A Portofino Story
Gems by the Sea
It is well worth a ponder why Italian design and craftsmanship is held in such high esteem by people not only close to its home but far and wide. Arriving in Italy you are greeted with the most pleasing forms wherever you look in things large and small, in infrastructure, architecture, clothes and jewellery, as if the food and the weather were not enough to draw you to this part of the world. Is it the legacy of the medieval masters of the Italian renaissance or do we need to look further back for some of the early sprouts? In 1248 an association was founded in Genoa in order to bring together artisans and artists working with gold and silver, Corporazione dei Fraveghi, and serving the church it found its origins in the now recently restored Cappella di Nostra Signora delle Vigne, part of the Basilica di Santa Maria delle Vigne, a glorious testament not only to the divinity they were serving but the builders themselves. It can well be argued that this is indeed the best place to understand the artistry and craftsmanship of the jewellery house Gismondi, this birthplace of Gio Batta Gismondi who started his apprenticeship here nine years of age in 1763 to become a smith of gold and silver.
Seven generations later the passion for this art is still in the family, the heir and keeper of the invaluable family treasure being Massimo Gismondi, who has reinvented the family trade expanding beyond national boundaries. It was with no hesitation that we accepted his kind invitation to spend a few days in the company of Gismondi in Portofino where they have two boutiques placed at each side of the small colourful harbour in addition to the headquarters in Genoa, the boutique in Sankt Moritz and a very recent store in London. The occasion was the launch of Gismondi’s latest collection, ‘Flower’, at the splendid venue of Eight Hotel Paraggi starting with a moment of magic on the beach outside the restaurant, observing Gismondi’s Genoese designer, Anna Balzarini, draw spectacular motives of jewellery on her canvass.
Gismondi pride themselves of taking constant inspiration from their ancestors and surroundings, with the beauty of nature being one of the most powerful. Following their ‘Animalier Collection’, Massimo wanted to dedicate a collection of unique creations to the flower world, in particular the rose, the calla lily, both of which are flowers that were cultivated at the family countryside cottage when Massimo was a child. When speaking about this latest collection, the cottage was close to his heart after a recent visit, ‘It was incredible to see the same flowers again, so beautiful, full of life, surrounded by dragonflies, just as I remembered. The perfume was so intense that it took me back to beautiful memories of when I was a young boy, almost the same age my son is now. I'm sure everyone has experienced this feeling at least once in their life, a moment that takes you back to your childhood, thanks to one of the five senses: a taste, a smell or a sound. I wanted to remember and talk about those unforgettable memories through my jewellery creations’.
Now Massimo and his dedicated team have themselves created unforgettable memories for us to share, not only of their precious gems but of places of beauty and grace that complemented this unforgettable event: the seafront in Portofino at Domina Home Piccolo with its private rocky beach in a historic villa that now features stylish designer interiors and furnished terraces with panoramic sea views; Hotel Splendido, where Richard Burton and Elisabeth Taylor had their romantic escapade during breaks of filming Cleopatra in Rome to which ‘Spaghetti all Elisabeth Taylor’, the hotel’s most famous dish, bears witness; and last but not least Hotel Miramare’s restored restaurant, Vistamare, with its stuccos, frescos and panoramic terrace where another iconic couple of the cinema, Laurence Olivier and Vivienne Leigh, enjoyed days under the Italian sun. Here we sampled the delightful cuisine of this truly unique and chic restaurant headed by the newly appointed chef Claudio Fortuna, starting with yellow peach granita with medallion and lobster foam prosecco, carpaccio di vitellone with cipriani sauce, followed by the typical and irresistible trenette pesto with potatoes and green beans, all served with a fresh and fruity Vermentino, the local white vine. To finish our sumptuous feast we had a selection of deserts presented on a tempting cart rolling before our eyes.
Portofino, founded by the Romans, famous for its picturesque harbour and association with celebrity and artistic visitors is most definitely a place worth the visit, wherever you stay, whatever your story. British Airways fly to nearby Genoa from Gatwick throughout the year.