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Portofino Travel Guide

Italian Riviera Hot Spot

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portofino picture, boats, harbor

Pastel Houses Line Portofino Harbor

Portofino picture © by Martha Bakerjian
portofino picture

View of Portofino and its Harbor

© by Martha Bakerjian
portofino, Italian Riviera, Italy, portofino harbor photo

Portofino Harbor

Ken Welsh/Photolibrary/Getty Images

Portofino Overview:

Portofino, Italy, is known as the resort of the rich and famous, but there is much more to see here than just people. Portofino is a picturesque, half-moon shaped seaside village with pastel houses lining the shore of the harbor, shops, restaurants, cafes, and luxury hotels. The crystalline green waters reveal a myriad display of aquatic life. A castle sits atop the hill overlooking the village. There are also opportunities for hiking, diving, and boating.

Portofino Location:

Portofino sits on a peninsula in the Tigullio Golf east of Genoa in the northern Italian region of Liguria and is part of the Italian Riviera. Santa Margherita Ligure and Camogli, seaside towns also worth visiting, are the nearest towns. Camogli is a lovely fishing village with pastel houses and a pebbly beach while Santa Margherita is a larger resort town.

See Portofino and the Italian Riviera on our Liguria Interactive Map.

Transportation to Portofino:

Frequent ferries go to Portofino from Santa Margherita Ligure, Rapallo, and Camogli, from late spring through early fall. You can also go by boat from Genoa or other riviera towns to the south. The closest train stations are Santa Margherita Ligure and Camogli. A bus leaves for Portofino just outside the Santa Margherita station. Portofino is car-free but you can drive the narrow, windy road close to the village where there is a small parking lot. In summer, it's usually very crowded, and driving and parking can be difficult.

Castello Brown:

Castello Brown sits on a hill above the village. You can reach the castle by a path near the Botanic Garden. The castle is open from 10AM until 7PM in summer and until 5PM in winter. The castle has a nice garden and affords great views of Portofino and the sea. The medieval castle became the residence of Yeats Brown, British consul to Genoa, in 1870. Inside are furnishings and pictures belonging to the Browns as well as photos of many famous visitors to Portofino.

San Giorgio Church and Lighthouse:

In a panoramic position on the way to the castle, you can visit San Giorgio Church, rebuilt after the last war. Another scenic pathway takes you clear out to the lighthouse, faro, on Punta del Capo.

Where to Eat and Stay in Portofino:

As you would imagine, Portofino's restaurants specialize in seafood. You'll also find Genovese specialties such as the green minestrone. Most of the restaurants ring the harbor and have a high cover charge. We had an excellent meal at the slightly less expensive Pizzeria El Portico (no pizza at lunch time), on the main road heading down to the harbor. The mixed seafood antipasto was great.

Eight Hotel Portofino is a 4-star resort hotel. Domina Home Piccolo is a less expensive 4-star hotel in a period villa. More hotels can be found in Santa Margherita Ligure, a good base for visiting both Portofino and Cinque Terre - see Top Rated Santa Margherita Ligure Hotels.

Portofino Regional Park:

There are a number of good hiking trails both along the coast and on inland routes, many offering spectacular views. The northern part of the park is wooded with a variety of trees while in the southern part you will find more wildflowers, bushes, and grasslands. Olive trees are cultivated in many places and close to the villages you may see orchards and gardens.

Portofino Marine Protected Area:

Most of the water along the coast from Santa Margherita around to Camogli is a protected area and it is forbidden to enter the water in some places. There are 20 dive sites and diving can be arranged through local dive agencies. Swimming is allowed only in certain areas and boating is restricted near some of the shoreline. Parts of the coastline are very rugged and steep.

San Fruttuoso:

On the other side of the peninsula, reached from Portofino by a 2-hour walk or by boat, is the Abbazia di San Fruttuoso. The abbey, built in the 11th century, is set among pine and olive trees. Under the water near San Fruttuoso is a huge bronze statue of Christ, Cristo degli Abissi, protector of sailors and divers. At the end of July, there is an underwater procession to the statue where a laurel crown is placed.

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