Eight Hotel Paraggi Portofino reception space

Portofino posh | honeymoon hotspot | Italian Riviera | Pocket port

Sexy and glamorous. Red carpet ready. Did someone say 'rescue fantasy'?

Portofino is as breathtaking as the Krupp diamond: a jewel in the Italian Riviera’s crown, a pocket port of iris blue, a marina crammed with gleaming cruisers, runabouts and schooners, and the shore clustered with narrow buildings painted the rich shades of ancient ochre.  What better place to spend a honeymoon? Susan Skelly unpacks the resortwear

Portofino, an old Italian fishing village in the province of Genoa, is the kind of place you need to share with someone. It’s so damn heady. So when it comes to choosing a honeymoon destination, Cupid’s arrow finds its mark. With its fine dining, al fresco feasts, sea-hugging walks, ancient buildings that exude the faded glory of nobility in nearby Santa Margherita Ligure, Riviera-style cruising and the leisure time to shop like a local, it’s a recipe for indelible memories.

Eating out in Portofino

La Terrazza Hotel Splendido 16 Salita Baratta. (0185) 267 801. The heady scent of jasmine and geranium hits you first, then the spectacular view of the entrance to Portofino and its A-list yachts. As sunset becomes indigo moonshine on a summer’s night, you just know you are part of something special. This is the hillside Christmas tree star of special-occasion dining, as much for ambience as food. The setting is gold-plated, the service serious, the food, deft (and, yes, expensive), the wine list extensive (and even more expensive). Lobster on a caponata dice; a catch of the day triumph of scampi, squid, sea bass and tuna; beef carpaccio served with truffle slices and paper-fine parmesan wafers. Spaghetti with tuna roe “sawdust” has the most intense tomatoes imaginable (there is also Spaghetti alla Elizabeth Taylor, with fresh tomatoes from San Marzano, Sorrento and Pachino). On the way out pause in the lounge to listen to the pianist whose electric blue sequinned jacket is as enduring as the establishment itself.

Chuflay Bar Restaurant 1 Piazza Martiri dell’Olivetta. (0185) 267 802. Honest food and people-watching, lunch and dinner, a stone’s throw from the waterfront, as the boating and celebrity crowd seeks out food as classy as their vessels. The signature Insalata Chuflay is food as medicine: char-grilled eggplant, zucchini, capsicum and endive, with radicchio, creamy herbed goat’s cheese and a rich balsamic dressing. Pesto is a regional specialty, so order up big on the pesto pumping Pasta Genovese. Oh, and a glass of the house vermentino, please waiter.

Related: Luxury Hotels | Sensational suites

19 Molo Umberto, Portofino (0185) 269 189

This is the real find. It seems to pop up out of nowhere at night, about as far round the seafront as you can go, near the back steps to Castello Brown. Right by the water, you can look back on the port for the full money shot. The signature dish is a tagliolini with porcini mushrooms, mixed theatrically at your table in a giant parmesan wheel “bowl”, loaded onto a plate dusted in fine pepper, truffles shaved generously on top. Possibly the best pasta dish anywhere! Go on a summer’s evening to enjoy the inky pink twilight backdrop.

Da Puny
5 Piazza Martiri dell’Olivetta. (0185) 269 037.

Da Puny is the choice of locals for its longevity and simplicity. Signature dishes are its pesto pappardelle, salt-crusted bream (which tastes as if it’s jumped from port to plate) and mixed seafood appetisers. Sit and watch those who haven’t booked being turned away.

Portofino Italian Riviera diva central haunt of Hollywood stars

Picturesque Portofino, with cobble stones, cafes, luxe shopping, and fine seafood feasts. Photo Getty Images

See and do around Portofino

Santa Margherita Ligure  Spend a day browsing this picturesque port, a big sister to Portofino. There are boutiques, perfumeries, cafes, gelateria and restaurants such as Da U Batti (2 Via Jacopo Ruffini; closed Wed), whose red prawn dish is a drawcard of some renown; and perched on the hillside, Cigae (58 Via San Lorenzo). Regular ferries run to Portofino, Rapallo and San Fruttuoso. Rapallo has a more local feel; find an enoteca in one of the little laneways, and order a ham and cheese panini and a glass vermentino.

Portofino itself is alive with restaurants, delis, cafes, and is geared for the guerrilla shopper (cruise ships anchor off this tiny port): look out for Pucci, San Ferragamo, Hermès, Dior, Louis Vuitton, Missoni. Walk up to Castello Brown for a magnifient view and a seat amongst the flowers in the garden cafe.

Villa Durazzo (3 Piazzale San Giacomo) was built in the 17th century and offers neat gardens and a glimpse of the faded glory of the nobility. The palace is a showcase of tromp l’oeil, stuccos, Genoese mosaic floors and period furniture. Next door is the quite exquisite baroque church of San Giacomo. Light a candle if you are so inclined.

San Fruttuoso & Camogli The San Fruttuoso inlet can be reached only by ferry, a short hop from Santa Margherita Ligure or Portofino. There is an abbey to visit for those who feel like a climb, and deckchairs or sunbeds can be hired for the day – or just stay for an hour or two on the gravelly beach. Otherwise, take the ferry to the charming fishing village of Camogli. Wander up the hill to the town centre to chance upon a street of market stalls. From there, it’s a quick train ride back to Santa Margherita Ligure.

Head out of Portofino by yacht or motorboat to the Cinque Terre, 18km of rocky coastline with bays and beaches – and the five hamlets of Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore. Or drive to Portovenere and the Gulf of Poets, which inspired such writers as Byron, Shelley and D.H. Lawrence. Genoa, the mediaeval city of palaces, is another rewarding daytrip, fleshed out with lunch at Zeffirino (20 Via XX Settembre) or Chichibio (20/R Via David Chiossone).

Where to stay

Eight Hotel Paraggi

8 Via Paraggi a Monte, Santa Margherita Ligure. (0185) 289 961.

Paraggi is a little cove between Portofino and Santa Margherita Ligure. The boutique hotel is a sophisticated refurbished 19th-century villa with just 13 rooms. An attic option, with a white, clay and mauve colour palette, makes an almost alarming first impression as a doll’s house, but quickly reveals remote-controlled sliding skylights that bring the space in and offer star-gazing. Another suite has a balcony with daybeds and jazuzzi overlooking the beach (below). It’s the private beach that is the Eight Hotel Paraggi’s magnet. It comes with a dedicated beach concierge to organise towels (last time it was Frederico, who spends his winters as a fireman in a neighbouring village), drinks and umbrella etiquette. Okay, it’s not in Portofino central, but it’s only a 25-minute walk around a beautiful headland past villas, and castles, fragrant flora and gardens; alternatively, there’s a bus, €1.50 ($2.20) or a taxi, €35 ($51). The bar serves a wicked espresso martini. From €490 ($717) a night.

Jacuzzi with view Hotel Eight Paraggi Portofino luxury accommodation beach

View from the jacuzzi over Paraggi Beach at Hotel Eight Paraggi. Photo courtesy Eight Hotels

A version of this was published in Qantas The Australian Way October 2013; updated September 2014.


Editor. Writer. Traveller. Keeping tabs on all things fab. susan@excessallareas.com.au

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