Taking a little time out from the daily grind and after all the rain and snow, they decided to dash over to Portofino for a stroll, photos and a cocktail. Portofino is a tiny pearl tucked away on the Ligurian coast not far from Genoa, next to Santa Margarita Ligure and Rapallo; a little fishing town, now a haven for VIP. Little did she know this was a place for “whoop-dee-doos;” once she spotted Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Hermés, Ferragamo, etc., she realized this was way out of their league pocket-wise (although, not out of her realm of taste). Of course for these two poor “street bastards,” visiting a town such as this in the off-season is their habitual MO, nevertheless off-season does not lower the prices of absolutely anything in this fabulous town (as it does in other places where normal folk forage).
They arrived late in the afternoon, just in time to catch the last of the setting sun reflecting against the pinks and yellows of the walls along the harbor. The wind was picking up, the tide coming in and only two bars out of a ga-bunch of them were open as well as just two restaurants; it was Monday so it is possible more were closed because it was Monday, but then again, these folks make so much money during those four months of the season, who the hell needs to stay open in the winter? They are probably sunning it in the Bahamas or Caribbean!
Few windows bore signs of life from behind the green shutters along the port shores (except for a few on the top floors); it was closed up tighter than a button but still, one could imagine the beauty of Spring with bars, gelaterias and store fronts open, bubbling with signs of life and color. The few boats moored in the waters were just those of the local fishermen and one lone sleek sailboat (a mere 40 footer). The wind was cold and whipping around the bend of the cove but that did not deter these two nuts.
They settled into benches and chairs made for midgets with their knees at their cheeks, outside suffering the cold so they could soak up the sounds, the smell of the ocean and the changing light on the castle above as well as, the church perched above the harbor. She had no idea how much of a haven for two-legged creatures with buckets of money this place was until she saw the prices on the drink menu; € 13,00 per concoction! When you walk away leaving 26 Euros for two drinks, one realizes the prices here will singe the hair off of one’s two rear cheeks.
Parking prices should have tuned her in at € 5,00/hour as well as, the fact the road is so narrow and small, cars must line up on the road coming into town in the summer before a lighted sign displaying parking availability as cars leave the structure. Yes, this is a small town, where you can walk from one end to the other in ten minutes (if not window-shopping) so, I suppose the prices work for parking. Clearly, city hall makes a nice penny on tourists she deduced while walking towards the harbor. They crossed over solid brass water grates and manhole covers; huge, thick pieces of brass and, polished! Ah yes, she forgot, this is one of the fabulous jewels of Italy where Silvio Berlusconi has another one of his homes, perched high above the harbor (poor guy eh)? (He has one on Lago Maggiore, one in Portofino, Costa Smeralda and an Island in the Bahamas, all the best-protected jewels of Italy and beyond).
After strolling by the ultra clean and pretty public showers, it slammed into her big time just how much money rolls through the place and, with all the water and electrical hook ups for boats (hot and cold water) she knew this was a great people watching trove. Her companion told her it seemed only boats of 10 meters and up moored there; she did not believe him until she looked at a few postcards. Wow, so this is how it is when you have buckets and buckets of the stuff to keep a floating palace in fuel.
Portofino is stupendous; truly a pearl tucked away along the coast with only one way in and out. It’s history dates back to 986 known as Portus Delphini and today is part of the club of I Gioielli d’Europa. Francesco Petrarca spent many a day (1300’s) in this glorious place along with his sailboat and where he asked to be buried.
Near here appears Portofino enclosed by luminous greenery; with a mountain barrier that repels the violence of the winds a silent respite in ecstatic quietness. Africa VI 845-847
The houses are long and narrow, the colors faded with many dilapidated facades lending more charm than ever to the scenery. Everything is small, streets, doors, and houses all squished in to the coastal hills and mountainsides, such a lovely contrast from the California coast. She tried to think of a place in California to help describe this town and all she could come up with was a mix of Big Sur, Carmel and Sausalito and still this does not do Portofino justice.
Having retrieved their wheels they headed for Santa Margarita for dinner since the town on passing by while headed to Portofino seemed more inhabited with many more places open for business. Exploring this lovely resort was a few steps down price-wise from the tiny pearl but still not a place for “commoners.” Prices in the restaurants are not for the faint of heart. We ended up stopping at La Palma since the other place could not take credit cards due to “technical” difficulties. Suffice it to say, this is not a place to go for those looking for a great meal. Service was 15% plus cover so between that, the water and a ½ carafe of wine, € 30,00 went to waste, well actually into someone’s pocket.
Thinking about how difficult it is to find a bad meal in Italy she realized how easy it is to find those few bad meals in places frequented by money. What is it; do they just want to be in the surroundings so they never look at the money spent? Is food quality not on the docket because they are there to be seen and willing to pay the price of the chair location ( or boat location)? Seriously, the money spent for two cocktails and for the service and beverages at dinner equal at least 3-4 meals out of a basket from the supermarket. Maybe she is just envious, wishing she could wander these ports of call without a second thought to the price of a caffè or a glass of water ;-)
With heavy hearts, they headed for the car after dinner; wishing there was a way to remain and savor the change of air and soak up the idyllic lights along the coast. As they left the lights behind them and entered the endless cord of tunnels they decided they would be back at the end of March, beginning of April for a drink and more eye candy; a chance to see the place in it’s glory before the long lines of cars and people clog the tiny piazza along the harbor.