Like its French counterpart, the Italian Riviera likely evokes images of a luxurious lifestyle of mega-yachts and luxury villas. However, that’s only partially true, as while the Italian Riviera does have its fair share of posh travel destinations, it also has a few decidedly low-key destinations that are perfect for those looking to give their pocketbook a holiday too. So let’s take a look at the two extremes of the Italian Riviera with profiles on two destinations that are only a few miles away from each other, but manage to be worlds apart.
The Glamorous Portofino
East of Monte Carlo, Portofino is the place to see and be seen. Just don’t expect anyone to notice you unless you happen to pull into town on a yacht. But for those who can afford to enjoy it, Portofino is a pretty special place.
A small village hidden away on a mountainous peninsula, Portofino’s colorful buildings line its sheltered port and present one of the most picturesque scenes in all of Italy. Visitors can stroll along the waterfront to take in the views of the yachts and fishing boats in the port, or try their hand at some shopping in its many fashionable boutique shops.
One thing that should not be missed while in Portofino is the opportunity to try a champagne-infused aperitivo. This Northern Italian tradition is a type of suped-up happy hour that sees free snacks and appetizers offered to patrons as they enjoy the house’s drink specials. In Portfofino’s case, this means finger food and Bellinis.
If one must eat a meal, there’s no shortage of fine-dining options in town. Da Puny is the first stop for visiting jetsetters who have thought to book weeks – if not months – in advance. The restaurant, however, does not disappoint, as its harbor-side setting is a great complement to its seafood fare.
For those satisfied with only a glimpse into the world of the rich and fabulous, Portofino can be visited as part of a day trip from the nearby, and much more modest, town of Santa Margherita Ligure. Travelers who want to stick around to enjoy the town’s grand lifestyle can do so at the Hotel Splendido, which offers luxury hotel suites from a hilltop setting overlooking Portofino.
The Laid-Back Camogli
Camogli lies less than half an hour by car from Portofino and while it’s just as striking as Portofino, it’s shockingly free from the long waits for restaurant tables, trophy wives and men with small sweaters draped over their shoulders.
A small and sometimes sleepy village, Camogli makes the most out of its privileged position on a hilly outcrop overlooking the sea. From its small, winding walkways there are stunning views of the sea and town from almost every turn, as well as a number of hidden restaurants and bed and breakfasts to discover.
Don’t miss the chance to try Ristorante Rosa, which is a casual but romantic restaurant that combines breathtaking views with homemade pasta. Trofie is a type of pasta that is a specialty in the Genoa region and is absolutely delicious, so make sure to give it a try.
Once visitors have had their fill of beautiful buildings and seaside vistas, they can stop in at one of the seaside lounge bars for an aperitivo. Lunch aperitivos usually start around midday, while evening aperitivos are from 7 – 9 p.m.