5601 Universal Boulevard
Orlando, FL 32819
(407) 503-1000; fax: (407) 503-1010
A leisurely eight-minute cruise aboard a gracious nineteenth century motor launch takes you from CityWalk to one of the favorite getaways of Europe’s fabled jet set — Portofino, Italy.
Well, okay, it’s not really Portofino, Italy, but a near-photographic replica of the picturesque Ligurian fishing village that has long been a retreat for the rich and famous. And while you don’t have to be famous to stay at this Portofino, it might help to be rich because the room rates place this property in the super-luxury range. If it’s any consolation, staying at the Hotel Splendido (yes, that’s its name) in the real Portofino will set you back $800 to $1,200 a night, while a room can be had at this Portofino Bay for under $300, at least at some times of the year.
If you’re familiar with the real Portofino, you’ll be amazed at how closely the architects and designers have come to re-creating the ambiance. If you’re not, you might think the designers have cut corners by painting architectural details on the facades. Not so. This is exactly the way it’s done in Portofino, Italy. It’s called “trompe l’oeil,” French for “trick the eye,” and it’s considered quite posh. Indeed, Loews brought in Italian artists and local scenic design wizards to cover the hotel’s public spaces with a wide variety of trompe l’oeil effects and colorful murals at a reported cost of $70 a square yard. The real trompe l’oeil accomplishment, however, is that what looks for all the world like a quaint fishing village made up of scores of separate homes, shops, courtyards, churches, palazzos, and alleyways is in fact a state-of-the-art luxury hotel whose 750 rooms have been artfully hidden behind those picturesque facades.
If you arrive by boat, you will walk from the dock to the large central piazza with all of Portofino arrayed before you. If you arrive by car, you will drive around the Bay to arrive at a portico entrance where you can turn your vehicle over to a valet and step into a sumptuously appointed marble lobby. Either way, it’s a spectacular introduction to a very special experience.
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