Portofino is one of the most romantic, enchanting, and picturesque places in all of Italy. Because it is hidden away in a narrow cove that overlooks the rocky coastline, it provides a far more mythical sight than you might otherwise experience. This relatively small, cliff-lined port is often heralded as the “Pearl of the Mediterranean.” This is one of the reasons that it continues to attract wealthy sophisticates, celebrities, poets, and artists from all over the world.
Set against luxuriant, lush vegetation and a very agreeable climate, the only thing more spectacular than the natural beauty offered by Portofino is the intimacy and charm that visitors can find in the quaint cafes, hidden coves, and narrow streets. There are only about 500 permanent residents in the town, but it is still one of the Italian Riviera’s most popular resort towns.
The town of Portofino really has not changed much since being declared a national monument in 1935 by the city government of nearby Genoa. Before any architectural changes can be made to any structure, there needs to be approval granted from the counsel.
How do you get to Portofino?
Between late spring through early fall you can grab a ferry quite regularly from Camogli, Rapallo, Ligure, and Santa Margherita. It is also possible to travel by boat from any of the Riviera towns to the south, most notably Genoa. The nearest train stations are Camogli and Santa Margherita Ligure. Keep in mind that the town itself is car-free (even though you can park outside of the town).
You can find the Abbazia di San Fruttuoso at about a two-hour walk or you can travel by boat. The abbey is found on the other side of the peninsula. Resting alongside the olive trees and pines, you can find this abbey that dates back all the way to the 11th century. You can find the Cristo degli Abissi under the water near San Fruttuoso. This is a massive bronze statue of Christ and this statue serves as the protector of divers and sailors. There is an underwater procession to the statue at the end of July. This leads to the placement of a laurel crown atop the statue.
Portofino marine protected area
Most of the waters that you are going to find from Camogli all the way to Santa Margherita are classified as a protected area. This means that it is not allowed for people to enter the water in many of these places. It is possible to arrange diving through local dive agencies, and there are 20 some dive sites available. Certain areas allow for swimming, and boating is restricted near some of the shoreline.
Portofino Regional Park
Along the inland routes and the coast, you can find a number of good hiking trails. Even though it may be a struggle to get there, going on the hike offers some spectacular views. In the southern part of the park, you are going to find grasslands, bushes, and wildflowers, while the northern part of the park has a variety of different trees. In many places, there is a heavy cultivation of olive trees, and you can find gardens and orchards close to the villages.
San Giorgio Church and lighthouse
If you are traveling to the castle, you can visit San Giorgio Church on your way there. After the last war, the church has been rebuilt. You can also travel straight to the lighthouse (faro) that you can find on Punta del Capo if you take another scenic detour.
On a hill above the village, you can find Castello Brown. There is a path near the botanical garden that allows you to reach the castle. In the summer time, the castle is open from 10 AM until 7 PM, while it closes two hours earlier (5 PM) in winter. You can experience some amazing views of Portofino and the sea once at the castle. You can find a number of pictures of famous visitors to Portofino in Castello Brown. The reason it has the name ‘Brown’ is that the British consul to Genoa (Yeats Brown) made this his residence in 1870. Many of the pictures and furnishings found inside actually belong to Brown.
Where to eat in Portofino
As is to be expected from a town that is surrounded by water, seafood is the primary specialty in many of Portofino’s restaurants. You can also find some of the better Genovese specialties (green minestrone for example) here. Most of the restaurants are near the harbor and are considered relatively expensive. If you want something a bit more casual, Pizzeria El Portico is going to be slightly less classy. The recommendation is to try the mixed seafood antipasto.
Staying in Portofino in style
You can find two of Italy’s most glamorous retreats in Portofino, the Belmond Splendido Mare, and Belmond Hotel Splendido. You can overlook the breathtaking harbor of Portofino, and staying here means embracing the very best that the Italian Riviera has to offer. This includes the breathtaking views of the turquoise Mediterranean, amazing food, and warm days of cooling off by the pool.