What I must do before delving into the dreamland that is Portofino, is give a quick outline on how Jack and I actually got to Portofino/Cinque Terre, since after the last post I had a couple of enquiries about how difficult it is to actually reach these mountainside gems.
It’s surprisingly simple. If you’ve got the cash to spare, you can fly straight to Genoa, but if you want to go about it a little more frugally like we did, you can fly to Pisa. From Pisa you take a very short, very cheap bus to the Central Train Station (Italian) and from there you get a train which last between 1.5 hours and 2 hours to Rapallo. It usually costs about 17 euros for a single ticket and it’s a lovely journey with gorge views as you go.
Once you’re in Rapallo you have the choice of many a ferry to take you to numerous destinations, including the towns of Cinque Terre and Portofino or San Fruttuoso. The ferries are cheap, too – for a full day trip, the ferries for Portofino are about 17 euro and those for Cinque Terre – stopping at each town – are just over 30 quid. All these can be bought on the day at the ticket offices on the marina. Simmmmmples.
Anyway, here we are: Day Two – A Trip to Portofino and San Fruttuoso.
As we arrived into Portofino, giddy with the sea air and keen for our first gelato, we were greeted by a row of brightly coloured houses along the sides of the harbour, which was dotted with brightly painted little fishing boats. On closer inspection, the houses were, on the bottom floor, mostly high-end boutiques, wine bars, jewellers and (to our delight) gelaterias. It’s a small village, it would take the average person about 30 minutes to walk around, though characteristically it took us about an hour because I like to stop at literally every shop we pass. I usually moved on swiftly enough when I realised the linen strap top I’d been eyeing or the Mocassins in the window were over €500. But there’s no harm in looking.
And in fact, I was glad of my magpie ways after moseying into this particular boutique (a silk dress had caught my eye which cost more than my rent so I thought it was best left). The charming women running the store noticed me admiring a beautiful book called “Vernazza – Snow Always Comes From The Sea”. They informed me that it was a book written by a man from Vernazza – one of the towns of Cinque Terre – and that he’d just published it himself with a means to telling people more about Vernazza as a place, the people who made it what it is today, and what it was before it became a huge tourist attraction. The man, Gianni Franzi, a restaurant owner, still lives and runs his restaurant in the little village, the ladies explained. I bought the book, and made a mental note to stop into his restaurant on our trip to Vernazza the following day. More on this in the next post.
What is interesting about Portofino – aside from the bursts of colour and the chicness of its inhabitants – are the hidden haute-couture stores placed almost shyly on narrow side streets and under leafy trellises. I couldn’t believe it: Dior, Louis Vuitton and Moschino, and two fine diamond boutiques in unassuming, albeit colourfully painted, little buildings. Remember in my Milan post when I said that every street is truly a catwalk in Milan? It was the same here – every meter-wide, cobbled street was a catwalk.
Oh, and there were casually three super yachts parked in the harbour, too. All from St. George, I suppose in the Bahamas. Between the raspberry-sized diamonds in the jewellery boutiques and the gleaming black yachts with cheery staff in their stark white outfits milling about on the boardwalk, we had a fancy ole time, scoffing the gelatos before they melted and pretending this was simply part of our everyday life.
After Portofino, we headed to San Fruttuoso – the smallest town in the world, consisting of one hotel and two restaurants in the rockface, and one church. Nothing hugely exciting happened here – we got beers on the beach and Jack got a plate of anchovies (*shudders*) and then we actually bombed back to Portofino for our dinner (Pizza. What did you expect?) An all-round fabulous day-trip.
Have you been to any coastal Italian villages? If you have, I’d love you to share in the comments because I need inspiration for my next Italian trip 😉
‘Til next time – Buon giornata.