How fine can a port be? Can a hotel really be that splendid?
Exhausted from the nearly 7 hour drive from Burgundy to the Genoa coast, my cynical second nature kicked in as our car curved around yet another bend on the road to Portofino. I'd dreamed of staying at the legendary Hotel Splendido for as long I could remember, but a few kms from our destination I found myself anxiously wondering if I'd been unduly seduced by the hype, like a teenage girl in love with a tv star, only to find out he's gay. My expectations had been so high that there was no where to go but down. I braced myself for disappointment.
You see that large, pretty pinkish building at the top of the hill? That's Hotel Splendido, a grand dame of a hotel - with decent plumbing. I've chosen to highlight decent plumbing because water pressure (or lack there-of) can often be a let-down in hotels with this much history. But even in this detail, Splendido utterly failed to disappoint. In fact, everything failed to dissapoint dismally. I found the bygone-era decor to be charming, the service, spot-on and the nightly entertainment, a riot. (The pianist in the bar is a fantastic singer, not to mention an amusing shit-stirrer.)
And the food?
I know. You'd prefer to see photos of beautifully arranged dishes of delicious Ligurian specialties like pasta al pesto, and here I am, posting a hazy shot of a glass filled with murk. But that murk was my salvation; a daily breakfast of carrot, celery and apple juice which enabled me to indulge in Splendido's fabulous fare and copious carbs at lunch and dinner with minimal guilt. For a carb-o-phobe like me to be able to juice while on holiday in Italy was the (liquid) cherry on the (spelt) cake.
Of course, there were other juices too.
Apart from the Bellini (which I firmly believe should be classified as a juice) there's something you may have spotted in the background of this and the previous photo: The view.
The view from the hotel is breathtaking, taking in lush forest, blue sea and the charm of Portofino's tiny harbour below. It is the prettiest view I have ever seen.
Fat and lazy or stiletto-wearing guests can take a shuttle back and forth from the hotel to the village and Splendido's harbour-front sister property, the hotel Splendido Mare, but we preferred to walk.
Spending time in the harbour involves sipping sundowners, watching boats bob and shopping 'til you declare bankruptcy. For such a small place, the number of luxury boutiques is staggering. There's also a good selection of more affordable, unknown resort-wear brands on offer, including a shop called Milano at which I wish I'd done more damage. Dotted among the shops are a number of waterfront trattorias and restaurants including Chuflay (pronounced shoo-fly, bless...) at Splendido Mare.
The 10 minute strolls between the hotel and harbour weren't quite enough to shift what we were consuming at Chuflay so on day 3 of our far-too-short stay we decided to go for a serious hike in the hills above.
That's Monsieur hiking in front of me, wearing the sort of thing that one tends to hike in. My approach is a bit different:
My reasoning goes a little something like this: The hat is a must to protect your face from sunburn; the lack of straps is to prevent a farmer's tan; the linen cardigan can both keep you warm if the weather turns or protect those shoulders if your tan threatens to burn, and the dress is because you never know where a hike may lead.
Style File Followers Take Note:
1. Tom Selleck. Apparently.
2. That's dress 6 on the stairs leading to the harbour.
3. All I bought at Milano was a violet coloured, strapless maxi-dress (similar to the black one above, but the wrong fabric for hiking). Wish I'd bought the stone-coloured Chanel-esque jacket and the camouflage shorts as well.
4. Speaking of fashion, you see the hill just behind the harbour? Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana live there. Lucky bastards.
5. Portofino is at the tip of a large nature preserve which includes several hiking trails of varying lengths and levels of difficulty. We did a 3.5 hour trek which took in thick forest and dramatic coastal views. And at one point we saw an otter. An otter! Seeing an otter in the wild was one of the most amazing experiences of my life, right up there with staying at Hotel Splendido.