29 September 2014
 Portofino and the Italian Riviera

By Corey Sandler, Destination Consultant Silversea Cruises

Portofino: no one would ever blame you if thought the name of this lovely town and harbor meant “Fine Port.” Alas, that’s merely a coincidence.

Portofino is truly a fine port.

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But according to Pliny the Elder, the great Roman chronicler of the first century, Portofino was founded by the Romans and they named it Portus Delphini, or Port of the Dolphin, because of the large number of dolphins that inhabited the Tigullian Gulf.

The dolphins are mostly gone now, replaced by swarms of tourists who come to see the fine harbor, its nearby Paraggi beach, and the surrounding area including Abbey San Frutuoso and Camogli.

Bring on the tourists: in the late 19th century, first British, then other Northern European aristocratic tourists began to visit Portofino. After World War II, tourism surpassed fishing as the town’s chief industry, and the waterfront became a nonstop ring of restaurants and cafés.

Here are some photos I took on our visit to Portofino, Rapallo, and Santa Margherita on this cruise


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Like many of the towns of the Italian Riviera, much of the decoration of Rapallo is an Italian version of trompe l’oeil–fool the eye.The flourishes on the walls are painted mostly on flat surfaces.

The last photo in this series is looking up at the frescoed ceiling of a gazebo along the shore. It looks ancient, but was actually built in the 1930s by Italians returning to their homne town from South America.


The Abbey of San Fruttuoso is along the sea at the foot of Monte Portofino, reachable with a two-hour hike, or by water taxi or excursion in about 20 minutes from Portofino.

The Benedictines of Monte Cassino built their abbey in the tenth and eleventh centuries, at times having to share the little inlet with pirates.

Restored and now owned by a national trust, the church contains the tombs of some illustrious members of the Doria family.

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The Abbey San Frutuoso, a sacred site with a beach and café.


Camogli is another pretty seaside town, not as famous and not nearly as crowded as Portofino. It’s one of my favorite places in this part of the world.

It’s on the other side of the peninsula from Portofino, about half an hour’s drive; 20 kilometers or 12 miles away. You can also reach it by boat from Portofino.

Some even dare to prefer it to Portofino, enjoying Camogli’s beautifully painted houses and frescoes, many of them trompe l’oeil: fool the eye. What appears from a distance to be an ornamented front with windows and doors is paint.

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Camogli has a double meaning in Italian.

The first translation is houses close together, which fits the scene quite well.

The second meaning is houses of wives, casa delle Mogli, which also works: the fishermens’ wives spent their time at home while their husbands were out at sea.

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The cathedral of Camogli, and an upcoming appearance by Il Clown Bistecca, Beefsteak the Clown.

All photos by Corey Sandler. All rights reserved. If you would like to purchase a high-resolution image, please contact me.