View from Castle Brown, Portofino
Travel

Seven Postcards from Portofino (and Beyond!)

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.

The sun kissing Portofino, Marseille
The sun kissing Portofino

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.

Palms and colored houses in Santa Margherita Ligure 🌴, Portofino
Palms and colored houses in Santa Margherita Ligure 🌴
Houses on the sea in Portofino
Houses on the sea in Portofino

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 😉.

Santa Margherita Ligure and its flowers 🌺 Portofino
Santa Margherita Ligure and its flowers 🌺

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!

Santa Margherita Ligure is a wonderful village, Portofino
Santa Margherita Ligure is a wonderful village
Focaccia and sun, perfect day, Portofino
Focaccia and sun, perfect day
Looking at the village from the castle in Santa Margherita Ligure, Portofinio
Looking at the village from the castle in Santa Margherita Ligure
Fiordiponti, best focaccia in Santa Margherita Ligure, Portofino
Fiordiponti, best focaccia in Santa Margherita Ligure

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 😊!

Climbing the stairs to San Giacomo and Villa Durazzo
Climbing the stairs to San Giacomo and Villa Durazzo
Villa Durazzo and its park, in Santa Margherita Ligure, Portofino
Villa Durazzo and its park, in Santa Margherita Ligure
The view from Villa Durazzo in Santa Margherita Ligure, Portofino
The view from Villa Durazzo in Santa Margherita Ligure

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!

Paraggi, a romantic harbor , Portofino
Paraggi, a romantic harbor
On the road to Portofino!
On the road to Portofino!
The amazing view on the road between Santa Margherita Ligure and Portofino
The amazing view on the road between Santa Margherita Ligure and Portofino
Walking in the woods to Portofino
Walking in the woods to Portofino
Villas over the sea in Paraggi, Portofino
Villas over the sea in Paraggi

4.) Portofino

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!

The famous Portofino square
The famous Portofino square
Basking in the sun, Portofino
Basking in the sun
Going to the lighthouse, Portofino
Going to the lighthouse
Portofino Village and its colored houses
Portofino Village and its colored houses
The lighthouse, the last piece of land before the open sea, Portofino
The lighthouse, the last piece of land before the open sea
The houses of Portofino under the sun
The houses of Portofino under the sun

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!

View from Castle Brown , Portofino
View from Castle Brown
Castle Brown, from Portofino square
Castle Brown, from Portofino square
Admiring the landscape from Castle Brown, Portofino
Admiring the landscape from Castle Brown

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 😍.

Portofino from the road to San Fruttuoso, with the open sea behind
Portofino from the road to San Fruttuoso, with the open sea behind
traversing flower fields to San Fruttuoso
Traversing flower fields to San Fruttuoso
Current mood: Happiness! Portofino
Current mood: Happiness!

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.

San Fruttuoso abbey, with its beach 😍, Portofino
San Fruttuoso abbey, with its beach 😍
The central cloister in San Fruttuoso, Portofino
The central cloister in San Fruttuoso
The view from the restaurant in San Fruttuoso bay
San Fruttuoso from the Tower. It’s such a beautiful place! Portofino
San Fruttuoso from the Tower. It’s such a beautiful place!
Doge’s tombs in San Fruttuoso, in its typical ligurian bichrome style
Doge’s tombs in San Fruttuoso, in its typical ligurian bichrome style

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?