Historical Guests

Portofino, a World apart
February 2009

Charles Louis de Montesquieu in Portofino.

The French political writer, who travelled extensively in Europe to observe its institutions and customs, was also in Genoa which he did not in fact judge favorably. Certainly “La Superba”, which was persistent in its effort to remain dominant over little rebellious Corsica, was the same which had lost out on the discovery and conquest of America, and that in the century of enlightenment did not yet have a decent road to go to Tuscany. To reach that grand duchy it was necessary to travel by sea. By land, with mules, it was exceedingly dangerous not just because of the risk of falling from one of the steep rocky paths that curved around the Apennine mountains, but because of the risk of being attacked by the brigands frequently found in those mountains.

Charles Louis suffered on the sea and preferred the mules. So on November 21,11 1728, when he reached Portofino, this little village seemed blessed by God for the rejuvenating pause and walk on the mountain that it offered. Surely, during the three days he stayed in Portofino he took the opportunity to gather information about the political situation of the town, a dependent of Genoa. Thus from the “smaller” he could better understand the “larger”. He stopped to sleep in an inn where, he writes, “I found very good red mullet, good wine, and good oil”. The great writer of “personal letters” then arrived in Portovenere where he had a pleasant stay and where he savoured the “frutti di mare“. But he had a particularly good impression of the red mullet in Portofino and mentions it in his book “Voyage in Italy”.

Charles Louis de Montesquieu

Portofino, a World apart.