Portofino

When it comes to European summer and early-autumn hideaways, there are few destinations more glamorous than Portofino, which is located on the Italian Riviera in the region of Liguria. A sliver of a town cut into a rocky hillside, Portofino has few major sights. Besides the stunning sea views and the dreamy lineup of pastel-stuccoed structures that overlook the water, the only things to see here are the Prada- and Gucci-clad throngs streaming off their yachts, and the bottom of the glass holding your 17-euro Aperol spritz. Sitting in a café, strolling along the waterfront (it takes ten minutes, tops), and celebrity spotting are the central activities here on long and lazy warm days.

Photo courtesy of Laura Motta 

Many travelers arrive here by sea — on their yachts, naturally, and on cruise ships. Ours (Windstar’s Wind Surf, a 312-passenger masted ship), provided a particularly dramatic ride into town and offered excursions into the area surrounding Portofino (think hikes, wine and olive oil tastings, and boat trips to Cinque Terre). 

We opted for the first activity and walked from the nearby hilltop town of Camogli to a seaside point called Punta Chiappa, where locals swim, sunbathe, and picnic on warm days. Our English-speaking guide, Lucia, regularly leads tours in the area and has her own website that describes the area’s lesser-known sites to visitors. 

The walk starts in front of the small baroque church of San Rocco, which honors the patron saint of dogs. If you can enter, look for the statue of the church’s namesake. San Rocco's four-legged friend is seen posing at his feet with a piece of bread: a signifier of the nourishment that the dog brought to the saint while he was suffering from the plague. The church has been the site of an annual contest, held since the 1960s, to find the world’s most loyal and loving dog. 

From the small piazza in front of the church, a well-marked path runs parallel to the shoreline and leads down to the sea. The hour-long walk takes you past fairytale-worthy stone cottages and offers cliffside views of the Mediterranean with the city of Genoa in the distance. Be sure to stop for a few minutes at the postage-stamp-size church dedicated San Nicolo de Capodimonte, which clings to the cliffside. The church dates back to the 12th century and has some of its original frescoes intact.

Photo courtesy of Laura Motta 

Once you reach Punta Chiappa, settle in for a swim in the bathwater-warm Mediterranean. (The point is rocky, so water shoes are recommended to protect your feet.) After, take the short walk up to Stella Maris Resort, where you can enjoy lunch or dinner on a terrace with unmatched views. Order trofie with pesto, a dish that you’ll see on many a Ligurian menu. The small, twisted trofie pasta is typically made with wheat or chestnut flour and is among the region's specialties.   

Photo courtesy of Laura Motta 

To truly get out on the water — and to make your way easily back to Camogli — hop on the ferry, which runs from April to September and stops just a few paces from Punta Chiappa.

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