Visiting Portofino in the Italian Riviera

Boats Moored in Portofino, Italy
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The fishing village of Portofino on the Italian Riviera is known as a resort of the rich and famous. The picturesque, half-moon shaped seaside village with pastel houses lining the shore of the harbor has shops, restaurants, cafes, and luxury hotels. In addition to the clear green waters around Portofino which are home to a vast array of marine life, a castle sits atop the hill overlooking the village. There are numerous opportunities for hiking, diving, and boating.

Portofino sits on a peninsula in the Tigullio Golf east of Genoa in the northern Italian region of Liguria. Santa Margherita Ligure, a larger resort town, and Camogli, a small fishing village, are nearby towns also worth a visit.


Frequent ferries go to Portofino from Santa Margherita Ligure, Rapallo, and Camogli, from late spring through early fall. You can take a boat from Genoa or other Riviera towns to the south. The closest train stations are Santa Margherita Ligure and Camogli.

A bus station for the bus to Portofino is just outside the Santa Margherita station. Portofino is car-free but you can drive the narrow, winding road close to the village where there is a small parking lot. In the tourist high season of summer, Portofino is usually very crowded, and driving and parking can be difficult.

Where to Stay and Eat

Eight Hotel Portofino is a four-star resort hotel. Hotel Piccolo Forno is a less expensive four-star hotel in a period villa. More hotels can be found in Santa Margherita Ligure, a good base for visiting both Portofino and Cinque Terre.

As one might guess, Portofino's restaurants specialize in seafood. You'll also find Genovese specialties such as the green minestrone. Most of the restaurants ring the harbor and have a high cover charge.

You can also taste local wines and visit Villa Prato with its gardens and wine cave on Select Italy's Wine Tasting in Picturesque Portofino tour.

Castello Brown 

Castello Brown is a huge fortress built in the 16th century that is now a house museum. The castle became the residence of Yeats Brown, British consul to Genoa, in 1870. It sits on a hill above the village, which can be reached by a path near the Botanic Garden. The castle has great views of Portofino and the sea. Inside are furnishings and pictures belonging to the Browns as well as photos of many famous visitors to Portofino.

San Giorgio Church and Lighthouse

In a panoramic position on the way to the castle, you can visit San Giorgio Church, rebuilt after the last war. Another scenic pathway takes you clear out to the lighthouse, Faro, on Punta del Capo.

Portofino Regional Park

There are a number of good hiking trails both along the coast and on inland routes, many offering spectacular views. The northern part of the park is wooded with a variety of trees while in the southern part you will find more wildflowers, bushes, and grasslands. Olive trees are cultivated in many places and close to the villages you may see orchards and gardens.

Portofino Marine Protected Area

Most of the water along the coast from Santa Margherita around to Camogli is a protected area and it is forbidden to enter the water in some places. There are 20 dive sites and diving can be arranged through local dive agencies. Swimming is allowed only in certain areas and boating is restricted near some of the shorelines. Parts of the coastline are very rugged and steep.

San Fruttuoso Abbey

On the other side of the peninsula, which can be reached from Portofino by a two-hour walk or by boat, is the Abbazia di San Fruttuoso. The abbey, built in the 11th century, is set among pine and olive trees. Under the water near San Fruttuoso is a huge bronze statue of Christ, Cristo degli Abissi, protector of sailors and divers. Every July, there is an underwater procession to the statue where a laurel crown is placed.