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The harbour in the fishing village of Portofino is so beautiful it makes your heart ache a little. 'Fishing village' feels like a misnomer now, as bustling and chic as it is with its boutiques and seafood restaurants, well set up for the stream of tourists seeking out its postcard good looks each summer. The yachts bobbing in the marina are far from rustic. And yet you can still see the odd fishermen in modest wooden boats, untangling nets by hand, woollen hats on heads, bright yellow aprons gleaming from afar.
When you started up the path this morning to Castello Brown, the fortress on the hill overlooking Portofino and the Ligurian sea, everything smelled of salt and the fresh sea air. There was a light summer rain overnight, so the cobbled uphill path was glistening and smelled earthy. As you climbed higher the thick smell of honeysuckle took over, as you passed small nooks now and again with increasingly beautiful views back towards the village and the harbour.
At lunch, you manage to snag a table at Ristorante Puny, under a broad umbrella down by the harbour. It has a perfect view – across the cobbled piazza, looking up towards the lush green hill and fortress where you spent the morning. It’s pricey, but the views are worth it. You spend some time watching the other orders as they pass – platters of blushing pink prawns, waiters deboning salt-baked branzino table side, bowls of tiny pickled octopus small enough to pop in your mouth.
But the home-made pasta is irresistible. You’ve just seen broad ribbons of pappardelle in a tomato sauce, leaving behind the unmistakable tang of Parmigiano Reggiano on the air as it went past. There is nothing for it. The seafood can wait for a more stately dinner. You order a plate of trofie al pesto – fresh, green, silky, with more than a hint of cheese and a nuttiness to it. This is an educated choice - Liguria is the proud home of the classic pesto alla Genovese, the fragrant and rustic sauce that has earned icon status within Italian cuisine. With good reason, too; one bite of chewy trofie pasta, coated in rich yet vibrant pesto, and you're hooked. The waiter offers you a cold glass of Ligurian Vermentino to cut the rich flavours. You kindly oblige - after all, It would be rude not to.