Photo courtesy of Belmond Hotel Splendido and Splendido Mare
Belmond Hotel Splendido and Splendido Mare
This classic Ligurian villa presides over the pine-covered slopes and deep blue waters of the Riviera di Levante. The hotel began its life as a 16th-century monastery. Repeated attacks on the picturesque—if evidently unprotected—coastline by Saracen pirates drove the monks out and left the villa in disrepair, paving the way for an industrious and wealthy Italian to turn it into a luxury hotel at the turn of the last century. The story might have stopped there had it not been for the Duke of Windsor and his cohort, who descended upon Positano in the mid-20th century to turn it into such an extension of St. Tropez that streets were narrowed to keep car-driving locals out and yacht-owning jet-setters in.
But a luxurious mountainside retreat perched above the town wasn’t enough. Even as the Hotel Splendido (Belmond only added its name in recent years) attracted international elite, the owners opened a smaller, more intimate extension in the heart of the town. A dressed-up version of a fishing village pied-à-terre, the Splendido Mare overlooks the central Piazzetta and is home to one of the hottest bars and restaurants in Portofino.
Suffice it to say that Portofino wouldn’t be itself without the Splendido hotels.
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Even the name Portofino exudes romance, glamour, and images that belong in postcards and midcentury Italian films. While Elizabeth Taylor, Clark Gable, and the royals aren’t quite the regular guests they used to be, this quaint former fishing village is just as idyllic as ever. Practically designed for luxury—the easiest way to get here is by yacht, though the hour-long train and bus trip from Genoa is notably picturesque—the secluded waterfront town is filled with gourmet restaurants, cool cafés, designer shops, and private vacation villas, and the most popular activity is just sitting in the main Piazzetta, overlooking the water, sipping a cappuccino (by morning) or espresso (the rest of the day). More active visitors take advantage of the many hiking trails that traverse the protected Mount Portofino—some even lead to hard-to-reach sights like the Abbey of San Fruttuoso di Capodimonte—while others take to the water for boat trips to hidden beaches and to go scuba diving in the Portofino Protected Marine Area.
Need to Know
Rooms: The Belmond Hotel Splendido has 69 rooms and 41 suites. The Splendido Mare has 16 rooms and 6 suites. From $542. Check-in: 2 p.m.; check-out: noon. Dining options: From its panoramic perch on the steep hillside, the elegant La Terrazza pairs some of Portofino’s most romantic views with gourmet, coastal Italian classics for three meals a day, served either on the flower-fringed terrace or in the refined dining room. Sip refreshing drinks and nosh on fresh pizzas and pastas at the poolside bar and restaurant, or pull up a leather stool on the black-and-white checkerboard floors of the hotel’s cocktail bar, where live piano music wafts through the background. Down in the town, at Splendido Mare, the iconic, indoor-outdoor Chuflay Restaurant is set right on the main Piazzetta, its white-tableclothed outdoor tables overlooking the marina; gourmet local favorites are served all day long, and the lively bar entertains jet-setters with wine, cocktails, and live music well into the wee hours. Spa and gym details: In addition to a fitness center with a wall of windows overlooking the sea, the hotel has a heated, outdoor saltwater pool and an all-weather tennis court. The wellness center spa offers a full range of spa and beauty treatments, available in treatment rooms or in the leafy garden. The hotel also has a sauna, and private yoga, Pilates, and personal training sessions are available.
Who it's best for: Jet-set elite and Old World movie stars. Our favorite rooms: At the main hotel, the Exclusive Suites are not only the most recently renovated rooms in the complex, but also the largest and most memorable, thanks to their expansive private balconies and postcard-worthy views of Tigullio Gulf and Portofino’s picturesque cove. The Ava Gardner Suite at Splendido Mare steals the show, though, as perhaps the best room in the house(s), a penthouse-like suite with a citrus tree–lined, 603-square-foot terrace overlooking the harbor and Piazzetta. Local highlight: Explore another side of the Ligurian coastline with the hotels’ Underwater Adventures scuba diving program, which shows guests (from beginners to experts) the oft-overlooked Portofino Protected Marine Area. Photographers and advanced divers can also take an underwater photography course with celebrated local underwater photographer and freelance journalist Adriano Penco.