Portofino Italy has long been a tourist destination for the
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
on the brightly colored walls in hues of peach, ochre, terracotta and
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
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
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
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
No matter how it comes, it is usually very good!
Tall glasses of delicious paciugo courtesy of Marido of
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
can continue on your walk towards il Faro,
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.
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
Stop off at the bar at the lighthouse for a coffee, drink or
an ice cream.
The colourful houses and
piazza of Portofino
Portofino Italy -
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.
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
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
Longer Walking Tours from
If you are wanting an
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.
The Regional National
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
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
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.
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
Gonzatti who was the first Italian to use scuba gear.
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
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
If you want to visit
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 at
Night - Property
of the Province of Genoa
Portofino Italy Festivals
of the main religious festivals celebrated here is the Feast Day of
Saint George, their patron saint. This takes place every year
23rd April. The Fire of Saint George is part of this festival
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.
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
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
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
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
only a 10 minute walk down to the Piazzetta to the sister hotel, the
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
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.
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
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
If money is no object
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.
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
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
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
Euros an hour! This soon adds up if you are ending spending the day
My advice would
be to park at Santa Margherita Ligure and then take the 10 minute ferry
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
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!
Property of the
Province of Genoa
How to Get to Portofino,
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
Genoa to Portofino: The
distance is only 15 miles, or 25
kilometers but can take youabout 1 hour due to traffic.
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
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.
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
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.