Bunting. That string of triangle/square flags you’ve seen lately, colored per party theme, draped above the gift table. It seems you cannot have an officially cute shower/party/brunch without bunting (extra points if your flags are burlap or maps). If you’re super dedicated, your event might even feature meta bunting: a mini bunting cake toper, on cake decorated with bunting, sitting on a table with bunting. Win!

Well, Portofino wins. Probably before any of us thought to painstakingly create these decorations by hand, Portofino had nautical bunting bordering it’s marina. Liguria, the region of Portofino, has always been a strong seaport and trading hub, and was it was the most powerful maritime republic in the Mediterranean from the 12th to 14th centuries. Portofino itself was a quiet fishing village before tourism became it's #1 industry, so it's long had a history of boats. Today, the picturesque flags sway in the wind, setting the seaside scene. But upon investigating their meanings, the International Maritime Signals are not quite as romantically nostalgic as they look.

Let’s take this classic for an example. It looks sweet and simple, a nice ocean blue and cloud white design in 3 vertical lines. According to international NATO standards, founded by the allies in WWII, if this flag is sailed on a ship on its own, it means, “I am on fire and have dangerous cargo on board: Keep well clear of me,” or "I am leaking dangerous cargo." Noooooo, not on the cake!

And this one? “You are running into danger.” Yes, if you spilling dangerous cargo on my beautiful cake, you will be in danger mister.


Interestingly, these 2 are a part of a group of 26 flags that represent a letter in the English alphabet. When flown together, they spell out words. Like this:

So while technically, when flown on land, these flags don’t carry out their naval meaning, you can really take your bunting to the next level. Nautical themed baby shower? Spell out the baby’s name! And the next sexy sailor bachelorette party? Keep it classy and instead of the straws and candies. So many possibilities. 

And when you're here in Portofino, I challenge you to de-code all of the flags surrounding the marina, I bet there's an important secret waiting to be discovered.