- Food & Drink
- Design & Culture
- Cars, Jets & Yachts
By Chris | January 30 2013
Whether you’re seeking true extravagance or pure relaxation, we have chosen the perfect nine-day itinerary that has it all
As the French Riviera ribbons its way east beyond Monaco and over the border into Italy it becomes quieter and somehow more exotic with red carpet hedonism giving way to traditional fishing villages and renaissance towns. The coast may be rugged, but in typical Italian fashion it accommodates an understated elegance. Take Portofino, for example, a tiny fishing village that has not changed its image for almost a century, yet its hilltop restaurants and ancient harbor are a continual attraction for elite travelers – previous visitors include the Windsors, Sir Winston Churchill and Elizabeth Taylor.
Further south stretches the Tuscan Archipelago, a series of islands that have all the charm of their mainland namesake and yet, due to their remoteness, attract a fraction of the crowds. A private yacht affords infinite access to the archipelago – drop anchor in a secluded bay, step ashore to nothing but perfect beaches and cedar woodlands, and have it all to yourself. The luxury of a superyacht allows complete freedom unrestrained by accommodation, restaurants or sports facilities as they all travel with you. See ‘The Yachts’ section for our selection of perfect yachts for your trip.
Finally, our itinerary takes you to Rome, a city that needs no introduction, but which makes the perfect conclusion to a cruise that has it all: activity, privacy, retreat and culture.
Day 1: Genoa to Portofino
Day 2: Portofino
Day 3: Portofino to Porto Venere
Day 4: Porto Venere to Viareggio (and Florence)
Day 5: Viareggio to Elba
Day 6: Elba to Punta Ala
Day 7: Punta Ala to Giglio
Day 8: Giglio to Porto Ercole
Day 9: Porto Ercole and transfer to Rome
Fly to Genoa airport and transfer to the marina where your yacht awaits
There are many ways to start your trip on the Italian Riviera and while we recommend Genoa, it is just one option of many. A common alternative is to begin in Monaco: the extrovert Principality stands at the end of the French Riviera and the beginning of the Italian.
Genoa, the hilly gateway to the Ligurian coast, is filled with curiosities. Once you have boarded your yacht and unpacked your bags, it is worth stepping back onto dry land to explore this former maritime republic, as behind its commercial façade is a unique UNESCO World Heritage site. Renaissance and Baroque palaces stand side by side in Genoa’s old quarter that were built with maritime wealth from all quarters of Genoa’s republic: Liguria, Piedmont, Sardinia and Corsica. These palaces are surviving relics of the city’s fascinating history, and under their stucco works and frescoed ceilings you will find not only world class museums but also, in true Italian style, some of the best shops around.
Strada Nuova literally translates as ‘new street’, but with Renaissance and Baroque palaces opposing each other, its name is hardly relevant any more.
It was built with Genoa’s seafaring power during the 16th century when wealthy families decided they needed decadent houses packed with frescos and paintings to display their power. Though the family lineage has ceased, their palaces remain no less impressive than they were then – simply to walk down Strada Nuova, now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is awe-inspiring. To fuel further curiosity, visit Strada Nuova’s two museums housed in Palazzo Rosso and Palazzo Tursi. From the outside these palaces are architecturally impressive, but enter inside and you will be amazed to discover Renaissance courtyards, astonishing frescos and galleries filled with Dürer, Veronese, Van Dyck, Caravaggio, Jean Provost and Rubens among others.
According to Lorenzo Bagnara, of the owning Bagnara family, customers often confuse Via Garibaldi 12 with a museum. This is hardly surprising as the 16th century palazzo is decorated with frescoes by Andrea Semino and stucco works by Charles de Wailly. During the European Grand Tour, writers such as Stendhal, Flaubert and Lady Morgan raved about Via Garibaldi. It was even mentioned in Dickens’s travelogue Pictures from Italy and Diderot’s Encyclopédie as a fine example of distinguished European architecture. After falling into complete disrepair, the Bagnara family restored this palace in 2001 and turned it to the most unlikely of uses: a shop. Under extravagant frescos and ornate gildings an array of purchases are strewn, and contemporary household goods share space with modern ceramics and sculptures. Here you might find a Marcel Wanders unique piece vase, an Issey Miyake watch and cutting-edge furniture designed by Zaha Hadid. Popular as a side trip during Milan fashion week and even frequented by royalty, Via Garibaldi 12 is a mustsee whether for its museum-quality interior or its contemporary stock.
+39 01 0253 0365
Via Garibaldi 12/1, Genoa
PERSONAL SHOPPER: Vanessa Von Eywo
+39 010 251 8989
La Rinascente is synonymous with Italian fashion history. The flagship store in Milan dates from 1865 and is still known today as one of the fashion capital’s greatest department stores. La Rinascente, Genoa, has lost none of the class of its older sister; its shelves are decked out with Italian brands such as Armani, Dolce & Gabbana, Ermenegildo Zegna, Gucci, Missoni, Moschino, Roberto Cavalli and many others. However, the store does not only attract well-dressed Italians. It also stocks innovative elements of interior design as well as a perfumery, ensuring you can stock up on whatever you need before embarking on your cruise.
+39 01 058 6995
Via Vernazza, Genoa
15 nautical miles
The morning’s cruise from Genoa to Portofino should take no more than a few hours, but the transformation couldn’t be more different – from the bustle of a provincial capital and major port to a fishing village preserved in time. The picture postcard image of Portofino – its pastel-colored houses surrounding a tiny harbor against a backdrop of pine trees and turquoise waters – has allured affluent travelers in recent years. It was first discovered when the Duke and Duchess of Windsor signed the visitor’s book at the Hotel Splendido and subsequently by Richard Burton when he proposed to Elizabeth Taylor. But Portofino is not the celebrity packed ‘Saint Tropez of Italy’, it has an understated allure. In Portofino you will find luxury stores hidden in old stone houses, a world class hotel in a restored monastery and superyachts fighting for space with fishing boats. Portofino remains, at heart, an old world holiday destination.
Cuisine: Traditional Ligurian
Style / Ambiance: La Terrazza offers some of Portofino’s finest cuisine, as well as a view so appealing that the food becomes almost a secondary attraction.
Book a table on the terrace and you will never forget it. From this vantage point the tiny harbor stretches out far below with nothing to hinder the sea views. Chef Corrado Corti firmly believes in using the freshest seafood to make hors d’oeuvres such as tuna fish tartar and buffalo mozzarella cheese with fennel salad and warm sea bass salad with orange sauce served with chicory salad. The fresh fish is, as the Ligurians say ‘non c’è niente come niente’ – there is nothing quite like it at all.
Carlo Lazzeri, Food and Beverage Manager
+39 01 8526 7801
Hotel Splendido, Salita Baratta, Portofino
Cuisine: Traditional Ligurian seafood
Style / Ambiance: It is easy to see the reason why Richard Burton chose this spot to propose to Elizabeth Taylor as the restaurant’s position on the harbor provides a strikingly memorable view out across the water.
Tables and chairs flood onto the quay and are often filled with locals enjoying an aperitif before strolling around the harbor. It is the charismatic heart of the old town and the original harbor-side restaurant, but that only accounts for half of Puny’s popularity, the traditional Ligurian seafood cuisine makes up the other half. Try the catch of the day done ‘al verde’ (in a green sauce of parsley, lemon and white wine) or sample ‘papperdelle al Portofino’, Puny’s specialty that blends tomato and pesto.
+39 01 8526 9037
Piazza Martiri dell’Olivetta 4-5, Portofino
Treatment & facilities: Although the Wellness Centre at the Hotel Splendido has recently been updated with a sauna, steam room and multiple treatment rooms, the most appealing aspect is the garden.The terraces of this fragrant garden overlook the Ligurian coast, the steep cliffs providing the perfect backdrop to a relaxing massage under one of the pergolas.
Signature Treatment: During the two-hour-long Splendido’s Dream your body is cocooned in an exfoliating treatment with aloe vera and olive stones. Then you will enjoy a deep massage with geranium and incense essences that is designed to lift the mood and regenerate the skin.
Spa Manager: Katia Delfino
+39 01 8256 7801
Hotel Splendido, Viale Baratta, 16, Portofino
The hills that cradle Portofino are part of the Parko Naturale Regionale di Portofino, a national park that provides an endless possibility of walking trails. One of the most spectacular of these is the coastal track that finds its way along the headland cliff northwards for approximately two miles between the bay of Tigullio and the secluded cove where the San Fruttuoso monastery rests. It is stunningly beautiful, surrounded by pine forests and only accessible by foot, boat or helicopter.
The streets immediately surrounding the harbor of Portofino are a secret haven for designer boutiques and some of the world’s finest brands. Along pastel-colored streets and in hundred-year-old houses you can find some of Italy’s finest names. Along Calata Marconi, the well-photographed street leading out of the east side of the harbor, you can find Brioni, Dolce & Gabbana and Malo. Walk a short way into the main square, along Molo Umberto and Via Roma and you will find, among others, Dior, Emilio Pucci, Giorgio Armani, Gucci, Hermes and Louis Vuitton.
30 nautical miles
The passage to Porto Venere is the most scenic cruise of the entire itinerary. Take your time and hug the coast as you go because you will be passing Italy’s most iconic seaside villages: Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore, which are known collectively as the Cinque Terre. These five impossible villages, now with UNESCO World Heritage status, are built into the wild Ligurian cliffs, defying the steep terrain with endless terraces that slope down towards tiny harbors sheltering small fishing boats. Cruise leisurely past or walk the Sentiero Azzurro trail until you reach Porto Venere – an equally picturesque town that you can admire from your yacht while anchored in the bay, known as the Gulf of Poets. Perhaps contemplate a swim here as Byron once did.
Despite the fact that cars are banned from most of the Cinque Terre, undoubtedly the finest way to see these five villages, as well as the coast that links them, is by foot. The Sentiero Azzurro path runs through each village and in between it winds through some spectacular, gravity-defying olive groves and vineyards, along cliff tops and down to empty beaches. The walk from the most northerly village of Monterosso al Mare to the most southerly, Riomaggiore, takes a leisurely five hours, but many prefer to extend this by stopping at the occasional restaurant or beach. Should this not be your scene, however, ask your crew to ferry you ashore to one of the villages, such as Monterosso al Mare, where you can sample the famous local white wine before strolling to the next, Vernazza, the most photogenic of the five with its 11th century castle and Roman remains.
20 nautical miles
Make an early departure from Porto Venere as you don’t want to be rushed later when viewing some of the world’s greatest works of art. Though Viareggio is in itself a beautiful Renaissance town it makes a perfect gateway into the Tuscan interior and, most importantly, Florence. Your captain will organize a car to meet the yacht and whisk you through the Tuscan countryside to Florence, which is about a two hour journey. Alternatively, a helicopter transfer from Pisa can be arranged so you can see the iconic leaning tower on the way. Florence stands as testament to some of the world’s greatest works of art and architecture; it is a living museum of the Renaissance that is simply not to be missed. Although it would take a whole week to see all of Florence’s attractions, below we have included the city’s finest so you can be sure to eat well and be enlightened while you are there.
In 2010 the Institute and Museum of the History of Science was revamped and renamed the Museo Galileo. Dedicated to the father of modern science, Galileo Galilei, the museum houses over a thousand instruments and devices, including the telescope Galileo used to find Jupiter’s moon. Alongside the impressive scientific collections from the Medici and Lorraine families, look out for Galileo’s mummified middle finger. Missing for decades, this legendary digit turned up at an auction in 2009 mounted on a marble base.
+39 05 526 5311
Istituto e Museo di Storia della Scienza, Piazza dei Giudici 1, Florence
Cuisine: French with Italian fusion
Style / Ambiance: Enoteca Pinchiorri is not merely somewhere to dine, it is a destination in itself, and one of a class of ‘destination-restaurants’ awarded the highest triple Michelin star award.
The attraction that head chef Annie Féolde and sommelier Giorgio Pinchiorri have created is threefold. First there is the French and Tuscan inspired gastronomy. Féolde’s philosophy is to prepare one ingredient in many different ways. For example, the pigeon: its legs are candied in duck fats, and, in contrast, the breast simply grilled and marinated in wine and sugar. The second attraction is the 120,000- bottle wine cellar; sommelier Pinchiorri cunningly matches wines to even the most sophisticated gastronomy and creates unforgettable combinations. And finally, the restaurant itself, with its parquet floors, pink marble chimney, antique furniture and courtyard, makes a stunning statement just minutes from Piazza della Signoria.
Alessandro Giani, Maître d’
+39 05 524 2757
Via Ghibellina 87, Florence
The Uffizi is Florence’s most iconic and famous gallery and, on top of that, one the oldest and most influential. The building alone is spectacular: designed by architect and painter Vasari and completed in 1581, it is juxtaposed in between the Palazzo Vecchio and the Arno River. Inside its great walls are some of Europe’s, and indeed the world’s, greatest works of art from the 13th to 18th centuries, including Botticelli’s stunning Birth of Venus, Leonardo da Vinci’s the Adoration of the Magi and Caravaggio’s Medusa. The walls of Bernardo Buontalenti’s octagonal Tribuna room are decorated with impressive floor-to-ceiling Renaissance paintings from the Medici collection. The Vasari corridor, commissioned by the Grand Duke Cosimo I de’ Medici in 1564, houses the Uffizi’s dazzling selection of self-portraits. During the summer, waiting times for the Uffizi can be up to four hours. To avoid the long queues, contact Dr Cristina Acidini to arrange private guided tours and viewings, as well as conferences and gala dinners if desired.
Dr Cristina Acidini
+39 05 5238 8651
Piazzale degli Uffizi, Florence
Cuisine: Modern Tuscan
Style / Ambiance: There are few places more suited to serving Michelin-starred cuisine than atop one of Viareggio’s most majestic buildings: the Grand Hotel Principe di Piemonte.
Il Piccolo Principe’s place on the fifth floor of this magnificent hotel is a special setting; the poolside terrace and roof garden is the place to sit during a cool summer evening and where you can take in the fabulous views of the Tyrrhenian Sea. The cuisine is what they call ‘researched’, by which they mean a heavily updated and innovative stance on traditional Tuscan recipes. Two tasting menus, one for meat and one for fish, provide exotic samples of this ‘researched’ cuisine and are matched with wines from the hotel’s renowned celler.
Alessandro Augier, General Manager of the Grand Hotel Principe di Piemonte
+39 0584 4011
Grand Hotel Principe di Piemonte, Piazza Puccini, 1, Viareggio
60 nautical miles (overnight)
An overnight passage takes you 60 nautical miles south of the Italian Riviera and the mainland to join the leisurely pace of the Tuscan Archipelago. Awake on your fifth morning in Elba, the Archipelago’s largest island, which is famed for its role in Napoleon’s exile. Elba was chosen to house Napoleon because of its remoteness and dwindling population, which made it a perfect exile haven. Today, little has changed, but instead of forced abdication, those who now make their way to Elba do so out of choice, yearning its infinite empty beaches and coves, its quiet interior and ancient hill towns. The main town of Portoferraio is Elba’s capital, yet it is far from a metropolis; its old port is an attractive and quiet place to moor your yacht. But should you seek an empty bay or cove to claim for yourself, there are plenty on the north, east and south coasts in which you can drop anchor. The expanses of open water here are perfect for motorized watersports, such as jet skiing, waterskiing and wakeboarding, while under the surface there is an enormous diversity of sea life and coral gorgonie waiting to be explored by divers. Alternatively, take kayaks along the rocky coast or explore the inland trails with a mountain bike – and for the less energetic, there is always an opportunity to relax on deck, sunbathe and swim.
20 nautical miles
Punta Ala is a familiar name to the Mediterranean yachting circuit. The marina attracts superyachts all year round and Yacht Club Punta Ala is well known for hosting regattas, even America’s Cup challenges. But for those who are seeking refuge from yachting, La Badiola Estate can provide the perfect rural sanctuary just a short distance away in South Tuscany’s beautiful rolling countryside. The story of Tenuta La Badiolia began with Leopold II of Lorraine, the grand duke of Tuscany, and today lies with the Moretti family and restaurateur Alain Ducasse, a combination that has preserved the beauty of the original estate with a modern spa, award-winning restaurant and top hotel.
Treatment & facilities: In addition to the other goings on at the Badiola Estate, the L’Andana hotel has set up a spa under the agreement of ESPA, a spa brand that is widely regarded to be the finest in the world. When visiting an ESPA spa you can be assured of receiving only the finest treatment and experiencing entirely natural products made with ethics and the environment very much in mind. ESPA at L’Andana is no exception as it uses local minerals collected from the sea and water from natural springs, but this spa is particularly special in that its collaboration with an Alain Ducasse restaurant allows it to offer the concept of Gourmand Spa – a genius idea where treatments go hand in hand with taste.
Signature Treatment: The Gourmand Spa concept combines treatments with various deserts and herbal teas. After being marinated in essential oils and seasoned with sage, marjoram, thyme, basil or lavender, you can delight in a variety of themed dishes. Try, for example, the fine lavender tart, which is made to be in harmony with the holistic face, back and scalp massage with hot stones.
ESPA Supervisor: Elisa Silvestri
+39 05 6494 4800
ESPA L’Andana, Tenuta La Badiola, Località Badiola, Castiglione della Pescaia, Grosseto
Style / Ambiance: Surprisingly, Alain Ducasse, one of the most awarded restaurateurs in the world, did not have a restaurant in Italy until 2005, when he opened Trattoria Toscana.
Two years later it was awarded a Michelin star, and under the watchful eye of Chef Christophe Martin the restaurant is sure to receive many more awards in time to come. Martin is well versed in Ducasse’s philosophy of authenticity, simplicity and seasonality, having trained at the well-awarded Le Louis XV – Alain Ducasse in Monaco. These three philosophies apply suitably to Trattoria Toscana’s position in Southern Tuscany – where one cannot avoid the abundance of local produce and culinary traditions. The setting of the restaurant follows these principles; it is located in an ancient granary and furnished simply with exposed wooden beams, brickwork and an open fireplace.
+39 05 6494 4322
La Trattoria Toscana, Tenuta La Badiola, Località Badiola, Castiglione della Pescaia, Grosseto
28 nautical miles
The stunning island of Giglio bears much resemblance to its bigger sister Elba, but is much smaller in size and attracts fewer crowds, which makes it even more appealing to those who want somewhere to themselves. With 17 miles of coast and only two coastal towns, there are many beaches, coves and bays that are only accessible by boat, such as Cala Galdana and Cala degli Alberi. But don’t be confined entirely to the coast: a short distance inland from Porto Giglio, through the rugged granite and pine-wooded interior, lies the main town of Giglio Castello. This medieval town is perched defensively on the top of a hill with fortifications surrounding charming cobbled streets and winding alleys packed with seafood restaurants. Although diners might want to be careful of Ansonaco (the local fortified wine).
15 nautical miles
Argentario was a former member of the Tuscan Archipelago until silt deposits reclassified it as a peninsula. Nevertheless, it contains all the defining features of a Tuscan island, with perfect beaches, clear waters and a rugged interior. It is a popular destination for stylish Romans and Tuscans who flock either to Porto Santo Stefano on the north coast or Porto Ercole on the south. Both are lively and attractive harbor towns with a wide range of bars and restaurants on offer to those who dock their boats there.
Treatment & facilities: If you feel the need for further relaxation at the end of the cruise, or want to fit in some beauty treatments before going to Rome, then the Pellicano Hotel’s Pelliclub offers a huge menu of facials, special men’s treatments, body care and massages, as well as longer and more intense treatments. The facilities at Pelliclub are outstanding. The Roman steam bath is built from the famous Italian Bisazza gold and marble square tiles, while the Beauty Parlor is designed to resemble a 1950s beach house.
Signature Treatment: The Beauty Day treatment lasts four hours and includes a bio-regenerating facial, eye area treatment, body peeling and a full body massage.
Pelliclub Manager: Sandra Niccolini
+39 05 6485 8276
Il Pellicano Hotel, Località Sbarcatello, Porto Ercole, Grosseto
Style / Ambiance: As one of Tuscany’s best restaurants, Il Pellicano not only serves up two-Michelin-star cuisine, it also showcases some of the region’s finest produce.
The menu is constantly rewritten by Chef Antonio Guida according to the best daily catches, finest meats and organic and seasonal vegetables, and even the finest extra virgin olive oil. As with most of Tuscany’s seaside restaurants, the emphasis at Il Pellicano is seafood, but the tasting menu, Calamandino, offers seafood dining like no other. Here you can sample lobster, calamari crab and John Dory, cooked in Guida’s exotic fashion, in one spectacular sitting. Dining on such sumptuous food overlooking the sea from Il Pellicano’s terrace will certainly provide a fitting conclusion to the past eight days.
+39 05 6485 8275
Il Pellicano Hotel, Località Sbarcatello, Porto Ercole, Grosseto
Rome lies approximately a one hour drive away from Porto Ercole, but leaving the Tyrrhenian Sea and disembarking your yacht does not necessarily mark the end of the holiday. With the temptation of riveting history and ruins, why not stay on in Rome and explore one of the world’s most important capitals? From the Roman Empire to the Renaissance, Rome has many unmissable sights. See Elite Traveler’s Rome Destination Guide for further information on where to stay, where to dine and what to do in Italy’s remarkable capital.