Villa Rosmarino hotel on the Portofino Peninsula overlooks a leafy hillside of sun-faded yellow, pink and terracotta cottages stretching to the sea; and is itself a candy-coloured vision of pastels, pinks and pared-down bedrooms. Your Milanesi hosts, Mario and Fulvio, are the epitome of laid-back Italian hospitality: their artwork is expertly curated, they mix a fine espresso martini (we recommend you sip it by the pool), and they'll happily take you out on their gozzo (traditional teak boat).
Double rooms from £250.26 (€290), including tax at 10 per cent. Please note the hotel charges an additional local city tax of €1.50 per person per night on check-out.
Rates include breakfast.
Ask Mario and Fulvio to take you out on the hotel’s gozzo, a traditional teak boat, between 10.30pm and 2.30pm daily.
One month annually, usually November.
At the hotel
Library, gardens and free parking. In rooms: free WiFi, Comfort Zone bath products and not a TV in sight.
Our favourite rooms
What the top-floor Terrace Room lacks in size, in makes up for in views – spectacular ocean panoramas from both its eponymous terrace and the shower. The room names give the game away: if you want somewhere large, it’s got to be the Large Room; this light, airy suite has the most space (but no sea view, sadly). The shady Garden Room is on the ground floor, with marble mosaics, stripy velvet chairs and a polished wooden day-bed.
The infinity pool is surrounded by sun-bleached teak decking, sweet-smelling geraniums in dusky pots and elegant wooden sunloungers.
Coastal-cruising gear: over-size sunglasses, chic headscarves and driving gloves.
During high season (April to October) and at weekends, a two-night minimum stay usually applies. In-room spa treatments can be arranged.
Over-eights can stay, but only in the Garden Room, which can have an extra bed added for €50 a night.
Poolside for prosecco, and out on the terrace along the side of the house for breakfast. Slip away upstairs for a refined ristretto in the decadent library.
You’re up against a super-stylish host couple from Milan, so get those labels out.
None, but guests can catch up with their hosts over an expertly made espresso in the communal kitchen. The grey stone space spans an entire floor, and leads out to a sunny breakfast terrace. The long table inside is scattered with books, maps and interiors mags, and the room features a low leather BB Italia sofa, a pair of powder blue Marco Zanuso ‘Lady’ chairs, a vintage Castiglioni lamp and Murano glassware set on an antique kilim. Breakfast is a spread of pastries, yoghurt and fresh fruits, with amazing juices.
Nothing formal, just a houseboy-tended honesty bar of wines, spirits and juices in the kitchen.
Breakfast is served from 8.30am until 10.30am, and you can always help yourself to a glass of wine.
Villa Rosmarino is just outside favourite fishing village, Camogli, and part of the protected Mount Portofino area that stretches along the Ligurian Coast.
The nearest airport is in Genoa, served by both Ryanair (www.ryanair.com) and British Airways (www.ba.com). The drive to the hotel will take half an hour.
A five-minute drive from the hotel in Camogli, the train station has direct routes to Genoa; see Trenitalia (www.trenitalia.com) for details.
There are plenty of car-hire desks at Genoa airport, including Avis (www.avis.com), and the hotel has free parking.
Tour the coast the traditional way and go by boat: Trasporti Marittimi Golfo Paradiso (www.golfoparadiso.it) runs a ferry service from Camogli to the nearby hamlets of Punta Chiappa and San Fruttuoso, and from mid-June until mid-September, excursions to the Cinque Terre, Portovenere and Gulf of Tigullio.
Worth getting out of bed for
If Mario and Fulvio’s collection has inspired a little envy, call in at Via Garibaldi 12 in Genoa (viagaribaldi12.com) and raid this 16th-century palazzo-turned-concept-store. From the hotel, walk down the steps into the heart of Camogli, a golden fishing village with a pebbly beach and lots of seafront restaurants. Head to Recco to taste its cheese-filled take on fugassa – a thin slice of oil-drizzled focaccia with a layer of mild, soft stracchino – warm from the oven. The mediaeval San Fruttuoso monastery can only be reached by boat or a two-hour trek through some vineyards. The preserved abbey was built by Greek monks in the 10th century, and its many corridors and rooms lead to cloisters, vaults and a Byzantine church.
Head to La Cucina di Nonna Nina on Viale Franco Molfino (+39 0185 773835; www.nonnanina.it) for Ligurian cuisine in a cosy, pastel-hued villa on Mount Portofino. Try the spaghetti alle vongole or al sugo di pesce at Ristorante da Paolo (+39 0185 773595) on Via San Fortunato in Camogli. Fish is chosen by weight and then grilled or baked in salt, and served Ligurian-style with olives, pine nuts and potatoes. On the same road is La Cantina (+39 0185 772626), reached by boat or a stroll along the San Rocco path, with its own beach. Settle in for freshly caught, grilled fish, and octopus salad.
On Via Garibaldi in Camogli, stock up on pizza and pastries at Revello Pasticceria e Focacceria (+39 0185 770777) and silky-smooth gelato and icy granitas at Gelato e Dintorni (+39 0815 774353), or pop a few doors down to its smoothie-making counterpart, 5 Frutta e Gelato (+39 0185 773934).
Close to the marina on Piazza Colombo in Camogli, Bar Bistingo (+39 0815 773357) is the perfect pitch to sit back on a sunny square and watch the wooden boats bobbing. In Portofino, the best aperitivo can be found at Bar Moreno da Ugo (+39 0815 269018), where fresh peach pulp is brought to your table along with a chilled bottle of prosecco to mix your own cocktail.
Deep blue sky, even deeper azure sea flanking a leafy hillside of sun-faded yellow, pink and terracotta houses: the view from our shower thanks to a perfectly positioned window. Through the gentle strobing of palm trees in the gardens, our balcony is treated to the same eyeful of Camogli Bay. We may be in the Terrace Room (one of Villa Rosmarino’s humbler bedrooms) but, to me, it’s perfect.
I know lucky individuals with pals that hand over keys to renovated palazzos with swimming pools, staff and easy access to the sea. Anyone not so blessed: consider Villa Rosmarino’s owners Mario and Fulvio those kinds of friends instead – their warmth and attention to detail make staying here like being lent a home. On arrival, Mario gives you keys so you can come and go as you wish, and a detailed map marked with insider essentials.
Villa Rosmarino is the kind of place you can spend time doing a) a lot; b) not very much; or c) absolutely nothing. Genoa is half an hour away, there are excellent coastal walks, and there’s a swimming pool with sunloungers, magazines and espressos on tap to keep you from going anywhere. My plan? To enjoy as much pasta, focaccia and ice-cream as possible – guilt-free. And anyway, pounding up the steps to hilltop San Rocco for supper tonight is surely equivalent to a good Stairmaster workout?
The season hasn’t properly begun and still all six rooms are taken – yet over the weekend we rarely collide with another guest. We admire fabulous artworks amid clean, modern lines, and witty touches such as a red vintage kids’ scooter. Leather sofas and a long refectory table (which heaves under fruit salads, yoghurts, breads and croissants at breakfast-time) deck out a ground-floor room that opens out onto lemons, rosemary, lavender, roses and pomegranates. Another sitting room offers shelves of art, design and photography books, testament to the owners’ previous careers in advertising.
Camogli’s panificios fill the snack-sized hole left in our afternoon. You can’t miss the bakeries – they crop up every few shops, wooing you in with their aromas and breads laid across large trays. Revello on the seafront
is the pasticceria where the local sweet cream-filled crostate pastry originated. I choose an olive oil-, salt- and oregano-sprinkled focaccia; Mr Smith pounces on a thin slice with melted cheese. They’re all the more delicious eaten on a beach surrounded by Italians, equally appreciative of the spring weather, shedding layers and bringing out their bambini to soak up the sunshine.
Dusk falling, we pick up the path to San Rocco, following winding steps up past gardens and dry stone walls. Lights twinkle on across the hillside and a gentle mist falls. As we turn corners and more stairs appear, my mental pedometer pats me on the back while mutterings of ‘Oh God’ emanate from an under-the-weather Mr Smith. ‘What do you mean there’s a bus that takes you from outside the villa to San Rocco in one stop?’ he asks as we reach the top 30 minutes later. Just then, hewn into the cliff-face, we find the perfect tonic: a bar. Perched at a candlelit table, we toast our climb with a pre-dinner glass of Ligurian red and some saltines before taking our table for dinner at a cosy, family-run trattoria.
La Cucina di Nonna Nina is the kind of restaurant you dream of stumbling across. A sweet waitress translates the Ligurian-dialect menu and soon we’re devouring ancioe pinn-e (anchovies cooked like whitebait), Nonna Nina’s special fish ravioli, a beany Genoese minestrone and coniglio alla Genovese.
Revived by wine and oven-roasted rabbit, we make it down again and up back to Rosmarino. Lamps glow from the garden room, music plays softly and the honesty bar awaits. Over a nightcap, I suggest walking back up that hill tomorrow, along the less hair-raising path to San Fruttuoso. A by-now-sniffly Mr Smith doesn’t take it well. We reach a compromise: painkillers and a boat ride.
Waiting for ferry tickets at a café in the boat-bobbing harbour the following morning, we hear from a local how the little port got its name. Ca’ mogli is from casa delle mogli meaning ‘house of the wives’, a reference to the ladies left running the village while their fishermen were away. Seafaring inspired its festivals too, a waiter chips in. He gestures to a vast frying pan set on the harbour wall used to cook for the Sagra del Pesce, a street party in May that honours patron saint of fishing folk, San Fortunato. Then in August, a special mass is held for Stella Maris when candles in paper cups are nudged out to sea to remember lost sailors. A rainstorm breaks and Mr Smith eyes the water suspiciously.
Amid thunder and lightning, we reach the tiny cove of San Fruttuoso at the foot of Mount Portofino. I am told that the statue of Christ of the Abysses is below us – sadly it’s only just visible when the waters are calmer, so we head straight for lunch at La Cantina, another Mario tip. Galvanised by crab and fish cooked the Ligurian way with potatoes, parsley and garlic, we snoop around the Benedictine abbey. Above is a tower used by 16th-century monks as a pirate lookout. We ponder more exploring but those heading up the hill have big boots, metal poles and crampons (although I hear the Italian ladies do it in high heels). I pause instead to sketch a monk-like Mr Smith. ‘I’m pondering mortality,’ he tells me, looking contemplative. But knowing how good Mario and Fulvio’s hospitality has been, I suspect he’s casting his thoughts ahead to cocktail hour on Villa Rosmarino’s terrace. And who could blame him?