The ultimate place to stay in Portofino, jewel in the crown of the Italian Riviera: Belmond Hotel Splendido, home of La Dolce Vita as it used to be: and as Groucho Marx said of this idyllic retreat, ‘Wonderful place, wonderful people.’

Belmond Hotel Splendido is the place to stay in Portofino, jewel of the Italian Riviera. Life here revolves around it. During its vibrant history the graceful building transformed from a monastery to an aristocratic home to a grand hotel above cedar-lined slopes with the finest views of the coast and sea. The Duke of Windsor and Wallis were among the first to grace this legendary hotel, followed by Sir Winston Churchill, Maria Callas, Sophia Loren, Grace Kelly, Greta Garbo and Humphrey Bogart to name but few. Literary giants including Ernest Hemingway, Ezra Pound and Orson Wells couldn’t stay away either. Portofino effervesced with glamour, its dazzling sapphire and emerald waters attracting diamond-drenched stars and royals.

Rising above it all, amid a profusion of fragrant flowers and herbs, lies Belmond Hotel Splendido, its abundant gardens spilling over the terraced cliff, the views and the setting a veritable onslaught on the senses. So entrancing is the Splendido that even the five-minute stroll down to Portofino’s perfect stage-set harbour (and its younger sister the Splendido Mare) may not lure guests away from its luxurious peacefulness.
This picturesque former fishing port is always à la mode, and despite its fame it manages to remain unspoiled, though not undiscovered. At the Hotel Splendido, service is old-school impeccable, the views from every room unforgettable, the cucina mouthwateringly fine, the atmosphere 1930s unique. In fact Hotel Splendido, Grande Dame of the Italian Riviera, needs no introduction. Gaze across the rugged coastline, enjoying prime position above the bay. Delve into the spirit of irresistible glamour at the finest of all Italy resorts as you embrace all that’s best about the Ligurian Riviera. Splendido is among the most glamorous and enchanting hotels in the world. If you wish to savour La Dolce Vita before it escapes you for ever, look no further.
The 70 stylish rooms and suites feature charming frescoes and artistic flourishes. Mid-century craftsmanship evokes the indulgence of the Italian Riviera. Light pastels and velvet fabrics radiate a distinctly modern allure. Enjoy the understated elegance of the hotel’s spacious rooms, or lose yourself in the heavenly grandeur of the Dolce Vita Suite. The floors are either marble or parquet and many rooms have their own terrace or balcony. The style is reassuringly traditional and the public rooms—furnished with antiques and lined in grey and white marble and a cool, neutral colour palette – display a wonderful collection of monochrome photos of past guests. The simple joy of an aperitivo on the Splendido’s terrace overlooking the romantic bay and its tree-covered peninsula makes any evening a grand event. White-jacketed waiters serve summery basil Mojitos and classic Negronis on the wisteria- and jasmine-scented terrace to the backdrop of a tinkling piano and the sun setting behind Portofino.
And then it’s on to the romantic and totally gourmet La Terrazza restaurant, a magnet not only for hotel guests, but also the cashmere- and linen-clad Portofino regulars. At dinner, you can expect to enjoy dishes such as taglierini with black summer truffles, king prawns with tarragon mayo and thyme-spiked lamb with celeriac and coffee fondant. Lazy lunches might include trofie with pesto and the signature ‘spaghetti alla Elizabeth Taylor’, her favourite, made with three different types of tomatoes. Lobster linguine or grilled sea bass by the kidney-shaped pool makes for a supremely civilised lunch.
The service is impeccable, and charming, as is typical of Belmond. Many of the staff have been here for 20 years or more. Regular guests (and there are many) become friends. Belmond concierges are adept at original ideas for things to do locally: days with local fishermen or evening boat trips to the magical abbey of San Fruttuoso, with cocktails and live music in the cloister, focaccia and pesto masterclasses; days on the beach and visiting the local villages, some of the most picturesque in all Italy; trips into the mountains to visit wine, olive oil and cheese-producers; and excursions to the Cinque Terre or lovely Portovenere can be arranged; or guests can bag the hotel’s 36ft boat for a sunset Champagne cruise. Equally romantic is a private dinner at the Portofino lighthouse with magnificent views over the Golfo di Tigullio.
Splendido runs a complimentary shuttle service into town, which takes about five minutes, but walking down the hillside is quick and easy—and the Splendido’s sea-front sister hotel Splendido Mare awaits you there. If you cannot bear to tear yourself away from Splendido, the hotel offers a heated open-air saltwater swimming pool with amazing views, a tennis court and a well-equipped gym and spa within the immaculate gardens which spill down the hillside.
Belmond Hotel Splendido is the classic hotel in one of Italy’s quintessential resorts, and sitting on that terrace as the piano tinkles and the boats cruise in and out of the harbour is a privileged form of bliss. Groucho Marx summed it up nicely: ‘Wonderful place, wonderful people.’
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