Liguria - Places to Visit - Portofino
Population: 586 Surface km : 2 Height: 5
In order to appreciate the exceptional beauty of Portofino you need to see it from the square in front of the church of San Giorgio on the lighthouse promontory: from this position you have a splendid overview of the port and the row of coloured houses with their typical decorations.
Portofino lies in a bay whose natural shelter is provided both by its shape and by Monte Portofino itself, which looks over the sea from a height of 600 metres and forms a three-kilometre ridge ending to the east at Punta del Capo.
This favourable natural position attracted very early human settlement, and we learn from Pliny that "Portus Delphini" was already known in Roman times. After being under the dominion of the Abbey of San Fruttuoso for almost two centuries, it was taken into the Republic of Genoa in the twelfth century.
The Republic built a fortress there in the seventeenth century which is now known as Castello Brown, after the British Consul who bought it in 1870. The church of San Martino stands in the oldest part of the town and dates back to the twelfth century, while the Oratorio dell'Assunta was built in the fourteenth century.
The tourist harbour can berth up to 300 boats and has hosted the most prestigious leisure craft in the world, since it attracts the most exclusive type of tourists. So many of the most famous names of twentieth-century history and art have visited Portofino that even a partial list of names would be difficult to draw up.
All kinds of sea sports can be practised here, especially sailing and windsurfing. The reef is a paradise for divers: certain parts are extremely interesting, such as Punta del Faro and the wreck of the "Mohawk Deer". The Portofino Diving Centre is open all year round.
The Mediterranean vegetation of Monte di Portofino Natural Park is another favourite tourist spot: the pines and olive trees stretch right down to the sea, alternating with a variety of shrubs and bushes such as gorse, thyme, erica, myrtle, saxifrage and strawberry trees.
However, botanists have so far identified over seven hundred species, and their work is not yet finished. As you go towards the mountain the excursions become a little more arduous, although the park itself is crossed by a network of hillside paths that are very easy to walk along.