My name is Livia Hengel and I’ve got a serious case of wanderlust. Nothing brings me more joy than venturing into the unknown, exploring new places and learning more about the world so I travel as much as humanly possible and am truly grateful to live in a country that affords me infinite places to see, each more stirring than the next.
It’s hard to deconstruct my travel process because it’s become so innate over the decades but my travel plans usually start with a strong pull to a city or region I want to visit, either thanks a recommendation from a friend, an article I’ve read in a magazine, an image I’ve seen on social media or the intrigue of looking at a map (it may be old-fashioned but it remains my favorite way to discover truly off-the-beaten-path places). I study the history of the location, research what to see, do and eat, book my transportation and then begin looking into accommodations.
The hotel rarely precedes the trip, usually serving more of a functional purpose than being the main draw of travel itself, but in the case of Portofino, it was the Belmond Hotel Splendido that beckoned me to step foot in this gorgeous corner of Liguria. And I’m so glad I did.
Portofino, of course, needs little introduction. This tiny fishing village-turned-chic holiday resort has long attracted illustrious visitors with signature handbags and impressive yachts but I’m happy to report that Portofino is more than just a luxurious weekend escape for the rich and famous. A humble sailor’s town for much of its history, Portofino is dotted with colorful little homes that look out onto dozens of boats gently bobbing in the harbor. Like other dreamy places in Italy, it elevates the country’s rustic beauty to an ethereal dimension, one that can’t be constructed or recreated but that draws its magic from Italy’s immensely rich cultural and aesthetic heritage. The perfect complement to this chic enclave is the Belmond Hotel Splendido, one of Italy’s most iconic properties thanks to its covetable location, luxurious service and host of international and Italian celebrities that have stepped through the hallowed halls of the hotel over the past century. From Winston Churchill and Ingrid Bergman to Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, Bill Gates, Victoria Beckham, Steven Spielberg, Madonna and many more, the VIP guest list is truly extensive and a testament to the hotel’s enduring popularity. Ever since discovering the hotel I had long dreamed of myself seated on the terrace, looking out across the Portofino harbor with a glass of chilled wine in hand while savoring the decadent atmosphere so it was a truly special moment when this blissful reverie came true.
Set within the lush Natural Park of Portofino along the Italian Riviera, Hotel Splendido is an elegant refuge that coexists in harmony with the natural landscape surrounding it. The grand property was originally a 16th century Benedictine Monastery, converted into a hotel in 1901 and maintains its atmosphere as a peaceful haven from the bustle of the outside world. With 70 light-filled rooms and suites (each with their own private balcony), fragrant terraced gardens with olive trees and bougainvillea and a picturesque swimming pool that overlooks the Portofino harbor, the hotel is a glamorous place to call home while exploring nearby attractions like the Monastero di San Fruttuoso Cove, sailing excursions around the Riviera and a trip to the Cinque Terre. For those interested in experiencing some of the hotel’s glamour without an overnight stay, you can enjoy an aperitif or lazy lunch at La Terrazza restaurant to soak in sweeping views of the coast while tasting local specialties such as Trofie al Pesto (Trofie pasta with pesto) and Pansoti in Salsa di Noci (Ravioli filled with herbs and vegetables, served with a walnut sauce) or Scaloppa di Branzino con Pinoli e Olive (Roasted sea bass with olives and pine nuts), accompanied by fine Italian wines and stellar service.
Hotel Splendido is part of the eminent Belmond Hotel Group which operates another eight properties in Italy (in addition to numerous hotels, river cruises and train journeys abroad) and transmits the true art of five-star hospitality with a flair for crafting exclusive, beautiful experiences. Belmond’s properties are open seasonally from March through October, with renovations carried out during the winter months to ensure the properties are always up to par and treat their repeat visitors to new surprises. Immersive experiences are an integral part of modern-day travel and Hotel Splendido offers a number of bespoke activities for its guests, from yoga in the garden and outdoor spa treatments to sunset cruises, fishing excursions and cycling tours along the coast. The hotel has recently launched a new dining experience in Portofino’s Lighthouse, offering guests the chance to taste local specialties at an elegant, lantern-lit table overlooking the sea.
For those interested in staying in the middle of all the action, guests can book a room at the Belmond Splendido Mare down in the town of Portofino itself. This boutique hotel has 16 chic rooms and suites, including the Ava Gardner Suite that stretches across the entire top floor of the property and boasts a rooftop terrace perfect for enjoying the Mediterranean sunshine and warm sea breeze. The Splendido Mare is also home to one of Portofino’s finest establishments, the Chuflay Restaurant, which treats visitors to al fresco dining in the Piazzetta and live music in the evenings, making it a perfect place to round out a very dolce vita experience.