Rediscovering Slim Aarons’ La Dolce Vita in Portofino

Rediscovering Slim Aarons’ La Dolce Vita in Portofino

Portofino was a magnet for the Italian Riviera-bound jet-setting aristocracy of the 1950s and 1960s, whose glittering, tanned bodies and sleek superyachts were immortalised in Slim Aarons lavish photographic collection La Dolce Vita. Visit the tiny Ligurian port today and you’ll find an equally glitzy crowd intent on enjoying a slice of the good life.

Photos of attractive people doing attractive things in attractive places

the post-war boom years of the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s, when
Hollywood socialites and British royalty rubbed shoulders with
Saudi millionaires on the polished decks of yachts in Portofino,
one man was always there to capture the scene on a small Leica
camera. George Allen “Slim” Aarons had access to the fabulously
wealthy in their bathing suits, returning to Portofino many times
to photograph La Dolce Vita. Not only did Aarons immortalise these
places and moments on 35mm film, he helped to create them.

Publishing his images in Harper’s Bazaar and the now-defunct
Holiday magazine, Aarons ignited a wanderlust in Americans
fascinated by “how the other half lived”. He painted an iconic
portrait of the Italian seaside: sun-bleached pastel villas and
stripy parasols, elaborate alfresco spaghetti suppers and turquoise
seas, red Vespas and bougainvillea. Then, as now, the impossibly
sweet harbour of Portofino was a photographer’s dream. The harbour
is a sparkling vision set against a backdrop of colourful shuttered
houses, with every well-heeled visitor a Slim Aarons shot just
waiting to be taken.

At the heart of this old-school glamour is Splendido Hotel, and
its low-key-luxe little sister Splendido Mare, down in the port.
The harbourside spot has, over the years, played host to the likes
of Ava Gardner, Winston Churchill, Elizabeth Taylor and the Duke of
Windsor. Follow in Slim Aarons’ footsteps today and you’ll discover
that the Italian Riviera is just as magical as ever. You only have
to set off along the coast road to Paraggi Beach or watch the
elegant wooden gozzo boats chug around the headland to feel the
world shift into a hazy, delightfully vintage gear.

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