Portofino is a tiny port town on the Ligurian coast, also known as the Italian Riviera, the name implies “Pearl of the world” and it is regarded as being an exceptionally multi-colored and romantic town, with it’s pastel shaded houses, surrounded by the shimmering aquamarine Mediterranean sea, lapping at it’s front door in one way, the hills of the Alps in the other, it just oozes beauty and atmosphere with a slightly funky flavor. Portofino is practically too stunning for its own good – in nearly every time of year, you will be massaging elbows on Portofino’s harborside quays with day-tripping mobs who join industrialists, international celebrities, and a lot of wealthy but not so well-known people who consider this small town to be the epicenter of the good life. If you make an appearance in the late afternoon when the crowds get thinned out a bit, you’re certain to see what remains so appealing relating to this enchanting spot – its untouchable natural beauty.
Portofino can be reached by ferry from Santa Margherita Ligure, Rapallo, Camogli, and Genoa. The closest train stations are in Santa Margherita Ligure, where you can find a bus to Portofino from the station.
Get around Portofino
Once in Portofino walking is likely to be your best option. The city is not large and most hotels and beaches are a short walk from the harbor. However, scooters seem to be a popular preference for getting about, especially for those people traveling to many of the little regional villages like Paraggi or San Fruttuoso on their own agenda.
Once more, for anyone who is lucky enough to obtain a boat to use, that would be another hassle-free way to move in the area. There are rentals accessible in the harbor.
Actually, probably the most impressive thing concerning Portofino is the life-style, so running off and “seeing the views” won’t be your essential task once you plan your vacation. There are some well known points of interest that might manage to lure you from the beaches, but the view from the harbor or some of the surrounding beaches is unforgettable and one could spend the entire day marveling at it.
The charm of these places, the fine cuisine of the Ligurian Region, and the innumerable cultural and nature itineraries make this corner of the Gulf of Tigullio an ideal destination any time of year. Nonetheless, tourists most appreciate Portofino during the summer months, when the flora is at its most lush, and the warm seawater transports visitors beyond paradise.
Travelers will not be able to see everything here, so many are the historic, cultural and natural attractions. Still, make a little room in your schedule to see the Church of Portofino’s Patron Saint, San Giorgio, a construction from the 12th Century; inside are relics brought back by sailors after the Crusades, as well as a breathtaking panorama from the parvis (churchyard).
Nearby, the Brown Castle (Castello Brown) is a fortress smack-dab in the middle of a hanging-garden, and characterized by partitions with lovely bas-reliefs, and architectonic embellishments in marble and slate.
The lighthouse is accessible from here, and is situated on Punta del Capo (aka Punta Portofino), imposing itself over the entire bay.
Equally-interesting is the Gothic Oratory of the Brotherhood of Mary Assumed (Oratorio della Confraternita dell’Assunta), preserving various artworks inside, including a 12th-Century wooden statue of the Assumption of the Virgin.
Those curious about the local traditions can stroll the streets of Portofino’s borgo, visiting the artisan workshops where the town’s women sophisticatedly work elegant patterns of bobbin lace.
Prefer a little adventure out in the open? Take an excursion up to Monte di Portofino for a slight adrenaline rush, or navigate the Gulf of Tigullio in a boat, for close contact with the beautiful Mediterranean Sea.
Special events also take place rather frequently during Portofino’s summer season – everything from international regattas to glitzy evening engagements and religious celebrations – for instance the Feast Day for San Giorgio (April 23rd), with a procession and final bonfire illuminating the Piazzetta.
Finally, if fine wining-and-dining is your thing (and it usually is), get ready for some prime sea-based dishes, served in restaurants throughout Portofino. Here the typical recipe is “Lasagna di Portofino,” delectable primo based on, what else, pesto. But before dinner, make sure you do as the locals do: head back to the Piazzetta for 7 o’ clock aperitivo, where you can snack on Genoese foccaccia and sip some Giancu de Purtufin, a wine that combines several of the territory’s grapes and that is only produced locally.
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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 sits on a hill above the village. You can reach the castle by a path near the Botanic Garden. The castle has a nice garden and has 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.
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.
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Hotel Portofino Italy – no booking fees
from € 103
Via Duca degli Abruzzi, 31, Portofino
Surrounded by rich greenery, Domina Home Piccolo offers a private beach, cosy rooms with sea views, and an excellent location on the coast of Portofino. read more…
from € 180
Vico Dritto 3, Portofino
One of the only hotels to be located directly on Portofino’s pretty little harbour, Albergo Nazionale offers lovely views and great service as well as spacious, comfortable rooms. read more…
from € 300
Via Del Fondaco 11, Portofino
Set near Piazza della Libertà, Hotel San Giorgio offers free private parking and a green, tranquil setting between the mountains and the harbour of Portofino. read more…
from € 100
Via Dritto 20, Portofino
Portofino is an ancient fishing village, built around a natural port that has preserved its traditional character. read more…