Glamorous and enchanting, Portofino is old-school, sophisticated Italy at its best. This multi-colored little fishing harbor is riding high from ’50 and became soon a favorite with the likes of Grace Kelly, Sophia Loren and Ernest Hemingway, who all fell under its spell. Today Portofino still holds its charm and remains pretty much unchanged, although the fishermen’s cottages are more likely to house Chanel and Dolce & Gabbana.
Farther south, down the rugged Ligurian coast, the Cinque Terre villages are easily reached from Portofino for a day’s exploring. These five ancient villages are nearly all closed to traffic and it’s this inaccessibility that makes them just a little more local and down-to-earth than their ritzier sister Portofino.
Each village has its own character; from Vernazza to Rio Maggiore and the rough and rugged shoreline offers breathtaking views. Exploring the Cinque Terre by boat is really the only way to experience them: spend a morning wandering the ancient paths through vineyards and olive groves before enjoying a truly superb trattorias that hug the harbor walls.