The start of three weeks of exciting, long-awaited travelling had begun when I touched down in Genoa, North West Italy in the Liguria Region.
My fearless and wonderful friend Jemma had happily quit her day job to embark on her first solo travelling mission visiting far and wide for a few months, so we decided to plan an epic Europe trip, meeting up on our way to meet friends in Croatia for a beach based music festival.
We had our hearts set on Italy, mostly based on the fact that we both would give our right arm to see Portofino, everything else was designed around this sparkling gem in Italy’s coastline. Makes perfect sense right? With plans in place, flights booked and backpacks flung on, she caught the train from Milan and I jumped on a Ryan Air flight from London, meeting in Genoa.
She was a ball of happy excitement waiting for me at the hotel, all sun kissed, suitably beached and carrying more than her body weight on her back after two months travelling, and far more energetic than usual – if that’s possible – on a normal day she usually bounces, like tigger!
I grilled her with all the interest of someone who’s never backpacked solo. She had found it so empowering and of course, wonderfully changing. Perhaps you can’t ever decide to do something completely out of your comfort zone, completely alone and not have it change you or your outlook in some sort of way. It’s like unlocking freedom.
We were completely charmed by our home for a couple of nights, the hotel was a charming, place full of character. Ridiculously high ceilings looked down on a mosaic kitchen floor
The quick low down about Genoa, is that you’ll hear mixed opinions about it being nothing but a passing through/ port type city. Don’t be put off, it has its own charm and it’s the birth place of pesto, so my goodness, be prepared to stumble across a rustic, non-English speaking Italian hole in the wall, down some off the tracks cobbled street and have the best puffs of air gnocchi and pesto you’ve ever had in your life!
It has terrific waterfront bars and restaurants, so has its own wonderful Italian charm which you can easily soak up when you’re sipping an Aperol spritz, staring at multi million pound super yachts moored in front of you.
As for us, that’s when the travels definitely started.
The other key point? It being a port, means that you can buy a ticket on a boat that leaves at 9am from the harbour every day and travels down to Portofino, for only around 22 Euro. Portofino is a mighty expensive place to visit and stay, so day tripping there and back for such a reasonable amount, well, it would be rude not to.
The company is called Golfo Paradiso and you don’t need to book in advance, even in high summer, just turn up before 9am and grab a ticket. The route works as a hop-on-hop-off on the hour or half hour, so you can jump off the boat and explore for an hour at a stop along the way and jump back on the next boat.
Take your swimmers and a towel, you’ll definitely want to spend some time on the beaches it stops at, it’s a nice way to cool down.
We stopped at beautiful Camogli, a picturesque fishing village, filled with bobbing boats, cobbled streets and water front walks with a big beach.
Then we hopped back on and watched the coast line whisk by, and pulled into probably the most beautiful cove I’ve ever laid eyes on called San Fruttuoso and it’s one of the Liguria coasts most special places. It houses an old abbey, on a beach framed with pure bright turquoise sea that hugs all around with lush green hill sides framing it. None of us could take enough pictures, or stop smiling, it’s extraordinarily pretty and quiet and was not throbbing with tourists in late July, just an odd boat load of us who wash in and out. If you’re a couple, this place is definitely a romantic find, get your love specs on…or propose, it’s that special.
Our last stop was Portofino, a place I’d been googling loads and thinking how pretty it looks, but surely that’s just a filter making it look that good, right? Oh my…it knocked our socks off! As our big boat bobbed slowly into the harbour, the pastel toned homes and shops came into view and it was everything you’ve ever thought the Italians do well in one place. Little buildings, pretty turquoise sea, super yachts moored near by, little wooden boats of all different colours bobbing around, old school classy Italian cafes on the water and people strolling elegantly around in their white linens. It was perfection.
Word of advice, you can buy take away gelato for a couple of euros and walk a few yards and sit on the side of the dangling your legs into the water, but if you want to get royally ripped off, buy the gelato to stay in the cafe, looking out at the water and pay three times as much! Yep, I learned the hard way on my second helping of gelato…
There are some lovely hillside walks, well worth the views of Portofino from above, works off the ice cream too as a bonus, just remember not to attempt a hiking route in flip flops…
You might spot a celeb, or a manicured Italian in any one of the gorgeous restaurants. Locals zip in on their little wooden boats, hop off for gelato and disappear back out again, it really is a marvellously beautiful place that you won’t forget.