Are you planning a trip to Portofino, Italy? Or dreaming of a classic Italian Riviera summer holiday? There are a few things you won’t want to miss.
An epitome of glitz and glamour since the 1960s, Portofino, Italy, is considered one of the most exclusive Mediterranean holiday destinations and the crown jewel of the Italian Riviera.
Lush green hills provide shade to pristine bays with crystal waters, only interrupted by the occasional castles, villas, and cottages. The picturesque harbor and the overlooking cobbled piazza are scattered with chic restaurants, art galleries, and boutiques. There isn’t one European yacht that has not anchored in Portofino at least once, yet the town is extremely popular among Italian daytrippers too. Whether you’re after luxury or a more laid-back experience, there is something in Portofino for everyone.
To make the most out of your precious time on the Italian Riviera below is an essential guide to visiting Portofino, Italy.
Portofino, Italy: Essential Travel Guide
Where is Portofino located?
Portofino is located in the northwestern corner of Italy, in a region overlooking the Ligurian Sea commonly known Italian Riviera. Set approximately 40 km from Genoa and 70 km from the famous Cinque Terre, Portofino is mostly surrounded by exclusive finishing villages and lush green hills.
How to get to Portofino, Italy:
Portofino can be reached by car, ferry, or bus, depending on your starting point.
The closest airport to Portofino is the Cristoforo Colombo Airport in Genoa. From there, you have several options to get to the town center:
- Taxi − This is the fastest but also the most expensive option, as Portofino is a 45-minute drive from Genoa Airport
- Boat − In summer, Golfo Paradiso SNC runs several boats departing from Genoa Porto Antico, which is a 10-minute taxi ride from the airport. The ferry is certainly one of the best ways of getting to Portofino, and with a little luck, you might even spot some dolphins while onboard.
- Train − Portofino doesn’t have its own railway station, but you can get to Santa Margherita Ligure station which is just a 15-minute bus or taxi ride away.
We would normally advise against driving to Portofino with a rental car, as it is virtually impossible to park during the summer months.
Where to stay in Portofino:
There are very few hotels in Portofino, just over a dozen, so if you’re set on staying in the town center you’re advised to book your accommodation at least 6 months in advance. Some great options to stay in Portofino include:
- For the quintessential Portofino experience – Hotel Splendido Belmond $$$$
- For the best beach views – Eight Hotel Paraggi $$$$
- For a family vacation – Hotel Piccolo $$$
Portofino is mostly known for its luxury accommodations, with most hotel prices ranging from expensive to astronomical. If you’re visiting Portofino on a budget, your best option is to stay in one of the neighboring villages. Santa Margherita Ligure, for example, is just a 15-minute bus or bike ride from Portofino. This once fishing village turned holiday destination is slightly less fancy than its neighbor, but has a much bigger variety of accommodation and dining options.
Due to its position, Portofino obviously makes for a good base to explore nearby seaside towns. However, due to its limited extension, it can be very easily explored on a day trip, too
7 Best Things To Do in Portofino, Italy
1. Wander around the main Piazza
The heart of Portofino lies in the cobbled piazza overlooking the small harbor, where yachts and fishing boats jostle for space. Just around the main square are many pedestrian alleys packed with charming restaurants serving Ligurian staples, as well as small craft shops and luxury boutiques.
If you’re aching to see some exceptional art, head to the Lorenzo Cascio gallery. For a great aperitif with a view, stop at Winterose or Bar Mariucca. For a refreshing afternoon snack, head over to Gelateria San Giorgio. Da Puny is the best restaurant for celebrity sightseeing, while Da U Batti is a must for seafood lovers.
2. Hike up to San Giorgio Church and Castle Brown
From the harbor, a picturesque walkway leads right up to a beautiful promontory and to the Romantique-styled San Giorgio Church. The courtyard offers an impressive postcard view over the bay of Portofino which is worth the hike itself. The bright yellow exterior of the church dates back to 1154 but has since been restored several times.
If you’re up for it, from the Church you can keep walking up to get to Castle Brown. This 16th-century massive fortification now turned museum was formerly the home of Yeats Brown, the British Consult to Genoa. You can still see the Browns’ memorabilia while touring the exquisite rooms.
3. Swim and unwind at Paraggi beach
Paraggi is certainly the most famous beach in Portofino, beloved by tourists and locals alike. It is located inside Portofino’s Marine Protected Area, which covers most of the coast along the Italian Riviera with 20+ diving sites. The waters are crystal clear, of a deep turquoise color due to the reflection of the lush vegetation, which makes swimming here a truly amazing experience.
Paraggi can be easily reached by foot from Portofino or Santa Margherita Ligure and is mostly managed by a private beach club, so it is ideal for those looking for a relaxing beach day in comfort.
4. Explore the surrounding Natural Parks
The Portofino Natural Regional Park stretches for 13 km (8 miles) along the coast, with the highest point being Mount Portofino.
Here rocky slopes drop steeply into the blue sea to create a rugged landscape, shielded by thick Mediterranean scrub, olive trees, and the occasional man-made terrace. Through the park, a network of hiking trails connects Portofino to the villages of Santa Margherita and Camogli, leading up to the incredible San Fruttuoso Abbey.
A full breakdown of the hiking routes around Portofino can be found here on Komoot.
5. Visit Camogli on a day trip
Camogli is a quaint fishing village located on the west side of the peninsula of Portofino. Compared to the other seaside towns on the Italian Riviera, Camogli is much quieter, unspoiled, yet highly recognizable by the colorful houses scattered along its characteristic beach. Having both an efficient railway station and a ferry port, this lovely town can be easily visited as a day trip from Portofino or Santa Margherita.
Explore the harbor, stroll along the beautiful Garibaldi promenade, and finally laze on the beach with a tasty focaccia in your hand.
6. Visit the Abbey of San Fruttuoso, Camogli
Between Camogli and Portofino lies San Fruttuoso, a Benedictine monastery built in the year 984 by order of the Archbishop of Tarragona. The abbey is mostly renowned for its unique and isolated location, as it’s literally nestled between a dense vegetation of pine trees and an incredible pebble beach. The latter is divided equally between a free beach and an organized one, with a cute kiosk serving drinks and snacks.
San Fruttuoso can be reached on foot through a 3-hour hike, or, more comfortably and poetically, by boat. Timetables for the Camogli – San Fruttuoso route can be found on Golfo Paradiso SNC official website.
6. Visit Cinque Terre on a day trip
Cinque Terre is a section of the Italian Riviera near the Tuscany border highly celebrated for its beauty. It is composed of 5 villages – Vernazza, Manarola, Riomaggiore, Monterosso, and Corniglia – all built on rugged cliffs and hovering over the sea.
Although there is usually no direct ferry line from Portofino to either one of these towns, you can easily get there by taking a train from Santa Margherita Ligure to either Monterosso al Mare or Riomaggiore. All five towns are then very well connected by a five-minute train ride.
Cinque Terre is a destination of timeless charm, so you can imagine it’s nearly impossible to do it justice with only one day trip. However, if one day is all you can spare, our suggestion would be to choose only two towns to explore, like Monterosso al Mare and Manarola. Manarola. with its pastel houses perched high in the hills overlooking the sea, is widely considered to be the most spectacular village of the Cinque Terre.
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