Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Portofino, By Way of Florida...



Last year, my buddy Tabs went to the Amalfi Coast.


Source - Tabitha, Queen of Scots

Me, not so much...

However, at the tail end of our trip to Florida, we decided to hit Universal Studios, as none of our travelling companions had been to the recreated world of Harry Potter and we decided to right that wrong. As an aside, we walked through all of these parks as if we were magic itself; thanks to my planning and the odd bit of bizarre luck, we waited for no rides.  Ah may the odds be ever in your favour, Wendy...

But back to Portofino...

When I saw it online, I felt this was the kind of place I might delight in and I was not disappointed:

The whole inner courtyard is designed to recreate the Portofino harbour:

Ain't nothing like the real thing baby...


 
And the Florida version, which I think is pretty darn nice:


but fake isn't so bad...











It was all very civilized - bars tucked here and there, outdoor pools with sandy beaches, a boat that took you along a canal to Universal Studios.

The inherent flaw of this antiseptic homage to Italians is that the resort lacks, well, Italians.  Having said that, this was no Disney feeling - people were mostly dressed up for their fine dining.

There are two main restaurants on site: Bice and Mama Della's.

We ate at the former on night one and the latter on our last night in Florida, which turned out to be the perfect choice.

Bice was expensive, but we stuck to pasta and wine and by this point in the trip, were well over our budget anyhow...

The d├ęcor was elegant, the service sublime.

But the treat was night number two at Mama Della's.

You walk into the restaurant, and feel like you are walking into an old house:


 


The food was wonderful, excellent services again, but the best part for us all was the entertainment. 

Every night, the Portofino Bay Resort has opera singers come out onto the balcony overlooking the harbour and sing for half an hour.  Afterwards, they come into the restaurant and go from table to table asking for requests.

I asked for Nessun dorma and was not disappointed.  It was a gooseflesh moment: eating good food, drinking chianti, being with the people I love best in the world, and listening to opera. It mad me think of my mother, whose favourite radio show was Saturday Afternoon at the Opera.  Her cousin, whom I have never met, was ballet doyenne Sally Brayley Bliss, and married to Tony Bliss, who was Executive Director of the Metropolitan Opera.  My mother would listen all afternoon, think fondly of her cousin and be so happy with her distant connection to the opera world of New York City. 

My mother never made it to NYC to see the opera; by the time my parents actually had money to travel again after we were all grown up, she was too ill to travel.  I have never made that mistake and would beg and borrow to take trips now rather than wait for some mystic day in the future.

After they moved on from our table the tenors went from table to table and it was beautiful.  They even understood their audience.  When they came upon a table of young children, they rewarded them with an operatic rendition of Spider Man!

Would I recommend this resort?  Absolutely, although it is not cheap.  But for a touch of Italy, even make-believe Italy, it is sure worth it. 

And talking about Nessun dorma makes me think of THE MAN, Pavarotti.  He was my mother's favourite, and she was certainly not alone in her admiration of him.  So a wee treat to sing us out..






Have a great Tuesday and stay safe out there!






 

37 comments:

  1. Wendy!! I just spent the past week there with my daughter for her spring break! We stayed at the Portofino Bay too!! Did I miss meeting you???

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    1. Hi Suzy! we were there the 5th and 6th of March - when were you there?

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    2. Ahhhh, just missed you! We were there March 9-14!!

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  2. Although I am nowhere near as glamorous as Tabitha I did have a nocciola gelato on the Portofino harbor many years ago. I had no idea that Disney had recreated the harbor in Florida! Thanks for the photos and glad you had a good time.

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    1. Hexicon - Universal Studios, not Disney - Universal would have a heart attack if they thought we were giving more business to Disney!

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  3. I love Portofino. I haven't been there in about seventeen years...time to go back. I didn't know they replicated it in the Magic Kingdom. I love, love, love Pavarotti! I've been to many concerts and performances in my life, but seeing The Three Tenors was by far, my favorite. Talk about goosebumps. Hope you're feeling better. xo

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    1. It's about 10 miles from Disney at Universal Studios actually, which was quite nice. You saw the three tenors? I am so jealous! I really want to go to the Met when I am in NYC sans children...

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  4. Thanks for sharing that clip...he was amazing. So sad he's gone. xo

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    1. oh as soon as I start thinking opera I start thinking Pavarotti - loved him!

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  5. Cool! And I love that song too. We actually had quite a lovely time in Little Venice is Las Vegas listening to the singers on the water

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    1. People have told me that about Vegas. We have never been!

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  6. It was a huge let down, I honestly don't see why folk go on about eh Amalfi Coast so much, the hotel Le Sirenuse was amazing, but Positano was a dump.
    Portofino is much higher up in Italy, it's at the top, it's much prettier but very quiet and really tiny.

    Oh last night mum was talking about " People who go to that place to kill themselves - you know, Disney" We nearly died laughing!

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    1. oh sorry if I somehow implied Portofino was in the Amalfi coast. I was just whining that you'd been to Italy and I had not! :-)

      your mother should have been massaging my shins ever night..

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    2. Oh no, it's just because I always mix them up, I have never any idea if I've been to Portofino or Positano.

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  7. I agree with Tabs, Positano is a bit overrated. I love Ravello and Minori.... Also Sorrento, but that's further round the coast.
    The Disney Portofino looks great - hearing nessun dorma with good company and food must have been wonderful!

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    1. I cannot wait to go to Italy - maybe sometime in the next two or three years once people are through schools. Our remaining travel plans for this year (I hope) are to go visit my brother's family in Jasper and maybe a jaunt down to Maine! Got all the bills this week and will be paying this all off in next few weeks,,,

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    2. Yes, Maine, where you have accommodations waiting.

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    3. yes, we are coming to you for sure!

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  8. We stayed there a few years back just so we could get into Harry Potter early. I remember at Bice they had these neat wine glasses that had aerators built in. So glad you enjoyed it all.

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    1. BB - we had the weirdest Harry Potter experience. We stayed there for the same reason, but when we got there mid-afternoon, we went over to Universal planning to hit the other park. We were chatting with folks who said that they had just left Harry Potter and it was practically empty (in harry potter terms I guess) and so we decided to go see and we basically got on everything right away and were able to walk into every shop. It was very unusual everyone told us and so we felt very thankful!

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  9. How fun! We stayed at Portofino Bay once and had such a great stay. We had one of those ground floor rooms by the water and could wander out the back door to the square and listen to the opera music and have drinks at the little outdoor bar with acoustic guitar at night. I don't know what restaurant we ate at, but it was outdoors by the opera balcony, maybe you know which one it was. I have never been to real Portofino, some day maybe!

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    1. I know the exact spot - Barry and I had coffee out there one morning. I thought it was a lovely spot and we would definitely go there again, even without children, as we enjoyed the grounds and the walking trails.

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  10. How pretty! I had no idea they had such a place. Looks pretty. Opera is so civilized.

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    1. I think that Universal is trying to really compete with Disney with these very high end resorts. The other one we passed by was their Hard Rock Hotel, which also looked lovely and very reminiscent of the Chateau Marmont in L.A.!

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  11. We spent a few days in the real Portofino during our 25th anniversary year( rcelebrated all year); it was quiet and wonderful and I fell for the concierge! Saw Dolce and Gabbana and their crew a the little restaurant on the harbor where we also dined, very mom and pop. Easy to do the Cinque Terre from there, too.

    But, as they say, any Portofino in a storm... Looks like a lot of fun in the FL one.

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    1. I love that - Portofino in a storm!

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    2. Lane, they were staying at our hotel there, the Splendido, you were probably there too and then we met them again in the Aeolian Islands the same year - can't believe they didn't ask me to model.

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    3. That is too funny Tabs! I am still bitter Nars hasn't hired me on the spot!

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    4. I am truly shocked and amazed they did not beg you to model, truly.

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    5. ha! Well that's okay, I can wait! ;-) how's the weather in paradise?

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  12. I think we were there 3 years ago now and we loved it! It's an excellent way to see Harry Potter World, the boat taxi is very nice.
    Wish I was there right now!

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    1. me too, we could be at one of the tables out by the harbour sipping champers...

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  13. I have bad memories of Portofino bc I went with an ex and it was so much drama and then Dolce and Gabbana were moored and the town is pinsize so their entourage took over and there were so many obnoxious people at the one hotel...I think I prefer the Florida version!! ;)

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    1. Ha! Barry and I would dress up like Dolce and Gabbana for you!

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  14. I think Universal does a very good job with its resorts. I once had to stay and the Royal Pacific on a work trip and was pleasantly surprised. They feel very village-like.

    You really need to take that trip to Italy. And while the scenery and food are lovely, being around Italians is quite wonderful as well. I was traveling alone in Cinque Terre and met a charming older Italian gentleman who offered me homemade wine. I would not recommend the vintage, but it was certainly an experience! And the Italian cats were a breed to themselves as well--so well fed by tourists that you had to have something really good to tempt them. I think Universal needs to have the cats to make the experience truly authentic.

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    1. Anon I love this! A good friend of mine is Italian and if they are anything like Ben, I am in!

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