I Found my Love in Portofino

SLOW Magazine - - Contents - Text: Bernard Hell­berg Jr Im­ages © Scud­e­ria South Africa

Reach­ing from the Riviera di Le­vante (the coast of the ris­ing sun) to the Riviera di Po­nente (the coast of the set­ting sun), the stretch of Mediter­ranean coast­line that com­prises the Ital­ian Riviera is fa­mous for its tem­per­ate cli­mate and re­laxed way of life. With the charm of its old fish­ing ports and the beauty of its land­scape, the Lig­urian Riviera – as the lo­cals know it – has been a pop­u­lar des­ti­na­tion for trav­ellers since the time of By­ron and Shel­ley.

Like jew­els draped around the neck of an Ital­ian no­ble­woman, many in­ter­na­tion­ally known towns are dot­ted along this balmy coast­line, in­clud­ing Bordighera, Lerici, Cinque Terre, and the en­clave of Portofino.

The ear­li­est ref­er­ences to the erst­while fish­ing vil­lage of Portofino are from the writ­ings of Pliny the Elder – cel­e­brated au­thor and naval com­man­der of the Ro­man Em­pire un­der Em­peror Ves­pasian – who de­scribed it as Por­tus Del­phini (port of the dolphin). Although per­fectly suited to com­mer­cial mar­itime pur­suits, it wasn’t un­til the late 19th cen­tury when first Bri­tish, then other North­ern Euro­pean aris­to­cratic tourists be­gan to visit Portofino, which they reached by horse and cart from Santa Margherita Lig­ure. And by 1950, Portofino’s idyl­lic lo­ca­tion, fair de­meanour, and sunny dis­po­si­tion brought so many wealthy va­ca­tion­ers to its shores, that tourism soon sup­planted fish­ing as the town’s chief in­dus­try.

Mod­est fish­ing ves­sels made way for lux­u­ri­ous su­per yachts, mer­chants rein­vented them­selves as restau­ra­teurs, and once sim­ple dwellings along the Portofino har­bour be­came brightly coloured and ex­pen­sive va­ca­tion homes, draw­ing wealthy sun seek­ers and lovers to Portofino’s con­tin­u­ous ring of restau­rants and cafés.

Portofino has not es­caped the spot­light of pop­u­lar cul­ture. Im­mor­talised in the song I Found My Love in Portofino – orig­i­nally recorded and per­formed by Fred Buscaglione in 1953, and more re­cently by the great An­drea Bo­celli – the town is in­deed “a place made just for lovers, with skies and sea and friendly bars”.

In 2008, to cel­e­brate the Fer­rari Day­tona’s 40th an­niver­sary, the BBC’S hit tele­vi­sion mo­tor­ing show, Top Gear, fea­tured a 1973 Fer­rari 365 GTB/4 Day­tona rac­ing against a car­bon fi­bre power­boat from Portofino to St Tropez in France. The race pit­ted Richard Ham­mond in the clas­sic Fer­rari against the world’s fastest diesel pro­duc­tion boat copi­loted by James May.

The beau­ti­ful vin­tage Fer­rari wouldn’t have any prob­lem draw­ing in­ter­est even if it hadn’t been on tele­vi­sion. The Day­tona’s clas­sic lines com­bined with a 4.4-litre Fer­rari V12 make it, in Ham­mond’s words, “The ab­so­lute essence of pure Euro­pean su­per­car.”

In its day, the front-en­gined Day­tona was con­sid­ered some­what of a di­nosaur when com­pared to the fu­tur­is­tic mi­dengine de­sign of the Lam­borgh­ini Miura. If noth­ing else, how­ever, it was ex­ceed­ingly suc­cess­ful at bring­ing a sense of glam­our to driv­ing around the Riviera, which by now had be­come some­what of a spir­i­tual home to the cel­e­brated and well-heeled.

Nine years on, the Ital­ian sport­scar maker has in­deli­bly linked its his­tory with that of the Riviera by in­tro­duc­ing the Fer­rari Portofino to the world, in the coastal town from which it takes its name. Pay­ing homage to the fact that this charm­ing coastal set­tle­ment is in­ter­na­tion­ally syn­ony­mous with ele­gance,

sporti­ness, and un­der­stated lux­ury, Fer­rari launched the new car in a colour ded­i­cated to the town: Rosso Portofino.

Re­plac­ing Fer­rari’s iconic Cal­i­for­nia con­vert­ible, the new car not only cel­e­brates the beauty of Portofino, it is also tech­ni­cally master­ful. It com­bines the ad­van­tages of gen­er­ous power, a light­ning-fast sprint time from zero to 100 km/h in just 3.5 sec­onds, a roomy boot, and am­ple cock­pit space for four into a prac­ti­cal re­tractable hard­top for­mat.

The Fer­rari De­sign Cen­tre-penned Portofino is as ag­gres­sively styled as some of the yachts that lie an­chored in the Portofino har­bour, but is unique to other hard­top GTS (and su­pery­achts, for that mat­ter) with its two-box fast­back con­fig­u­ra­tion. This adds ex­tra sleek­ness to its sil­hou­ette, lend­ing it a sportier char­ac­ter without de­tract­ing from its ele­gance and dy­namism.

In keep­ing with Fer­rari’s phi­los­o­phy of con­sis­tent in­no­va­tion, the Portofino bris­tles with new tech­nol­ogy, both un­der the skin and in­side the cabin.

Pri­mary among th­ese, and cen­tral to the per­for­mance suc­cess of any new-gen­er­a­tion sports car, is the ra­tio of power ver­sus over­all weight. Sports cars in gen­eral – and the new Portofino in par­tic­u­lar – are faster and more nim­ble. In the Portofino’s case it is be­cause the all-new Fer­rari chas­sis fea­tures a sig­nif­i­cant weight sav­ing over the Cal­i­for­nia T it re­places. Thanks to the ex­ten­sive use of mod­ern pro­duc­tion tech­nolo­gies, all chas­sis and body com­po­nents have been re­designed to be lighter, while keep­ing the Portofino’s tor­sional rigid­ity – an­other key el­e­ment that adds to the driv­ing fun of any sports car.

Fer­rari has kept its renowned front­mounted, twin-tur­bocharged 3.9-litre V8 en­gine – part of the en­gine fam­ily that was nom­i­nated In­ter­na­tional En­gine of the Year in both 2016 and 2017 – although it has been tuned to pro­duce more power than the Cal­i­for­nia T’s power unit. Fer­rari afi­ciona­dos will also ap­pre­ci­ate that the char­ac­ter­is­tic Fer­rari V8 sound­track has been fur­ther en­hanced for greater au­ral plea­sure, es­pe­cially while driv­ing the Portofino with the top down. Although it is un­likely that one will break any speed records while cruis­ing in down­town Portofino, the Au­tostrada beck­ons just be­yond the city lim­its.

Be­ing a true blue Fer­rari, the Portofino has been styled and re­fined to be both ach­ingly beau­ti­ful and de­cep­tively aero­dy­namic. Close col­lab­o­ra­tion be­tween the aero­dy­nam­ics de­part­ment and Fer­rari De­sign has en­sured max­i­mum ef­fi­ciency in the de­vel­op­ment of the Portofino’s sur­face treat­ment. Start­ing with the front, the form of the large ra­di­a­tor grille open­ing that stretches from edge to edge of the care­fully con­toured nose is un­der­scored by a new full-led head­light as­sem­bly with a more hor­i­zon­tal shape. The out­side edge of the head­light hides an in­no­va­tive air in­take, which vents into the front wheel arch and ex­its along the flank to re­duce drag.

The tail de­sign un­der­lines the car’s sporty stance, which has been fur­ther en­hanced by plac­ing the tail­lights fur­ther apart. This el­e­gant so­lu­tion clev­erly con­ceals the rear vol­ume that houses the light­weight re­tractable hard­top.

Nat­u­rally, Fer­rari driv­ers ex­pect that the high lev­els of sporti­ness and ele­gance in the per­for­mance of their pranc­ing horse and in its ex­te­rior de­sign will trans­late into com­fort and cut­ting edge ac­ces­sories in­side the cabin. The Portofino doesn’t dis­ap­point, bring­ing a slew of new fea­tures, not least of which is an in­fo­tain­ment sys­tem with a 10.2” touch­screen dis­play, and a new air­con­di­tion­ing sys­tem that im­proves oc­cu­pant com­fort both with the top up and down.

A new steer­ing wheel, 18-way elec­tri­cally ad­justable seats with a new back­rest de­sign that gives rear pas­sen­gers more legroom, and a pas­sen­ger dis­play adds to the new tech­nol­ogy avail­able on-board. All oc­cu­pants will par­tic­u­larly ap­pre­ci­ate the new wind de­flec­tor that, when the top is down, cuts air flow in­side the cabin by 30% while re­duc­ing aero­dy­namic noise, im­prov­ing the over­all driv­ing ex­pe­ri­ence.

Like the town from which it gets its name, the Portofino is as quintessen­tially Ital­ian as any pranc­ing horse be­fore it. Fer­rari may no longer be Cal­i­for­nia dream­ing, but the Portofino will have you fall­ing in love with it all over again with ev­ery drive.

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