Italy's Picture Perfect Portofino

Europe - Editor - 31 March 2011

Italy's Picture Perfect Portofino

With its pastel painted houses hugging the shoreline, Portofino has long had the reputation for being one of the most beautiful ports in the Mediterranean. Its picture postcard perfection has made it a destination of choice for many tourists exploring Italy, and the surrounding tree-covered hills are home to luxurious villas of the rich and famous. Located within the Italian province of Genoa, and forming part of the famous Italian Riviera, Portofino may be a small village, but it has world class hotels and restaurants, as well as a host of shopping options. Popular beaches in the vicinity of Portofino include Paraggi, Camogli, Lavagna, Chiavari and Sestri Levante – each with its own particular charm.

One of the historical attractions of Portofino is Castello Brown – a 16th century fortress built to protect Italy’s northwest coastline against unrelenting attacks by Turkish invaders. The strategic position of Castello Brown, high above the harbor, allows the most spectacular views of the bay and surrounding area. The fort was the scene of a number of conflicts before being abandoned after the 1815 Congress of Vienna settled many issues regarding territory rights. Castello Brown was purchased by the English consul in Genoa, Montague Yeats Brown, in 1867 and transformed into a villa for his personal use, remaining in his family until 1949. The property changed ownership once more, before being sold to the City of Portofino in 1961. Today, Castello Brown serves primarily as a museum, and visitors can stroll in its beautiful gardens, enjoying the views, while contemplating its somewhat tumultuous past.

Portofino was mentioned by Roman author, Pliny the Elder (23AD-79AD) as having been established by the Romans. At that time it was known as Portus Delphini, meaning Port of the Dolphin, referring to the large dolphin population along the coast. As was the case with many European territories, Portofino changed hands a number of times in ensuing years before becoming part of the Kingdom of Sardinia in 1815, and part of the Kingdom of Italy in 1861. By the late 19th century, travelling aristocracy from northern Europe discovered the beauty of Portofino and it soon became a favored holiday destination.

By 1950, the fishing industry which had been the mainstay of Portofino was replaced by the tourism industry, and this remains the case today. Other attractions in or close to Portofino include the underwater Statue of Christ of the Abyss, the 12th century Church of St. Martin, the Church of St. George, and the Gothic-style Oratory of Santa Maria Assunta.


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