, but I have some doubts about value for money in this particular place. So, my advice is this: if you wish to see the place take the bus from Santa Margherita and go there for a single afternoon, go to a bar, drink coffee, visit the church and the castle of San Giorgio, enjoy the view, breath with warm air and keep the view in you memory forever.