Last month, I enjoyed an incredible holiday in Italy, my first trip since the coronavirus pandemic outbreak. You can read my hotel reviews here:
- Review: Bellevue Hotel & Spa, Aosta Valley (Alps)
- Review: Il Sereno, Lake Como
- Review: Grand Hotel Tremezzo, Lake Como
- Review: Grand Hotel Portovenere, Cinque Terre
- Review: Belmond Hotel Splendido, Portofino (today)
Today (September 16, 2020): Review of Belmond Hotel Splendido, Portofino (Italy)
- Location: Google maps
- Hotel website: Belmond Hotel Splendido
- Tip: get complimentary VIP perks when booking via Virtuoso
For more than 100 years Belmond Hotel Splendido has been welcoming romantics, adventurers, aristocrats and royalty, who come from around the world to experience La Dolce Vita in the famous fishing village on the Italian Riviera. A former 16th -century monastery high above the bay of Portofino, the property is a secluded hideaway where guests can relax in terraced gardens as they enjoy spectacular views over the harbor. Most of the elegantly furnished rooms and suites have stunning views of Portofino Bay. Guests relax by the heated seawater swimming pool, or enjoy an open-air massage in a secluded corner of the hotel’s tropical garden, then head to La Terrazza Restaurant for quintessential regional cuisine or to the Chuflay Restaurant down on the piazzetta.
Have you ever stayed at Belmond Hotel Splendido? If so, what was your experience? Leave a comment.
In this review (more info and photos below my YouTube clip & slideshow):
- Pros & things I like
- Cons & things to know
- My verdict
- Tips for future guests & save money
- Best time to visit
- How to get there
PROS & THINGS I LIKE
- Splashed with color and oozing with style, the beautiful region of Liguria – also known as the Italian Riviera – has been attracting travelers for centuries. Medieval poet Dante was inspired by the landscapes, Lord Byron swam across the Gulf of La Spezia to visit the Shelleys, and Rex Harrison triggered a rush of Hollywood stars to the region in the hedonistic 1950s. The jewel of Liguria – and home to Belmond Hotel Splendido – is Portofino, the famous fishing village that lured Elizabeth Taylor, Ava Gardner and Cary Grant in the 1960s and retains its unspoiled (and uber-chic) charm to this day. Cypress- and palm-clad hills back a jumble of ochre and terracotta houses by the waterfront and a picturesque harbor filled with gleaming yachts.
- Nestled in Portofino’s rugged hillside and surrounded by lush terraced gardens, the hotel is housed in a former Benedictine monastery, which was ransacked so many times by Saracen pirates that the monks abandoned it in the 16th century. The four-storey high building subsequently fell into disrepair. In the 19th century the property was purchased by Italian aristocrat Baron Baratta, who renovated and converted it into a family summer house. In 1901 the building was purchased by Ruggero Valentini who transformed it into a hotel which opened in 1902. In 1986, Orient-Express Hotels bought the hotel and renamed it Belmond Hotel Splendido in 2014 as part of the rebrand of Orient-Express Hotels.
- Renowned for its fabulous wisteria-draped façade, the property has undergone many refurbishments since it opened to guests in 1902, but it has always retained its Old World charm. The classically-styled interiors are the epitome of Italian elegance, with a pastel color palette capturing the vibrant aquamarines and sun-splashed color scheme of the Ligurian Riviera. Featuring black and white checkered floors and arched doorways, the public areas on the groundfloor – which comprises the lobby, a bar and main restaurant – are filled with antiques, magnificent flower arrangements and monochrome photos of past guests who include The Duke and Duchess of Windsor, Humphrey Bogart, Liza Minelli, and Madonna.
- The hotel features 70 elegant rooms and suites, spread over four floors and most of them coming with a sea view. During my holiday, I was upgraded to a so-called Double Sea View Room, which came with a king-size bed, an impressive flower bouquet as welcome gift, and a (rather small) marble bathroom equipped with shower/bathtub combo, one sink, and a toilet. Light pastels and velvet fabrics radiated a distinctly modern allure, while the decor’s mid-century craftsmanship evoked the indulgence of the Italian Riviera. The room’s highlight was a private terra-cotta-tiled terrace with spectacular view of the pool area and the Gulf of Portofino beyond. Note that the suites, which come at a higher price, include separate lounge areas,
- One of the hotel’s many highlights is the Instagram-worthy infinity swimming pool, which is set against a backdrop of an ivy covered wall. The heated saltwater pool – which is large enough to swim laps – commends sensational views of Portofino’s hamlet and the turquoise waters of the Ligurian Sea beyond. Several comfortable sunbeds are set up around the fabulous pool and in the surrounding verdant Mediterranean gardens. The pool area faces south and enjoys sunshine from morning till evening, which is perfect for sunbathing (although there are plenty of parasols to provide shade). I recommend to order an Aperol spritz or sundowner from the pool menu and gaze out over palm trees and sparkling sea.
- Belmond Hotel Splendido features a small but excellent spa on its second floor. Therapies are administered by expert practitioners, either in two single treatment rooms or in the one couple’s treatment room. Couple’s alfresco massages can also be provided in a sea-view gazebo, which is situated in a secluded spot of the gardens, just a short stroll away from the wellness center. All treatments use Italy’s finest natural spa products: Mei, famed for its pure essential oils and phytocosmetic products from wild plants; and Oway, a leading light in biodynamic haircare. If you have a canine companion with you, they even offer dog massages! The spa is complemented by a sauna and a gym, both nestled in the gardens.
- Showcasing fine regional wines and delicious local produce, the hotel boasts some of Portofino’s best-known venues:
- From infinite cerulean sea by day to moonlight glimmering on the water at night, the views from Belmond Hotel Splendido’s signature La Terrazza Restaurant could hardly be more enchanting. Chef Corrado Corti conjures up dishes to match with authentic Italian classics and Ligurian specialities, served either on the lofty terrace surrounded by climbing vines or in the elegant dining room. The dinner I had at La Terrazza was the best meal I had during my holiday in Itally (which says something).
- Next to the pool is a casual eatery, serving light lunch fare and pizzas-made-to-order (open from spring to autumn).
- The hotel’s stylish lobby bar is open from 10 am until the early hours. Featuring hand-painted murals of Italian flora, it’s a convivial meeting place at any time of day, especially at night when live piano music is played.
- Belmond Hotel Splendido features a sister property in Portofino, called Belmond Splendido Mare, which is located down at the water’s edge. Acquired by the Belmond Hotel Group in 1997, this building was formerly a hostel that had been launched by retired fisherman Silvio Gazzalo in the 1900s. A top-to-toe makeover led to the elegant hotel guests enjoy today, complete with the buzzy Chuflay Bar overlooking the harbor and the achingly glamorous Ava Gardner Suite stretching across the entire top floor. Belmond Hotel Splendido and Belmond Splendido Mare are connected by a scenic walking path and an on-demand shuttle service (which is also available to guests that need a drop off at Portofino).
- Belmond Hotel Splendido is owned and managed by the world-famous Belmond Hotel Group, formerly known as Orient Express until its rebranding in 2014. Belmond is a hotel and leisure company that manages a ultraluxe collection of 49 iconic hotels, trains and river cruises in 24 countries, bringing together some of the world’s most sensational journeys and destinations. It ranks among the most exclusive hotel brands in the world. With Belmond, you can stay in timeless hotels in Venice, Amalfi and Rio de Janeiro, embrace the spirit of adventure at Machu Picchu or Angkor Wat, glide along the rails through the Swiss Alps, soar across the Andes, or explore the mystifying rivers of Myanmar.
CONS & THINGS TO KNOW
- As mentioned above, Belmond Hotel Splendido is located slightly out of town. However, this isn’t really a problem, as the hotel provides complimentary on-demand shuttle service. Alternatively, you can also take the pedestrian walkway down to the village (a 10 min walk) although the walk back to the hotel is up a steep hill and might be challenging in the heat of the summer and for guests having mobility problems.
- Although Portofino is one of the most famous Italian Riviera seaside villages, there is no beach at Portofino itself. However, just a few minutes from Portofino by car (or a 20 minute walk from the hotel), you’ll find tiny Paraggi Beach, an enchanting little bay with an emerald color sea and an astonishing landscape.
- The hotel is the only 5-star property in Portofino, the star of the Italian Riviera, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that it’s an astronomically expensive property, where travel budgets come to die (but you should know that going in). For example, be prepared to spend upward of €100 for a simple lunch for two.
- While perfectly maintained and recently refurbished, the hotel is housed in a historical building and exudes an Old World ambiance with a classic Italian decor that may feel a bit dated to guests preferring a modern decor. Also, due to the layout of the building, all rooms are different in size, space, design, patterns, colors, and paintings; some of the (lower end category) rooms are small and not all of them have sea views (although the size and views of the different room categories are well explained on the Belmond Hotel Splendido website).
- I loved my dinner at La Terrazza (one of the best meals I’ve ever had a hotel restaurant), but I was less impressed with the lunch I ordered at the poolside restaurant. The poorly presented salad nicoise was made of canned tuna and vegetables, and featured a quality that was not in line with the price tag. Also, no meals or snacks can be ordered while lounging at the nearby pool.
- The enormous swimming pool features on its side a small deck with several sun loungers. During times of high hotel occupancy, it might be difficult to find a space here, although there are always plenty of loungers available in the surrounding terraced gardens. Also, the pool area can be a bit noisy because of younger children splashing around, since the hotel’s child-friendly atmosphere attracts a lot of families.
- Location: 8/10
- Design: 8/10
- Pool: 9/10
- Rooms: 8/10
- Food: 10/10
- Breakfast: 9/10
- Spa: 8/10
- Service: 9/10
- Value for money: 8/10
- Overall experience: very good – 8,5/10
TIPS FOR FUTURE GUESTS & SAVE MONEY
- Save money: get complimentary VIP perks at Belmond Hotel Splendido when booking via Virtuoso (e.g. upgrade, daily breakfast, early check-in, late check-out, complimentary parking, and $100 USD food & beverage credit).
- Save money: read here my tips for getting the best deal at a luxury hotel like Belmond Hotel Splendido (and/or receive many free perks).
- Room tip: deluxe rooms are on the small side, so I recommend to book at least a suite (or book a deluxe room via Virtuoso and hope for an upgrade). Also, make sure that you book a room with a sea view, since that is why you want to stay here.
- Read my tips for preparing your trip in time.
BEST TIME TO VISIT
The best months to visit are April, May, September and October. This way you can miss the summer crowds and soaring hotel rates, yet still partake in the warmer weather and go into the water, if you like.
HOW TO GET THERE
It’s easy to get to Portofino by car from the nearby major cities such as Genoa and Milan (including Bergamo). The nearest airport is in Genoa, next in Milan and Bergamo.