When you're given less than 24 hours in a place like the Italian Riviera, it's really just quite unfair. So when one of our stops during our Princess Cruise led us to options like Portofino, Santa Margherita, Cinque Terre, Milan and Genoa... it was nearly impossible to choose! Having already done Cinque Terre in the past, having not much of a desire to try and see Milan in a day, and knowing Portofino is always a lovely place to be... we decided on this tour that kept us near the beaches and slowed down our pace. Here are a few quick tips for enjoying the Italian Riviera, the Italian way!
The Italians have a saying - dolce far niente. It basically translates to 'The pleasure of doing nothing'. There are times when traveling where you hustle from one place to the next, trying to take in every minute of this new magical setting, and there are times in which you should basically let it go and do.... well, nothing. When you're in the riviera, I strongly suggest adopting this motto...
Dolce far niente in action at the beach club at the Excelsior Palace Hotel.
While we wouldn't be spending the day lounging seaside (we had plenty of that on the ship!), we did keep our wanderings through each town completely unresearched, soaking in the surroundings without an agenda. Happening upon old buildings like this one - a boarded up hotel that had me dreaming of moving to the Mediterranean and opening up a B&B where charming orange trees lined the street!
Our next stop was Santa Margherita - a beach town that felt like a more laid back experience than the high-end Portofino, with a nice mix of locals and foreign tourists. I loved the striped changing rooms of the beach clubs lining the promenade - each their own color - so fun and practical, too! If you're looking for an easy place to stay in the riviera, I'd start here - a quick drive to Rapallo, or a ferry ride away from Portofino, it's a relaxing but centrally located spot that's on the more affordable side.
After a quick stroll through Santa Margherita (complete with a gelato stop, of course), we hopped the ferry to our final, relaxing destination...
Portofino is like an Italian fairy tale. Grand villas and hotels greet you as you boat into the harbor. I jokingly pointed to a house with blue shutters out on a point (you can't see it here) and said "I'll take that one." The woman next to me smiled and said 'That's the Dolce Gabbana villa'. So apparently I just have insanely
good unrealistic taste.
As we pulled in, I spotted a little restaurant right on the water that was away from the main square and seemed a bit more quiet - we decided to head that way for a long lunch. While others dashed off to see the sights, we chose to spend our two hours here the way any good Italian would...
Eating. With a view! Should you find yourself in Portofino, I'd highly recommend Ö Magazín. Sitting right on the water with a glass of vino in hand was truly indulgent and lovely. If you're anything like me and you experience places best through food, then stopping and enjoying a long lunch in a spot like this is essential! It was one of my favorite moments of the trip. Who needs to stroll through yet another high-end designer store (save that for the cities!). If you have a day in Portofino, make it a relaxing one.
I say we take this dolce far niente thing right through summer! Who's with me?