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  >  Destinations  >  Italy  >  Sailing in Portofino

SDA Bocconi’s Annual Rolex MBA Conference and Regatta

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. Sail away from the safe harbor. Explore. Dream. Discover.” – Mark Twain

I definitely would have been disappointed if I didn’t participate in this amazing weekend.  After all, it is Portofino and who wouldn’t want to hang out on the Italian Riveria? Unfortunately, the wind conditions didn’t make for great sailing, but it didn’t stop us from having an unforgettable trip.

We arrived on Thursday in the old fashioned seaside town of Santa Margherita Ligure.  A fashionable, but quieter town to its famous neighbour, Santa Margherita is home to a harbour of small fishing boats and small yachts.  Bars, cafes and gelaterias are dotted along the seafront, and there is also a bit of shopping in town, as well as some interesting churches, like the 17th century Basilica di Santa Margherita.

Thursday was designed for practice time on the water, or in some cases, sailing strategy sessions:

We spent our first evening at the 17th century Villa Durazzo for a cocktail and some nibbles. Built on a hill in 1678 by Marquis Durazzo, it was originally used as a summer residence. In 1821, the palace was expanded and enriched with frescoed interiors and exotic plants, and eventually became a hotel.  Today, the garden terraces and cobblestone paths are a public park, and the venue itself makes for a fantastic events venue.

Following the day of sailing (swimming, and drinking) on Friday, it was time to make a visit to the most popular resort town on the Italian Riveria, Portofino.  While there was a private boat secured for us, Tammy and I decided to walk the 4 kilometres instead – it is a picturesque walk along the seafront, much of it along a boardwalk literally on the edge of the cliff providing for stunning views of the crystalline turquoise waters.

Portofino itself is a small resort with a stunning harbour and pastel-coloured waterfront houses.  We took a waterfront table at —— restaurant, and enjoyed some prosecco and the simply prepared local seam bream as the sun set. It was a perfect start to the evening, which was finished off by a boat ride back to Santa Margherita, followed by the evening festivities in the Rolex village and after party on the yachts.  That said, the Portofino restaurant was so delicious that we ended up going back with a bigger group for Saturday lunch – to try their signature fish raviolity along with some of the Vermentino.

Saturday was the main conference and gala dinner, held at Abbazia La Cervara.  Nestled between Portofino and Santa Margherita along the Bay of the Dolphins, sits La Cervara, a monastery for San Girolamo dating back to 1361. The first inhabitants were Benedictine monks, eventually followed by a colony of Trappist monks in the 18th century, and following a number of various owners, in 1912, the grounds became a national monument. This gorgeous venue has traditional Ligurian terraces and gardens surrounding the church and monastery, overlooking the bay. It was a perfect place to host a gala dinner.

Overall, it was a fabulous weekend of food, wine, friends and time on the water.  We are already discussing the plans for next year!