Check in to ‘Hotel Portofino’ tonight on PBS then stick around for the return of ‘Endeavour’!

Hotel Portofino owner, Bella Ainsworth played by Natascha McElhone. Photo: PBS

Set in the breathtakingly beautiful resort town of Portofino, Hotel Portofino is about personal awakening at a time of global upheaval in the traumatic aftermath of World War I and of the liberating influence of Italy’s enchanting culture, climate and cuisine on elite British travelers.

Premiering tonight at 8pET/7pCT on PBS, Hotel Portofino tells the story of the Ainsworth family that has relocated from Britain to open an upscale hotel on the Italian coastline. Once you meet the cast of characters, both Upstairs Downstairs and Downton Abbey come to mind….if they happened to be set in 1920 Italy.

Mark Umbers as Cecil Ainsworth in Hotel Portofino. Photo: PBS/Beta Films/Eagle Eye Drama

Meet the Hotel Portofino owners…a.k.a. ‘Upstairs’

  • Bella Ainsworth, owner of the Hotel Portofino, host extraordinaire and family matriarch. This hotel is Bella’s dream and she works hard to make sure her guests have the best experience possible.
  • Cecil Ainsworth, Bella’s husband, is the perfect English gentleman…on paper anyway. Unfortunately, Cecil loves the good life, something which can lead him into shady dealings with dangerous people.
  • Lucian Ainsworth, Cecil and Bella’s son, dreams of a life where he can pursue his passion for painting and a love of his choosing. Getting in the way of that dream is good old Dad who wants Lucian to marry Rose Drummond-Ward, a young woman with enough money to make all his dreams come true.
  • Alice Ainsworth, Lucian’s sister, is seeking a fresh start in Portofino after being widowed. Alice wants a better life for her and her daughter, but life with her family is proving more chaotic than expected.

Meet the Hotel Portofino staff…a.k.a. ‘Downstairs’

  • Betty Scanlon, a top rate English cook who’s worked for the Ainsworths for years and son, Billy, her well-meaning, hardworking, but sometimes hot-headed son.
  • Paola, an independent-minded Italian maid, who knows way more than she’s letting on.
  • Constance March, the new nanny who’s still finding her way in the world.

Hotel Portofino guests

  • Lady Latchmere, old-fashioned grande dame with strong opinions and a flair for the dramatic. She’s visiting Portofino with her niece and has high expectations for her accommodations.
  • Julia Drummond-Ward, a wealthy guest looking for a suitor for her daughter, Rose. While Julia does not approve of the Ainsworths’ bohemian ways, she is drawn to Cecil because of their long history.
  • Rose Drummond-Ward, Julia’s daughter, is constantly under pressure from her judgmental mother. Rose’s time in Portofino gives her the chance to spread her wings, and perhaps find love along the way.

Finally….the American guests

  • Claudine Pascal, world-class performer and true fashion icon. Claudine is seeking a home abroad after tiring of the racial oppression back in the US.
  • Accompanying Claudine at the hotel is Jack Turner, a bombastic art-dealer who is at the hotel for business and pleasure. Needless to say, Claudine and Jack’s relatively large personalities and taboo-breaking relationship are causing quite the stir among the buttoned-up clientele.

All in all, the 1920’s setting for Hotel Portofino is equal parts danger and breathtaking at the same time. After watching, I may change my mind from when I watch both Upstairs Downstairs and Downton Abbey. I may want to reconsider living downstairs and live upstairs this time around.

Hotel Portofino premieres tonight at 8pET/7pCT on PBS (KERA in North Texas). Stay tuned after at 9pET/8pCT for the return of Endeavour and the premiere of series 8!

In: Drama