Glamorous and enchanting, Portofino is old-school, sophisticated Italy at its best. Discovered in the 1950s, this multi-coloured little fishing harbour was soon a favourite with the likes of Grace Kelly, Sophia Loren and Ernest Hemingway, who all fell under its spell. Sixty years later, Portofino still holds her 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 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; our favourite is Vernazza, enduring numerous landslides in recent years yet still upbeat and welcoming visitors to some of the truly superb trattorias that hug the harbour walls. Yes, this part of Italy, with its terraced kitchen gardens tumbling down to the sea, is home to some seriously good food.