Portofino. Saying this is a famous village is an understatement. Portofino is impressed on everyone’s mind as one of the places where rich people go on holiday, dock their yachts at the small harbor and enjoy its paradisiac atmosphere of “hidden gem”. Of course, in 2017 we can’t expect this place to be hidden anymore. The dock is full of boats, the central square is crowded with tourists of all ages. Still, there is still something fascinating, some of that unique environment that once attracted Clark Gable and Liz Taylor.
How to reach Portofino
If you have a private boat, you can reach Portofino directly by the sea. Otherwise, there are two ways to reach the city. We strongly advise against arriving in Portofino by car. Instead, take the train to Santa Margherita Ligure, and then take the ferry, the bus or simply walk to the village. The walk is 5 Km long, mostly on the coast. It’s a super easy path, following the road up to Paraggi and then traversing some woods. During this last part, the road is a little bit humpy, but it’s a walk everybody can do.
Delicious tip: trains in Italy are generally of poor quality. They are often late, and the carriages are always dirty. Book early via the Trenitalia website and opt for the InterCity first class. It’s the most expensive ticket, but at least you will get a clean seat and (hopefully!) working air-conditioning!
So here we are, seven postcards from Portofino (and beyond!) 😍
1.) Santa Margherita Ligure
Santa Margherita is a charming, relaxing village, with roads surrounded by flowers and cute bars with little dehors. We do suggest to spend at least a couple of hours here, wandering around the streets. Several places deserve at least a quick exploration 😉.
Head up to Convento Frati Cappuccini, behind Castello di Santa Margherita Ligure, for a good photo spot of the coastline 😊. Last but not least, do not miss to grab a couple of slices of focaccia from Fiordiponti, one of the best bakeries in the region and an authority of this Ligurian specialty!
2.) Villa Durazzo & San Giacomo
Take the small and cute Via IV Novembre in front of the harbor to reach two of our favorite spots: Parrocchia San Giacomo and Villa Durazzo. The first one is a church in baroque style. The contrast of the church interior, rich of golden stuccos and frescos, with the austere white facade of the building deserves a five minutes visit. Villa Durazzo, instead, is the place where you want to go for your “garden-marble statue-sea” photo. It was one of our best moment in our trip and something we highly recommend 😊!
3.) Paraggi and the road to Portofino
If you are willing to make the trip between Santa Margherita and Portofino by walking (as we suggest), you’ll be rewarded with some of the best coastal landscapes Italy has to offer. It’s just so relaxing to walk on this path, especially after the road heads up into the woods after Paraggi. Several villas are hidden on the hills in front of the sea, and most of them are for rent (even on a weekly basis) if you want to experience some luxury Italian style!
Portofino, the town which inspired several artists in the 19th century and luxury destination for many stars during the 20th. We could easily spend the whole day admiring the landscape. Take a stroll to the lighthouse and to the small church of San Giorgio for getting some good photos. The keyword here is relaxing. It’s a small village; there is no need to rush, just slow down and walk around, listen to the sound of the waves and smell the scents of the sea and the Mediterranean scrub. This place speaks of serenity and quietness, get along with it and forget about all your problems at home!
5.) Castle Brown
Everybody getting to Portofino is looking for the same thing: that perfect photo shoot of the small harbor and its adjacent central square, with the colored houses mirroring in the sea and the green hills all around. And Castle Brown is the place where you can get it! There are no other places like this villa sitting directly on the top of the small hill in front of the village. Get in (price is 5 € per person), reach the terrace and admire one of the best sceneries in the Italian peninsula!
6.) From Portofino to San Fruttuoso
From Portofino, you can reach San Fruttuoso by boat or by walking. If you are coming here during Spring season, we recommend you the latter one. The walk is not easy (especially the first part), but it’s the only way for exploring Portofino Natural Reserve. The trail is mostly under the shadows of holms and pine trees, with the coastline underneath. The air smells of sea and resin, it’s so pleasant we wanted to can it somehow and bring it at home with us 🙈! On top of that, at the end of the initial steep path, there is the possibility to take some beautiful photos of Portofino from an original perspective 😍.
7.) San Fruttuoso Abbey
Hidden on the coastline, San Fruttuoso Abbey is a must-see for every traveler to Portofino. The church dates back to the X-th century when a group of Greek monks docked in the natural bay and funded a community. The abbey was then restored by Benedictine monks, who transformed the initial settlement in one of the most important places of worship in Northern Italy.
Our hiking trail in the Portofino Natural Reserve
The natural park of Portofino is a beautiful place for hiking. We started our walking in Portofino and ended in Santa Margherita Ligure, where we were able to catch the train heading back to Genova. The hike is very well marked by different sets of geometric figures, and there is no risk of getting lost. The most tricky bit is right at the beginning, with a steep ascent starting outside Portofino, before descending again toward San Fruttuoso.
There is only one water fountain at Pietre Strette, halfway between San Fruttuoso and Santa Margherita; it’s better to bring some water provisions. It took less than four hours of walking, plus time for visiting San Fruttuoso (we’d say two hours). It’s a challenging hike which allowed us to get some great landscapes on our way, and we would suggest it to everybody. Moreover, in Santa Margherita, there is an excellent ice cream shop that works really well as a reward!
Which is your favorite postcard from Portofino?