I’m never sure if I’m qualified enough to write travel guide or anything like that, but I’ll give it a try. Recently I went to Portofino in April and it was mind blowing, at least for me and here I am, creating this travel guide to Portofino. I didn’t stay in Portofino as I was staying in Milan, crashing in at my friend’s Airbnb. I had to wake up at 5am (put in mind that the day before, I have 5 hours of train from Switzerland to Milan) and buy the train ticket and take the train while I was kinda half asleep. Originally I wanted to go to Cinque Terre but based on the map, Portofino is closer that Cinque Terre from Milan. BUT… I also went to Cinque Terre in the end, although only to two out of five villages. Forewarning, this post is really long and there will be a lot of pictures, cause I like visual.
Before going down and talk about traveling to Portofino, Imma give you some info about the village taken from the trustworthy Google. Portofino is a fishing village and it is by the Riviera Ligure di Levante, located in the coastline of Italy and part of Genoa/Genova.
How to Get to Portofino?
It’s either car or train. I don’t have a car nor I have international driving license. So train it is. I took a very early train around 6 am from Milano Central Station and it took me 2 hours and a half. I had to change my train to bus in Santa Margherita Ligure. The street from Santa Margherita Ligure to Portofino can be very narrow at certain point. If you’re coming from any other city in Italy, just buy the ticket to Santa Margherita Ligure. When you got to Santa Margherita Ligure train station, there’s a bus stop outside and it’s coming every hour. The price of the bust is around €3-6 depending if you want to buy one-way or round trip. And the bus stop of Portofino is Portofino Capolinea, it will hard to miss the stop because it is the very last stop of Santa Margherita Ligure—Portofino Capolinea.
Santa Margherita Ligure
Where to Sleep in Portofino?
Like I said before, I didn’t stay in Portofino but in Milan. But don’t let me stop you for not staying in Portofino! There’s a few hotels and if you don’t want to particularly stay in Portofino, there’s always other city like Santa Margherita Ligure, or Genoa. If you still insisting on staying in Portofino, here are places you can stay in Portofino.
Belmond Hotel Splendido Portofino
Belmond have two hotels in Portofino, the one in the hill (picture below) called Hotel Splendido and the other in the Portofino Square and near the riviera called Splendido Mare. Both are luxury hotel and definitely high budget. Splendido Mare is smaller than the Hotel Splendido in the hill in term of room number. Go to their website for prices, exact locations, and offers. Website
Eight Hotel Portofino
Four-stars hotel with private garden and luxury interior and architecture. It is not in the Portofino Square but it’s nearby. The location is near the bus stop Portofino Capolinea. If you don’t want to be in the busy Portofino square, Eight Hotel Portofino is quite off the crowd radar. Website
Hotel Nazionale Portofino
Hotel Nazionale also located in Portofino Square, next to Belmond Splendido Mare. The hotel is a three-stars hotel and location wise, it is very strategic. The hotel’s restaurant is Ristorante Da Nicola Pizzeria, you can see it instantly when you’re in Portofino little square. If you want more homey kind of accommodation, then this family-managed hotel is something for you to consider. Website
Hotel Piccolo Portofino
Not exactly in Portofino, but it’s still nearby Portofino. It’s the farthest among the other hotel that I listed. What’s interesting is that this hotel is near the famous orange and pink villas that you’ve been seeing in on the Internet (picture below). If you haven’t seen it, you probably haven’t research much about Portofino. Website
What to Eat in Portofino?
Portofino is a fishing village and seafood is the best in there. That’s what I’ve heard. I didn’t try any seafood sadly. I arrived at 9 am in Portofino (left Milan at 6 am) and surprisingly, the really nice restaurant didn’t open until 12 pm. Starving and cannot wait for any restaurant when my stomach growls. And I know once I eat just a little bit, I’ll be full for a while.
Focaccia in Panificio
When I was walking around after my (solo) tour around Portofino and I noticed people holding this bread covered with paper. I finally found the source of the bread maker and it’s actually named focaccia. Focaccia is well-known in Genoa region and Portofino is part of Genoa, so there you go. I tried the olive Focaccia and it was an arm length bread. The saltness just about right for me and there are other kind of Focaccia other than olive.
Gelato in Gelateria San Giorgio
My little motto is always eat gelato when in Italy. I bet there’s several gelateria in Portofino but Gelateria San Giorgio is very noticeable once you’re in Portofino Square. I got myself pistachio and nocciola (hazelnut) flavors. A bit breezy weather when I was there, which was early April, for a cone of gelato but the cold never bother me anyway.
Seafood in Da O Batti
Portofino as a fishing village is self-explanatory already. I equate Portofino with Seafood heaven. Some of the restaurant in Portofino open at 12 pm or 12:30 pm and Da O Batti opens at 12:30 pm. I arrived in Portofino at 9 am and I really want to try Da O Batti. But then I was too hungry and I can’t wait anymore so I ate the Focaccia (and gelato), and my stomach capacity for food is very little. I also recommend you to reserve a table in Da O Batti if you can. If I go back here, I’ll have a lobster feast.
Seems to be very highly recommended by websites when I was searching “Restaurant in Portofino”. Since I didn’t try this restaurant and it’s hard to find information about Ristorante Puny, I cannot give you specific thing on what’s so special about this place. But when I was browsing on the Internet, I saw celebrities eating in that place. I think that’s pretty much sums up everything.
What to Do in Portofino?
This small fishing village called Portofino have a lot to offer. Although I spent only 4 hours and already got bored, but it’s because I didn’t do all the things that you can do in Portofino. Apart from enjoying the Portofino itself, buying souvenirs, stuffing your face with food and taking pictures of the village, here’s what you can do while you’re in Portofino.
Here’s a little map for you guys 😀
Chiesa San Giorgio
Church in the hill of Portofino looking at the Ligurian Sea and the Portofino village. Behind the small church is a graveyard. The view on the right side of the church is just a horizon, where the blue sky meet the deep blue sea. It was so calm and there was only me in there, looking at the calm sea (well there were people around but they were busy doing construction stuff). The view of Portofino village is quite decent from here, but this is not top of the hill yet.
Castello Brown is where you can see the best view of Portofino. From Chiesa San Giorgio to Castello Brown is not that far, you just have to go through an alley and you’ll know it when you reach the destination. To be honest, the Castello Brown itself is nothing but an empty, slightly creepy house/castle. Definitely not a lavish castle like Buckingham Palace or Versailles. I almost regret that I went here until I went to the terrace and I saw the best view of Portofino with the best angle (you can also see Hotel Splendido very clearly). Entrance fee is €5 and you get the view of colorful Portofino village and the sea (and the hill).
Very near from the Portofino Square, there’s a deck and a small booth where they sell cruise ticket to other places. In summer, they offer cruise destination to Cinque Terre. You can also take cruise from Santa Margherita Ligure to Portofino and vice versa. Other destination that will easier to go by cruise is San Fruttuoso (based on Google map, it’s impossible to do it by car).
It wasn’t a surprise to me when I saw high-end fashion brand in Portofino such as Dior, Louis Vuitton, Balenciaga (opening soon) and Salvatore Ferragamo. Considering that the Belmond Splendido hotel is also in high-end sector and yacht scattering on the water. Things that I always buy when I’m traveling is definitely postcards. There’s a store nearby the post office, and they sell watercolor postcard, it is limited edition up to 300 pieces and painted by local artists. There’s also a store that sells lace clothing (dresses mostly) and it is such a unique kind of apparel.
Any kind of water activities that you can think of are probably available in Portofino and it surroundings. Kayaking, paddle boarding, snorkeling and diving are the kind of water activities you can do in Portofino. One of the shop I encountered during my walk from Portofino to Santa Margherita Ligure is Outdoor Portofino. It took me around 21 minutes from Portofino to Outdoor Portofino.
I actually didn’t see any fisherman in action when I was in Portofino. If you’re a fishing enthusiast, you probably could rent a boat for a day and fish around in the Ligurian Sea. Or you can just enjoy the fishes straight in the restaurants.
I got to Portofino from Santa Margherita Ligure by bus. I go back to Santa Margherita Ligure from Portofino by foot. Yes, by foot. I walked more or less 5 km and it is manageable. I saw a lot of people walk the same path and it is not that difficult because there’s no extreme uphill or downhill. While walking that 5 km, I encountered beaches, villas and endless view of the Ligurian Sea. It is doable, trust me people. Once you get out from Portofino, you’ll encounter car road and it’s also walkable for pedestrian. Just walk near the edges so you’ll not get hit by a car.
Port Bay and the Famous Pink and Yellow Villa
Port Bay is the first bay I encountered. You can go down to the Port Bay by the rusty iron stairs (you’ll see the sign). The Port Bay is nothing but a very small beach with lots of rocks. What I like about Port Bay is very less crowded. When I mean less crowded, I mean there’s no sign of human. Portofino does have its own bay, but it may seems weird to play in the water while people watching. In Port Bay, you can play and dance in the water like no one’s watching. Additional view from the Port Bay is the famous pink and yellow villa. The famous pink and yellow villa I mentioned before is in the Port Bay. And you should definitely take picture of those.
After several kilometers or so, you’ll see a glimpse of another beach. This one is Paraggi Bay. Much bigger than Port Bay, and more populous. People are laying around sunbathing and kayaking. There are restaurants you can try on, and that’s pretty much it actually. But Paraggi Bay can be a tropical paradise with a beautiful sea on the side. When you are walking from Portofino, the beach is very eye-pleasing when you catch the glimpse of it after a long walk.
View Along the Walk
I can specifically describe to you every beautiful views and points along the walk from Portofino to Santa Margherita Ligure. But I also don’t want to bore you to death by my words (and I’m never good with words anyway). Why don’t I just show you by pictures and you see it yourself. Let me just say that It was one of the most amazing walks I had, or maybe the best one. And by the way, I was traveling solo to Portofino and walking by myself from Portofino to Santa Margherita Ligure wasn’t scary at all.
Hopefully you enjoy this Portofino Travel Guide, my first ever travel guide. Let me know if I miss some information or you know some other cool place in Portofino!!!
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