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Portofino Italy Travel Guide, Tips, Maps, Walking Tour, Photos




Portofino Italy has long been a tourist destination for the rich and famous. It is an ancient maritime village with houses that are set in a semi-circle around the harbor and the square, while others cling precariously to stone foundations built directly onto the rocks below.

Portofino is a dreamlike facade and prettiest at sunrise when the sun shines on the brightly colored walls in hues of peach, ochre, terracotta and pale yellows and makes even a wintry sun feel bright and cheerful.

Where once tiny, colorful, wooden fishing boats belonging to the locals bobbed up and down in the harbor, now there are luxury super yachts that come from well-heeled areas like Monaco and the like, and the fishing boats are bigger and more seaworthy. However, despite this change, Portofino, Italy is still a charming place to visit, and definitely should be a stop if you are in the area.

Where is Portofino in Italy?

Portofino is in the province of Genoa. It is in Northern Italy on the western side, and is a couple of hours travel from the French border.

Portofino, Italy is actually part of the Levante Riviera of
Liguria of which Portofino is just one of the 8 towns that make up this area. The other Riviera being the Riviera dei Fiori or Flower Riviera so named because this is where flower farms abound.

For an exact location of Where Portofino is in Italy we have a Google map for you.



Travel Italy Grapevine Tip: When you get to Portofino, and if you are bringing your car, park it at the large underground parking near the port as you will not be able to bring your car any further.

The Best time to Visit Portofino Italy

The weather here is very pleasant with mild winters. From April to Mid-June the temperatures are usually in the 60s and 70s, with night time temperatures in the 50s and 60s. From July to August the weather is hot with temperatures in the 80s and 90s.

Avoid coming to Positano in August as this is the month where the whole of Italy seems to be on the move taking their annual holiday.

Portofino Italy Shopping

Radiating out from the town square is a labyrinth of pebbled alley ways where retail therapy knows no bounds. Tucked away are art galleries, and high-end shops that sell luxury labeled goods like Gucci, Ferragamo, Amani and Roberto Cavalli.

However, there are also local handicrafts selling
handmade lace and other handicrafts made by the women of Portofino. Lace making in this maritime village used to be a major industry for the local women 400 years ago. However, now it is a tradition that is only continued by a few.

In the nearby Fontanabuona valley, the village of
Lorsica is famous for its slate and beautiful damask.

Portofino Slow Travel Italy

In the alleyways you will find more restaurants, coffee shops and ice cream shops selling a Portofino specialty called paciugo literally meaning - "What a mess!". Paciugo is an ice cream that was created in the 1940s by a local woman, Lina Repetto who owned the Excelsior Cafe established 1924, and which soon became a hit.

Traditional paciugo is made from vanilla ice cream, strawberries, lemon, pomegranate syrup and whipped cream. During the summer months fresh fruit is also added to the mix, and so today you can expect your ice cream to come in tall glasses topped with fresh strawberries and raspberries.

However, these days everyone has take a different spin on this slow food from Portofino. So don't be surprised if you ask for paciugo and it comes covered in syrup, topped with black cherries and infused with rum

No matter how it comes, it is usually very good!

Tall glasses of delicious paciugo courtesy of Marido of Maridovideo

Slow Travel Italy - Paciugo Recipe

The is a recipe that uses ready-made ice cream. Ideally, the ice cream that you use for paciugo should be homemade.

Ingredients:

350g vanilla ice cream
250g chocolate ice cream
4 tablespoons raspberry syrup
3 tablespoons syrup from canned, black cherries
150g peanut brittle, broken up
50g dark chocolate, shaved
100 ml fresh single cream
1 tablespoon icing sugar, sifted
1 can sour cherries in syrup

Put the vanilla ice cream in the bowl and mix with a spoon to soften it. Divide the ice-cream into  3 parts. Add the raspberry syrup to the first third of the ice cream and stir well to mix.

Mix 3 tablespoons cherry syrup from the canned black cherries to the second part of ice cream mixes.

Put the last 3rd of ice cream into the freezer for 10 minutes.

Break up the peanut brittle by placing it between two sheets of baking paper and applying pressure with a rolling pin.

Shave the dark cholate with a sharp knife.

Take the raspberry flavored ice cream and divide between 4 cups. Take the chocolate ice cream and divide equally between the cups. Proceed with spoonfuls of the frozen ice cream. Layer again with the ice cream flavored with the syrup of cherries.

Place shaves of chocolate over the top. Decorate with pieces of peanut brittle.

Whip the cream with the sieved icing sugar. Place over the ice cream. Decorate each cup with a couple of black cherries, more peanut brittle and top with and more shaves of chocolate. For the final flair, top with a wafer biscuit.

Slow Travel Italy - Mosciame

Another slow food dish of Portofino is mosciame . These are fish fillets that have been sun-dried for a few days and is then thinly sliced and served with lashings of olive oil and slices of tuna.

In the old days, as Portofino was home to many dolphin, mosciame used to be made from the dolphins in the bay. Today, I am glad to say, the dolphin are safe and mosciame is now made from tuna.

Picture of Portofino, Italy - Property of the Province of Genoa

Portofino Italy Walking Tour

Because Portofino is so small with a local population of less than 600 people, it is a town that can easily be explored on foot, where you can absorb the bustling atmosphere and rest along the way at the many pavement coffee shops soaking up the warmth of the sun.

Start your walking tour of Portofino in the main square called Piazza Martiri dell'Olivetta - or Martyr's Square,known as the Piazzetta. Brightly colored buildings, coffee shops and restaurants line the piazza on either side, drawing the eye down to the harbor filled with luxury yachts and humble fishing boats side by side in the tranquil bay. These few fishing boats are still in operation by the locals continuing their maritime activities, bringing fresh fish to the harbor for the many restaurants and leave their boats on the ramp of the Piazzetta as if it were a beach.

Beyond the line of the boats is a backdrop of verdant green with the fortress or Rocco on top of the cliff with sweeping views of the town, the harbor and beyond.

We now look at a more sober side to this beautiful village where no new houses have been built since 1935. Besides being a dreamlike facade, Portofino is a village that possesses a soul and a history. It also has a deeply religious side to it and the beautiful churches here reflect that.

Portofino Italy Churches

On Via Roma, Portofino's main street there is the 14th century Oratory of the Assunta. Inside are 2 huge crucifixes, one white and the other black that are carried by the local people during the religious procession of the Feast of San Giorgio. With each crucifix weighing over 100 pounds this is no mean feat. This church dating back to 1555 also has a beautiful slate portal.

Walking back to the square you will find another church, Divo Martino Parish Church. Built around a Lombardian-Romanesque styled church that was established in 986, and with many modifications since. It is now more Medieval in architecture. It is an interesting church with a lot of history including the carved wooden statues by Antonio Maragliano who was around in the late 1600s.

For instance, if you have a look at the bronze door it shows how San Giorgio (Saint George, of the dragon-slaying days) protected the people of Portofino from marauding pirates when a huge storm arose and smashed and destroyed their boats. Saint George is Portofino's patron saint.

On the opposite side of the square, above the town is the Church of San Giorgio. The Romanesque church of San Giorgio has relics of Saint George, or so they say, and it dates back to the 12th century rising above straight cliffs. Unfortunately, the church was destroyed during the second World War, and rebuilt to the same in the 1950s.

There is also a cemetery built into the rocks behind the Church of San Giorgio. Not many people bother with cemeteries, but if you have ever been into an Italian cemetery you will know that it is worth popping into.

Italians do not ignore and neglect the dead, but visit the graves regularly and always bringing new flowers. So you will see flowers everywhere and at night lanterns and lights are lit, making any Italian cemetery one of the most surprisingly pleasant places to be.

Make sure that you enjoy the striking views at the top while you are there. From here you can see sweeping views of Portofino bay and the Tigullian Gulf.

Portofino Italy Lighthouse

Just below the church you can continue on your walk towards il Faro, the lighthouse at Punto del Capo. The narrow walkway takes you through scented gardens and olive trees to finally emerge onto the rocky outcrop which again rewards you with beautiful views.

If you are able either go early in the morning before everyone is up, or go late in the afternoon to avoid the crowds. The path is fairly well laid out and is suitable for all ages although there are a few steps involved.

Stop off at the bar at the lighthouse for a coffee, drink or an ice cream.

Portofino Bay Italy

The colourful houses and piazza of Portofino

Portofino Italy - Castle Brown

On the way to the lighthouse you will come across Castello Brown previously known as Castello di San Giorgio. Although Castle Brown has Roman origins it too became modified over time and eventually became the personal residence of Yeats Brown, a British consul to Genoa in 1870. Today it belongs to the people of Portofino where you can see exhibitions and special events take place.

Once you have climbed your way to the castle - and if you are coming to the castle from the Piazzetta it will take 20 minutes - catch your breath and pay the entrance fee of 5 Euros. The castle is open from 10 a.m. - 7 p.m daily. But only open until 5.p.m. from October - April.

Once inside, although there is no furniture, there are some black and white photographs showing famous people who have visited the village. However, take some photos of your own. It is from this viewpoint that you get the picture postcard photos of the village and the bay that people recognize immediately.

Both the wonderful old fortress and castle of San Giorgio are reminders of Portofino's role in the Republic of Genoa.

Longer Walking Tours from Portofino Italy

If you are wanting an even more spectacular view you can carry on towards the lighthouse which is an hour's walk there and back, and is a pleasant diversion for those who want a bit of nature and sea air.

If you are feeling very energetic there is a 2 1/2 hour walk that you can take that takes you to San Fruttuoso. This is a wonderful walk if you are fit and healthy that will take you along the cliff face overlooking the ocean.

San Fruttuoso is only accessible by foot, either from Portofino or Camogli, or by ferry, and it is here that you can see the bronze statue of Christ that rests on the seabed, 50 feet below the sea where you can take dives to see it. It was placed there in 1954 to honor local divers who have been lost at sea, as well as to bless the waters.

Portofino Italy Beaches

There are no accessible beaches in Portofino. However, if you want to find a beach you will have to travel along Lungomare Raffaele Rossertti, which is the road between Portofino and San Margherita. Here there are many places where you can access the water.

One popular spot with the locals is a beach as you are heading out of the village called Spiaggetta del Cannone where you can enjoy the crystal clear waters of the bay here. Further down are 2 more spots for swimming. There are the tiny bays of Niasca and Paraggi both of which have beautiful emerald waters on a summer's day.

Portofino Italy National Park

The Regional National Park can be found on Mount Portofino which stretches into the Mediterranean waters for 2 miles and where you can not only do some diving, but you can also explore the areas fauna and flora on the walking tracks.

There are many birds and mammals here and the tracks lead you to some great photographic opportunities. Look out for wild boar, foxes, badgers and wild goats. An animal that you are bound to see on your walks through this park, is the squirrel.

Portofino Italy Day Trips

The Abbey of San Fruttuoso

San Fruttuosa the abbey and beach
The Abbey and Beach of San Fruttuoso - picture courtesy of Aloa
If you find that you need to escape the glitz and the glamor of Portofino for a while, then take a 20 minute boat trip to San Fruttuoso. Here is a secluded bay inlet where you can visit the beautiful Benedictine abbey San Fruttuoso and cloisters that has originally buildings that were built in 711 A.D. The abbey was built in the 13th century and the tower was added in the 16th century.

The abbey was named after a 3rd century saint whose followers were shipwrecked here and according the local legend, protected by 3 lions.

This tiny bay consists of a few buildings besides the abbey. There are a few houses, an inn and a few places to visit during the summer. The houses above the cove, to the east of the abbey, were once fishermen's cottages and are still preserved for their maritime architecture.

There are also concerts that are held here every year in the months of July and August.

However, if you are going to make the trip at least bring your swimmers. There is a great beach almost in front of the Abbey that has waters so clear that you can see several feet down to the sandy bottom.

This is handy if you want to see the Christ of the Abyss - a 2.5 meter statue of Christ that was put into the bay at San Fruttuoso at a depth of 17 meters. It was placed there in 1954 to honor Dario Gonzatti who was the first Italian to use scuba gear.

abyss of christ san-fruttuoso with small fish

If you are lucky you can see the Abyss of Christ from the boat

Travel Italy Grapevine Travel Tip: Because this spot has became really popular over the years it is no longer that hidden secret, especially during the summer peak months of July and August. If you want to come during a time where you can still enjoy great weather without the crowds then we suggest coming during either May or September.

However, the ferry trips that are made both between Portofino and Camogli to San Fruttuoso are not that frequent during out of season times, and even in season you can expect to have an hour's wait before the next boat arrives.

Ask about the timings for the return trip if you don't want a long wait, or an even longer walk home! If you miss the last boat back to Portofino you will have a 2 hour hike back. This should be motivation enough to get a ferry timetable.

The 20 minute boat ride in May, 2012 was 10 Euro per person return and a 5 Euro entrance fee to the Abbey.

Opening Times for the Abbey of San Fruttuoso

January, February, November and December:10am - 3.45pm every day, except Mondays (unless public holidays).
March and October: 10am �€“ 3.45pm every day.
April, May* and second half of September: 10am �€“ 4.45pm every day.
* Saturday and Sunday: 10am - 5.45pm.
From June up to Mid-September: 10am - 5.45pm every day.
Closed on 25th December.
Entry is still possible up to 45 minutes before closing.
Opening times are subject to variations depending on the weather and on the Camogli ferry timetable.
(Written, July 2012)

More Day Trips from Portofino Italy

If you want to visit some other villages and towns for more day trips there is one of my favorites, Camogli which is 15 km away. Another colorful fishing village but this one is visited and lived in by ordinary folk like you and me.

Closer still is Santa Margherita Liguria which is 5 km away and where we prefer to eat because it is just so much cheaper. While you are there check out their lovely park and the elegant Villa Durazzo.

Take a very scenic drive and back to Rapallo taking the road that hugs the coast for spectacular views. Rapallo is 10km from Portofino and is an old, but elegant seaside town with a cable car to the Sanctuary of Montallegro with good views from the top.

The Bay of Portofino, Italy at night
The Bay of Portofino at Night - Property of the Province of Genoa

Portofino Italy Festivals

One of the main religious festivals celebrated here is the Feast Day of Saint George, their patron saint. This takes place every year on 23rd April.  The Fire of Saint George is part of this festival and one of the biggest events on the calendar.

A huge tree called the pennolla is brought down from the forested areas and placed in the center of the Piazzetta. Then for days the locals will come along and bring anything of wood that is no longer needed; broken fencing, chairs, gates, even boats and stack them around the tree trunk.

For two days before the Feast the town bells ring out and the locals decorate their houses with tiny lights.

On the eve of the 23rd April the bonfire in the village square is lit where they people gather and cheer as the wood burns brightly. Later they cook fish on pieces of slate on the burning embers, drink, sing songs and celebrate the occasion especially if the pennolla falls towards the sea as this is a sign that they will have a good fishing season.

The following day St. George is celebrated with the street procession of men carrying the white and black crossed from the church through the streets, struggling under the weight of each.

Portofino Italy Hotels we Recommend

If you have the money to spend then there are a number of luxury hotels for accommodation in Portofino and other towns close by.

The top luxury hotel in Portofino, as this was going viral in 2012, was the Hotel Splendido and Splendido Mare Orient-Express

The Hotel Splendido was originally a Benedictine monastery which later became a private villa before being transformed into a legendary luxury hotel in 1901. Set in 4 acres of lush gardens it offers some great views and is only a 10 minute walk down to the Piazzetta to the sister hotel, the Splendido Mare.

The Splendido Mare is a 5 minute shuttle bus ride or a 10 minute walk from the sister hotel to Hotel Splendido, and is located right on the waterfront of the piazza with views of the harbor and castle.

For a night at the Hotel Splendido expect to pay 800 Euros for a single room and about 1600 Euros for a double. That is before you get into the suites and junior suites.

panaramo showing location of hotel spendido portofino italy

For those of you looking for a cheaper option and for a family hotel in Portofino then you will be hard pressed to do better than the hotel Domina Home Piccolo. Prices here start at $198 a room and so is more affordable. The hotel itself is just under the Hotel Splendido and so you have the same views and location as the Splendido but for a fraction of the price. Rooms may appear a little tired and dated, but for where it is, this hotel definitely offers value for money.

Portofino Italy Restaurants we Recommend

If money is no object stop a while and have lunch here. There are a plethora of restaurants and cafes to choose from but there are a few that are worth a mention. One such restaurant is Ristorante Puny on the main square, or Piazza where you can sit and eat your meal watching the little boats bobbing about in the bay.

It serves mostly fish and seafood and is open Wednesdays to Fridays from noon until 3:00 p.m. and again from 7:00 p.m. - 11:00 p.m. A first course can set you back between 8 - 15 Euros and a second course from 15-22 Euros. Despite the high prices this restaurant is very popular, especially in the height of summer and you will need to make a reservation if you want a table here.

Another popular restaurant in Portofino is O Magazin. Again, this is a seafood restaurant with a nautical themed decor, but more reasonable then Ristorante Puny. They don't usually present the menu with the prices displayed, but they will if you ask them to. The food is very good here, particularly the octopus. No meal would be complete without having the strawberry paciugo which is exceptionally good here too. 

Portofino Italy Vacation Travel Tips

Because Portofino is a no car zone, this means that if you have a hire care, parking can become very expensive as you will have to park in designated car parks outside the town, and walk down.

There are some hotels who will take care of the parking for you, but it will still cost you. If you have heavy suitcases, or are elderly, you will need to take this into consideration when visiting Portofino, Italy.

In the summer Portofino, Italy becomes a nightmare for drivers as the roads are very narrow, and not built for the volume of traffic that it gets during the height of the tourist season. On top of that, as mentioned already, parking in Portofino is expensive. We are talking 5 Euros an hour! This soon adds up if you are ending spending the day here.

My advice would be to park at Santa Margherita Ligure and then take the 10 minute ferry across.

To avoid the crowds, visit off-season in either May or September as shops and restaurants are still open. If you are visiting during the winter you will find a lot of the restaurants and shops are closed.

Walk around the town and window shop unless you are prepared to max out the credit card! Almost everything that is displayed here is frightfully expensive. Have a quick look around, and then go back to Santa Margherita Ligure for a better priced meal, as eating here is expensive.

If you want to have a coffee, a cheaper option than sitting down is to do what the locals do, go to a bar and order a coffee standing at the counter. If you sit down at a cafe or restaurant you could end up paying 6-7 times more for your coffee than anywhere else in Italy. Don't say you weren't warned!

a stone urn with the coastline of Portofino in the background
Property of the Province of Genoa

How to Get to Portofino, Italy:

By car: If you are traveling by car, you can travel along the A12/E80. You will come across toll roads here, so make sure you have some small change for the toll booth. If you are looking at distances:

Genoa to Portofino: The distance is only 15 miles, or 25 kilometers but can take you about 1 hour due to traffic.

By Train:The nearest station to Portofino is Santa Margherita Ligure, around 30 minutes by train from Genoa. From there you will need Bus 82. The bus ride is 15 minutes.

If you are traveling by train from Milan, your travel destinations would be: Milan - Genoa - Santa Margherita Ligure, then the local bus to Portofino (Bus 82). The bus ride is 15 minutes.

If you are traveling by train from Florence, your travel destinations would be: Florence - Genoa - Santa Margherita Ligure, then the local bus to Portofino (Bus 82). The bus ride is 15 minutes. The train ride between Florence and Genoa is 3 hours.

If you are traveling by train from Rome, again there is no direct service and you will have to change. Trip will take between 5-6 hours.

By Boat: You can get to Portofino from Santa Margherita Ligure via ferry. It is a 10 minute ride. You can also take a ferry to Portofino from Rapallo and Camogli. 

By Plane: The closest major airport to Portofino is the Christopher Columbus airport in Genoa (Aeroporto Cristoforo Colombo di Genova - GOA). From there one could rent a car, as it is a relatively short (22 1/4 miles, 35.8 km) ride but could take up to an hour due to traffic and narrow, twisty roads once you leave the A12.

Weather Portofino

A weather forecast for Portofino.

Portofino Italy Map

Here is a tourist map of Portofino Italy that shows the walking tour that we have just discussed. We hope you find it useful and thank the very kind Tourist Office for sending it to us.

For more information visit the Tourist Office in Via Roma:

Ufficio I.A.T Portofino
Via Roma, 35
16034 PORTOFINO
Tel/Fax: +39 0185269024
E-mail: [email protected]


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