Thursday, November 14, 2013

Portofino, Italy

One of the reasons we love traveling with Go Ahead Tours is that we have a lot of free time to go do whatever we want to do. This is wonderful for us since I do a lot of research and always find places that we want to visit that are not on the tour! The only bad thing is that we always sort of freak out our guide when we go off like this. The trip to Portofino was no different in this regard! The tour guide was heading down on a walking tour of Santa Margherita, I shared those photos in the last blog entry, and we had decided that when we all reached the harbor the two of us were going to catch the ferry and head over to Portofino for the rest of the afternoon. When we got to the harbor we pulled out our map and asked our guide to help us locate the ferry stop and the others on the tour wanted to know where we were going...and wanted to know why they were not going there too! We took the ferry and when we arrived we discovered that the rest of the group had arrived by bus! Guess they talked the guide into going to Portofino instead of continuing their tour of Santa Margherita! 
 One of the great benefits of taking the ferry is the incredible views of Santa Margherita from the water. Beautiful!
 Left over battlements dot the shoreline here and this family decided to incorporate it into their home!
 And homes like this one made it a gorgeous ride to Portofino. The ferry only cost a few Euro's and our only complaint is that it doesn't run as late as we had hoped. Other than that it was a wonderful ride!
 Cervara Abbey is right on the coastline up from Santa Margherita ligure and it is the one place I will be visiting the next time we go anywhere near this area! You can actually stay in the Abby and the gardens are simply gorgeous! Seriously, click on the link. You will want to go too!
 Many of the stately villas that dot the coastline are now hotels or Inns of some sort but our imaginations were running wild as we passed these gorgeous homes.
 It is hard to imagine actually living in one of these magnificent homes. Perched on the hills around Portofino and fortified by the battlements they are the personification of romance!
 Pulling into Portofino was an out of body experience to me. I'm a Disney girl. At Epcot in Walt Disney World in Florida they have a Portofino area. Well, Disney did a great job. It was surreal to be gazing at the real thing and thinking "Oh my! It looks like DisneyWorld!" and then mentally chastising myself when I realized it's exactly backwards...DisneyWorld got the details of the real Portofino down perfectly.
 This grand Villa stands on one side of the small harbor and marina of Portofino. Stunning!
 I see photographs of Portofino all of the time. I would say 90% of them have punched the color up so that the buildings are almost florescent! As if the actual Portofino isn't beautiful enough just the way it is. My goal as a photographer is to take photos that look like the view you would see if you had been standing right next to me not produce some stylized version of what the real thing looks like. Reality is beautiful enough.
 My big surprise in Portofino was Castello Brown. It sits on the other side of the entrance of the harbor from that gorgeous Villa I pictured earlier in this post. One of my favorite "Indy" movies is called Enchanted April. Four ladies go for a holiday in Italy and they stay in this beautiful "Villa". I knew immediately that the "villa" was actually Castello Brown the moment I saw it from the ferry! For a movie buff this is a big moment!
 All along the marina edges are wonderful little outdoor cafes so you can have a bit of lunch or an afternoon snack. Or visit the many shops along your way. There are plenty to visit!
 The marina was the site of an Art Show while we were there! This hanging rhino made us laugh each time we saw him!
 But the boats are what stole my heart. Wooden boats are not common here in the US. And it's a beautiful art that is slowly being lost. This is one of my favorite photos from this trip simply because I find the boats to be so gorgeous.
 Portofino is a tourist town so, even during the break hours of 1-4pm, many of the shops and art galleries stay open. We walked up this path to Castello Brown.
 Yes, it's really this beautiful. For me this is one of those "a picture speaks a thousand words" shot. (click on the photo to see the full sized shot!)
 As we made our way up the hill we got an even better view of Castello Brown. You have to love a country where gorgeous castles dot the coastlines!
 The Church of San Giorgio is at the top of the hill above Portofino. With limited time we had to decide just how high we were going to climb and when we found out that the inside of the church was under renovation and we couldn't actually go in, we decided not to take the time to climb all the way up.
 The view of Portofino from above. Gorgeous! Story you see the yacht on the left hand side of this photo? We were walking back down the hill and suddenly saw all of this crew appear on the back of the boat. They were all in finery, full uniforms, and lined up. A well dressed man carrying a briefcase came down the walk from the shops of Portofino and the Captain of the boat welcomed him on board. Each of the crew did the same. Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous, indeed. 
 We loved everything about this gate that was on our walk down the hill. The details are amazing in Italy.
 What a life it must be to actually own one of these boats, like the man in the red shirt, and spend your day getting it ready to take out for an afternoon cruise!
 Ok...funny if not slightly embarrassing story here. We decided to walk up to Castello Brown and found these shops on our way deciding to stop in on our way back. Well, the shops are very small and claustrophobic so while my mom ventured all the way into the shop I only went to just right inside the doorway. What enticed me in was seeing a bottle of my favorite wine on the shelf. Now I've been a huge fan of Santa Margherita Pino Grigio for years. It's a costly bottle, about $30 here at home, so it's reserved for special occasions in our house. Knowing it is an Italian wine I figured I might get it a little more affordably there and I was amazed to find it there in this tiny shop in Portofino! And then it hit me. Santa Margherita Pino Grigio...what are the first two words? And where were we staying? wasn't till that very second that I realized that my favorite wine was produced exactly where we were staying! I was excited and feeling very stupid all at the same time. Then I noticed the price was only 9 Euros! That's about $14 US. I promptly bought two and prayed they would get home in one piece in my luggage! (I'm happy to report that they both made it and my luggage doesn't smell like my favorite wine!)
After walking and shopping and walking some more we decided to stop off at a little bakery and buy some pastries and then sit in this lovely outdoor cafe overlooking the marina and sip our afternoon cappuccinos. How I would love to be back there right this minute doing exactly the same thing!

After our leisurely coffee break, which the Italians highly encourage, we found out that we had missed the last ferry going back. So we had to figure out how to take the bus. This very fierce lion was at our bus stop and I adored him immediately. We later joked that he was there to give us courage to sustain us through the harrowing bus ride back to Santa Margherita! The streets are more narrow than a country lane and there are parts where you swear the bus won't fit much less any other cars and then a motorcycle would come barreling past us and we'd cringe waiting for the impact and splatted rider...but that never came. The amazing bus driver navigated the insanely small roads and in no time we were back in town. Admittedly, we both wanted to kiss the ground, but we were safe and sound! 

I'm off on another trip this next week taking new photos to share with you all so the week after I'll take you with me to see Pisa! In the meantime, and to get a sneak peak at what upcoming blogs will be about, you can follow me on Instagram. Just follow shutterbugtraveler !



  1. what a wonderful trip! congrats to you both! You shared very good post on Italy. I am in love with Italy and will certainly go there. Thanks!
    planning a trip to italy