Castello Brown, Portofino
Many visitors in Portofino stick to the piazzetta and the harbor, which is too bad because a mere ten-minute walk from the center of town is Castello Brown. The walk is uphill, up a flight of stairs signposted ‘Salita San Giorgio’.
The castle built by the Genoese on a hilltop for harbor defense withstood attacks from the Venetians, Savoyards, Sardinians and Austrians. It eventually fell to Napoleon and was abandoned after the Congress of Vienna in 1815.
During the 19th and 20th centuries, the castle changed hands a few times: in 1867, the castle was bought by the then English consul in Genoa, Montague Yeats-Brown, who restored it and turned it into a comfortable villa, without altering the original structure. In 1949, Castello Brown was sold to an English couple, who restored some ruined sections; in 1961, they in turn sold it to the City of Portofino, which still manages the property.
Among the castle’s highlights are the tiled staircase, a beautiful example of neo-Gothic interior, and the views from the garden. If you keep walking along the same track past the castle, you will reach the lighthouse (another 400m) for an even better view of the Gulf of Tigullio.
Do check with the tourist office that Castello Brown is open since it is often rented for private events, including weddings.
Castello Doria, Porto Venere
Castello Doria is located on a rocky outcrop overlooking Porto Venere and represents one of the most impressive example of military architecture of the Republic of Genoa in the Ligurian Riviera.
It is not known when the original castle was built; the current structure dates from the 16th century. During the Middle Ages, it was often at the center of the battles between Genoa and Pisa for the conquest of the surrounding territory. During the French domination by Napoleon in the early 19th century, the building was used as a prison.
More recently, the City of Porto Venere acquired Castello Doria and restored it. The building is now used to house art exhibitions throughout the year.
“Where nature and architecture meet”, says the castle’s website and in fact, its position by the cliffs overlooking the Ligurian sea is quite impressive; visit the terraced gardens for the most magnificent views.
Castello Doria is also used as a wedding location.
Castello di Lerici
The Castle of Lerici is a polygonal-shaped fortification that rises high above the rocky promontory of Lerici. It is one of the most majestic military monuments in Italy.
The castle was built starting in 1152 and underwent numerous transformations at the hands of the maritime republics of Genoa and Pisa which both wanted the property for its strategic location. It was only in 1555 that the castle began to take on its current look.
The most ancient part of the building is the pentagonal tower. Thick walls were built around it in the 14th century.
The Castello di Lerici now houses the Museo Geopaleontologico, following the discovery of fossils nearby in 1987.
The castle and its views have been immortalized by painters from all over the world. To celebrate them, an art gallery displaying the various paintings has been opened just below the structure.
Castello di Lerici can be rented as a wedding venue or for conferences and meetings.