Portofino, Pòrtofìn in Ligurian language, is the smallest municipality which lies in the province of Genoa, in fact it counts on 508 inhabitants.
Popular and glamorous yachting destination, this little town is placed in the western part of the Tigullian Gulf, in a bay at the feet of the homonym promontory, 36 kms far from Genoa, delineating in this way the geographical border between the Gulf Paradiso and the Tigulllio.
Portofino’s suburb was founded by the Roman Empire with the name of Portus Delphini, maybe due to the large number of dolphins which populate the Tigullian Gulf. From 1129 on, it was part of the Republic of Genoa, as well as the entire area around Rapallo, becoming a shelter for the Genoese merchant marine thanks to its natural port.
After which, it was sold to the Republic of Florence by Charles VI of France, controlled by several powerful families and afterward, since 1608, it became part of the territories of the Captaincy of Rapallo. As the Congress of Vienna established also for the other municipalities of the Ligurian Republic, in 1815, it became part of the Kingdom of Sardinia, and subsequently, from 1861, of the unified Kingdom of Italy.
During the Second World War, in the nearby village called “Olivetta”, in the night between 2nd and 3rd December 1944, twenty partisans were executed by shooting by fascist soldiers, commanded by Siegfired Engel: this event is reminded by the historians as l’Eccidio dell’Olivetta (the Massacre of Olivetta).
Portofino is part of the Portofino Regional Natural Park, together with other six Ligurian municipalities and the Marine Reserve. The Park was established in 1935. It boasts of the largest floristic concentration in the Mediterranean area, and of a wide range of flora and fauna, such as birds, invertebrates and the typical Mediterranean scrub, made up of evergreen shrubs and small trees. Here you can enjoy a really breathtaking scenery, diving into nature through several paths: there are few places in the world like this. The curious and huge Portofino promontory, which is placed among the Apennines and the Mediterranean Sea, is made up of puddingstone, a conglomerate rock made up of a mixture of different, irregular sized grains and pebbles held together by a finer matrix, usually formed from quartz sand.
Following the footsteps of history, here you have also the chance to marvel at the magnificent Castello Brown, an ancient military fortresses which rises up the inlet facing the sea. It is believed that the castle was built around the 10th century. Some archaeological findings in the area highlighted the ruins of a sighting tower of Roman times, which would date back to the second or third century a.C. In the past used for the area’s defense, now it is primarily a museum with a fantastic view on the harbor and the Mediterranean Sea.
It’s definitely worth taking a casual stroll around it.
Located near by the harbor, you will find the Chiesa Divo Martino (St. Martin Church). This lovely striped church dedicated to St. Martin of Tours, is placed in the most ancient area of the suburb. It is thought that it was built in 986 in Romanic-Lombard style, as a replacement for a primordial chapel located on the pier. In the same year, the queen Adelaide, widow of Ottone I, gave it as a gift to the monks of San Fruttuoso abbey, and the decision was later confirmed in 1130 by Pope Innocence II with a bull. In 1548 under the shelf of the altar, a case containing the memorabilia of the saint martyrs Dorotea, Cassiano and Vincenzo was found, and thus the church was consecrated. Subsequently, it will be restored time and time again, and the current building is the result of the 19th century changes.
The Chiesa di San Giorgio (St. George Church) is a very little building built on the stunning cliff of the promontory. It dates back to the 12th century and it was completely restored after the Second World War’s bombing; in fact, since 1154, the date of its first building, it was destroyed four times because of the wars. Inside the church it’s worth seeing some fine paintings, even if many of the several artworks which were preserved into the church were lost.
Portofino’s Lighthouse is located on Monte di Portofino’s slopes, in the famous bay. It is easily accessible through a little road tucked away among a luxuriant vegetation, and once arrived, you will see the breathtaking landscape. Portofino offers also wonderful submerged cliffs of huge natural value, where visitors can marvel at several species of sea fan, red coral and fish.