Feeling splendid at Splendido! (I couldn’t resist that one …)
Hotel Splendido, perfectly perched atop the picturesque tiny port of Portofino, was my summer retreat and splendid treat this year! For those who have not been to Portofino, it is a lovely, little port town nestled into the Ligurian Coast on the North West tip of Italy. Hotel Splendido holds a place in history unlike any other hotel on the Italian coast. For decades, the famous and infamous have flocked to this magical place to experience the Italian Riviera at its best. Richard Burton reportedly proposed to Elizabeth Taylor at Splendido and the walls of the hotel proudly display endless photographs of past legendary guests. The property is surrounded by four acres of olive-lined tropical gardens and is a former 16-century Benedictine Monastery — with my namesake steeped in the history of the hotel, it is no wonder I was so smitten with its loveliness.
Hotel Splendido opened its doors as a hotel in 1902 and has managed to maintain the atmosphere of a private villa. The entire staff is outstanding and upon arrival, Luca Chiesa, Head Concierge, was immensely helpful with all of my dinner reservations, excursions to the neighboring sites, and also with my travel plans after I left the hotel – grazie, Luca! Vlad, the piano player, was also a big hit for all the hotel guests. The hotel’s famed al fresco restaurant, La Terrazza, was beyond splendid (again, I couldn’t resist). The creative, regional cuisine and delicious bellinis were even more special while savored under the stars, overlooking the bay of Portofino and the Tigullian Gulf.
Just steps below the hotel’s entrance is a charming path that leads guests to the entrance of the harbor. The harbor holds about eight mega yachts and dozens of sailboats, small fishing boats and fun little cruisers ready to whisk away visitors to neighboring ports of call. The Piazza Martiri dell’Olivetta, the promenade along the harbor, is bordered with lots of charming restaurants, bars and shops. The Splendido Mare is the sister hotel and is nestled into the heart of the main piazzetta. The entire Piazza Martiri dell’Olivetta and port can be walked from one end to the other (with time to take in the little side streets), in no time at all.
There are a few must stops along the way:
1. Da Puny for dinner. It is packed each night and no wonder! The food is amazing and it overlooks all of Portofino. Tip: Have the hotel book in advance and prior to your arrival.
2. Chuflay is just a few doors down from Da Puny and shares the same popularity, delicious food and charm. Chuflay is Splendido Mare’s restaurant and it perfect any time of day. Also nice for drinks.
3. O Magazin is another favorite. Unlike Chuflay and Da Puny, O Magazin is not on the piazzetta, but rather just along the water’s edge at the entrance to the harbor.
4. L a Gritta Portofino is a few doors down from O Magazin and has a floating barge along the promenade. I had the best bellinis of my life at La Gritta – yum!
5. There are a number of stores to visit: Brunello Cucinelli, Loro Piana and Pucci. I also had some fun shopping in the Splendido shop. I now have the most comfortable and cozy new blue Splendido bathrobe and slippers! I ended up having to buy an extra suitcase to lug home all my new loot.
6. Panificio Canale is Portofino’s famous bakery known for its scrumptious focaccia bread. The popular spot is over 100 years old and is obviously not for the carb dieter, but is worth the splurge.
7. The Brown Castle is a short walk up the left side of the port and affords views out to the vast sea and also the Splendido, the entire port and the tiered mountains jutting into the sea to the South.
The hotel can assist with day trips. There are many possible excursions, but I explored the following locations and would recommend all of them:
1. San Fruttuoso harbor (pictured left) is either a two-hour walk or a fifteen minute boat ride–I opted for the latter and was happy since it allowed me to see more from the sea looking onto the coast. San Fruttuoso is a tiny, tiny sliver of a harbor just north of Portofino. When we arrived, the entire beach was covered with people sun bathing…I mean covered–not an inch of space. It was funny to see so many people packed into such a small beach–maybe 200 feet from one end to the other. Luca was kind enough to book chaises and lunch for us, and I went for a swim and then had a delicious lunch overlooking the crowd. San Fruttuoso is most famous for its underwater statue of Jesus. I didn’t take the dive, but I was told it is quite striking to see the bronze statue 50 feet below the surface.
2. La Cervara is a brilliant tiered garden surrounding a 14th-century Benedictine Abbey perched along a cliff just south of Portofino.
3. Paraggi is a charming little bay just a 10 minute walk from the Splendido along a lovely pedestrian walkway. Paraggi has several beach clubs and we went to Bagnifiore (upon Luca’s recommendation). If you prefer a bit of solitude, ask the host at Bagnifiore to sit all the way at the end of the deck. It is quieter and has steps down to the water.