Ah, Portofino, one of those history-shrouded jewels of Italy. Of course, we understand all the hype that is made around this little fishing village. The starting point is of course also predestined to become one of the must-sees for tourists. A small bay like a picture book, with a picturesque harbor and colorful fishing cottages. It was discovered long ago by the rich and beautiful of this world as an ideal destination to show off their wealth with luxurious yachts, it could not be otherwise that Portofino became world-famous. Sung about in songs and used as a backdrop for motion pictures, it has naturally become a place of longing for many travelers. But from our point of view, it has become one of those places which are certainly beautiful to visit but not a must-see. A village that has become a victim of its beauty, where the magic has been lost for a long time. 

But we understand the desire to see it with our own eyes because we have been there ourselves. Despite our somewhat negative view, we want you to get the most out of your visit, which is why we have written this guide. We hope that you will find the magic of Portofino, which has remained hidden from us. 

1. Piazzetta

The Piazzetta or „Piazza Martiri dell’Olivetta“ as it is properly called, is the first sight you will inevitably walk up to. The small central square in front of the port is framed by the colorful houses of Portofino. An ideal place to simply linger and enjoy the view of the yachts in the harbor or the green landscape. 

Here you will also find various cafes and restaurants on whose terraces you can taste the local specialties. 

2. Brown Castle

After spending some time on the Piazzetta, it’s time to explore Portofino further. You’ve probably already noticed Brown Castle. Perched on a rocky outcrop, it watches over the small bay and harbor. This strategic position had of course a defensive and protective function for the small village. Formerly known as San Giorgio Castle, the fortress was built in the twelfth century, at a time when the dreaded Saracen pirates were raiding. 

The climb up to Brown Castle is an absolute must. The fortress now houses a museum and offers a magnificent view of the small bay of Portofino. This postcard view alone is worth the 5 Euro entrance fee. 

3. The Churches of Portofino

In Portofino, there are several churches to visit. Not far from the Brown Castle, also elevated above the village, is the San Giorgio Church. This church, named after the patron saint of Portofino, is rather plain. However, even from here, you have a magnificent view of the village and the other side of the bay. 

The 12th century San Martino Church, near the Piazzetta, is the largest and oldest church in Portofino. A peculiarity of this one is its facade decoration with horizontal stripes. The interior, richly decorated in Baroque style, is also worth a visit. 

North of the village is the small, colorful Capella di San Sebastiano. This can be explored on a hike in the Portofino Regional Natural Park. We will come to this point later.

4. Punta del Capo and the Portofino Lighthouse

If you’ve been to Brown Castle and still want more interesting views, we can recommend Punta del Capo with the lighthouse. 

It is located at the southern tip of Portofino the so-called Punta del Capo. From here you have a wonderful panoramic view of the sea, the bay, and the Gulf of Tigullio. The beautiful walk takes about 40 minutes.

While there, don’t forget the reward at the bar on the terrace of the lighthouse. Enjoy an aperitif here with a view of the sea. 

5. Museo del Parco

Quite exciting is the open-air museum of Portofino. The Museo del Parco is an international center for open-air culture. Created in the early 1980s, it offers more than 120 sculptures that can be admired in the beautiful green park. The sculptures are works of Italian and international artists. The museum is easy to find, it is located right next to the ferry dock. In addition, some of the works can already be admired from the harbor promenade, such as the stone rhinoceros, which floats at an airy height. If you like contemporary art, we can recommend a visit.

6. Enjoy the Ligurian cuisine

Of course, when you visit Portofino, you have to taste the local Ligurian cuisine. After all, we are in Italy.

Being an old fishing village, there are of course numerous dishes based on fish and seafood. On the other hand in Liguria, the „focaccia“, a kind of flatbread with olives is a specialty. Just like the pesto, which originally comes from Genoa. This can be enjoyed for example in a fine lasagna. 

7. Do Different Water Activities

If you love the sea and various water activities, you can explore Portofino from a very special perspective. This is because the village and cape are located in a marine protected area, thus offering rich marine fauna and flora. Certain activities are therefore regulated, but on the other hand, you can admire magnificent seascapes. 

Swimming

Those who like swimming or spending a day at the beach can do so at Baia Canone. A beautiful public beach with pebbles and large rocks, which is partially shaded. 

Boat

Even if the luxurious yachts anchored in the port of Portofino remain unaffordable for most of us, you can still enjoy the Italian Riviera from a boat. On the one hand, some ferries connect Portofino with the Abbey of San Fruttuoso and Santa Margherita, and on the other hand, there are various private operators with whom you can take a trip out to sea.

Paddle / Kayak

Stand Up Paddling and Kayaks are the ideal water devices to explore the beauty of the coast. From here you can enjoy a unique perspective of the landscape and the crystal clear waters.

Diving and Snorkeling

For divers, the Abbey of San Fruttuoso, located nearby, is particularly worth mentioning. There in the depths, you can discover the 2.5 meters tall statue „Christ of the Abyss“. 

But also snorkelers will find along the coast always interesting rock formations and can swim along with the schools of fish.

8. explore the natural park of Portofino

The greatest wealth of Portofino is probably the regional nature park, which protects the entire peninsula. This makes it the perfect area to take countless walks in exceptional surroundings. You can go as far as the Abbey of San Fruttuoso or to Punta Chiappa and Monte Portofino (610 m). 

How to get to Portofino?

There are several ways to get to Portofino.

Plane

If you travel to Italy by plane, the nearest airport is Genoa-Colomb. About 30 km away, you can get to Portofino from there by rental car or train. 

Train

The nearest train station to Portofino is Santa Margherita Ligure. About 5 kilometers away you can get there to Portofino on foot or by bus. In this case, it is line 82, which runs every 20 minutes (until 8 pm) during the summer months. A ticket is easily available from the ticket machine. 

On foot

From Santa Margherita, you can take a nice walk along the 5 km long coastal path. You will pass villas, beach clubs, and hidden coves.

Boat

Portofino is connected to various places in the Gulf of Tigullio by boat shuttle service. 

Car

Portofino is also accessible by car. The village itself is pedestrian-only but there is a parking garage at Piazza Martiri Della Libertà. The parking fees are quite expensive. In addition, Portofino is a dead-end street. This means that the many cars that drive to Portofino on a beautiful summer day, must also return the winding, narrow road. This always leads to traffic jams and traffic obstructions.