The Portofino headland

The Monte di Portofino headland is an enormous bastion of limestone and pudding-stone that juts compellingly into the sea with rocky outcrops and sheers cliffs. It is, in many ways, a superb ‘summation’ of the Ligurian coast: the northern side is covered in fresh European woods, while the southern side is home to hot Mediterranean scrubland that is enriched by one of the most amazing concentrations of flowers found on the Italian coastline and dotted with some wonderful historical and architectonic elements.

Monte di Portofino The village of Portofino is one of the most beautiful aspects of the slow process of human settlement along this section of coast, a process that started in the protohistory and slowly moulded the current appearance. The result can clearly been seen in how the land has been altered, showing how this is a culture that has combined the lure of the sea with peasant traditions, represented by the seaside village of Portofino and the farming land on the headland. All of this does not, though, diminish the other important, nearby examples of Ligurian culture, such as the hamlet of San Fruttuoso, with its medieval abbey, and Camogli, with its tall, colourful houses and mixture of lanes, steps and vaulted walkways.

For the rest, the impervious nature of the coast has protected the zone from indiscriminate building and urbanisation, leaving in tact the evidence of the past, much of which is tied to the Middle Ages. Set – like a precious stone – in the most beautiful inlet on the headland, Portofino is the iconographic symbol of the Gulf of Tigullio. The formation of the small harbour, the ‘border’ of ilex and Aleppo pines along the rocky coast, the silhouette of the hamlet, the array of tall, narrow houses facing onto the sea, the pastel colours and decorations of the fa├žades and the lively gardens are the essential elements of the harmonious ‘Mediterraneanness’ that characterises this glimpse of Liguria.

The mountain and the seabed, both protected areas, add to the beauty of this unique landscape, where the sign of man is a thin line between the opposite but adjoining horizons of the sea and the mountain. Olive cultivations are located predominantly in the eastern section, between Nozarego and the deep Acqua Viva valley.

For many years, though, this area was linked to cereal crop and broad-been farming as well as figs, chestnuts and vines. Indeed, the peasant tradition was based on a mixed feudal model imposed by the monks of San Fruttuoso. Medieval documents tell of the importance of the chestnut, which is still a common feature of the woods in the upper reaches, where it is sometimes found with olive trees, as in the Camogli area. The vast holdings of the church and the presence of the Doria family restricted, in the centuries following the Middles Ages, the spread of the ‘Genoese villa’, that is, a villa located in the centre of a property and surrounded by orchards, vegetable patches and cultivated gardens. Indeed, such buildings only became common in the late 18th century.

From the 17th century on, the Camogli, Santa Margherita and Rapallo valleys saw scattered settlements where a different type of villa was more common: an estate with mixed crops and with buildings – far from luxurious – where the owner and the sharecroppers stayed. The results of these centuries of close contact between man and nature are evident in the current landscape, especially around the modern-day villages, small towns and little districts: the wood mixes with olive groves, the vineyards intersect with the scrubland and the terraces cut into the steep slopes.

The latter is a wonderful example of how man triumphed in trying circumstances without destroying the natural equilibrium. Enel is currently undertaking, in this land of inestimable natural value, a project to improve their services and also make them more environmentally friendly. The project grew out of the need to improve a 1,900 m power line stretching from Portofino Vetta (the top of the headland) to the seaside hamlet of San Fruttuoso, famed for the age-old Benedictine abbey located there.

The original project involved rebuilding a 1,280 m-long stretch using an overhead, insulated power line. However, following collaboration with the managing body of the Parco Monte di Portofino, it became possible to embark on a much larger project that involved laying 25 km of underground lines, installing 6 km of a special isolated ‘ecological’ power line (called an elicord), removing 18 km of lines and 164 pylons, and building 8 new environmentally- friendly cabins.

The goal of the project is to solve, definitively, the problem of poor power supply to the hamlet of San Fruttuoso, specifically, and the whole headland, in general.

How to get there

  • By train and bus: the Genova- Livorno line, Camogli or Santa Margherita Ligure station; in this latter case you can continue by bus to Portofino.
  • By car: take the A12 Genova-Livorno motorway and exit at Recco (3 km from Camogli) or at Rapallo; in this latter case go to the right following the signs for Portofino on the SS227 coast road leading to Santa Margherita and Portofino.

Visualizzazione ingrandita della mappa

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