Portofino On a Budget
SightsStarting at the very top of the village, sitting high up on a hill, is one of Portofino's signature sights-the Castello Brown. The 16th century castle was once used for the area's defense, though it now sits as a landmark and museum with fantastic views of the harbor and sea below. You can reach the castle by a path near the Botanic Garden.
The Church of St. Martin is another sight of antiquity, dating back to the 12th century. Other notable religious landmarks include San Giorgio Church and the San Fruttuoso Abbey which dates back to the 11th century in a quiet wood of pine and olive trees. Near San Fruttuoso there is a giant bronze statue of Christ that resides underwater. Named Christ of the Abyss, it is renowned as the protector of sailors and divers.
NeighborhoodsThe Piazzetta is the main square of Portofino. Overlooking the crystal green harbor, its cobbled space is a car-free zone-a scenic spot by the water to sit and relax amongst the pastel houses and charming cafes. This is a square to kick back with a glass of wine, enjoy the view, and absorb the Mediterranean atmosphere. While the Piazzetta is lined with a few designer boutiques, cafes, and restaurants, the cobbled Main Street branches off from the square with even more to offer. The shopping scene in Portofino primarily consists of high-end clothing, jewelry, and accessories. Also nearby are hiking trails that lead to the neighboring village of Santa Margherita Ligure. This is where the closest train station is located. Camogli is another town close by, a fishing village with pastel houses and a pebbled beach.
ActivitiesBeyond shopping, dining, sightseeing, and taking in the glorious views the main activities in Portofino include boating, hiking, and diving. The harbor is primarily filled with yachts, which many vacationers take out to spend the day on the sea. Public boats are also available for those who wish to see the Christ of the Abyss or go out for a dive. Most of the water along the coast from Santa Margherita around to Camogli is a protected marine area, where it is forbidden to enter the water. There are a number of locations where swimming is allowed, and diving can be arranged via local diving agencies.
As far as hiking goes, Portofino Regional Park has a number of good hiking trails both inland and along the coast with many spectacular views. The northern part of the park is wooded and thick with trees, while the southern part mainly thrives with wildflowers, bushes, and grasslands. You might also come across some olive tree orchards and local gardens.
Food and DiningBeing located right on the water, Portofino has access to a great selection of fresh fish and seafood. Restaurants in the village range from Italian comfort food to fine dining, and are very busy especially on the weekends. Olive oil is used in almost everything, and the most common sauce is pesto made with basil, pine nuts, garlic, olive oil, and Parmesan cheese. There are many different kinds of homemade pastas like trofie and tagliatelle, as well as a selection of meat dishes like veal roulades, lamb stew, and stuffed pancetta all seasoned with aromatic herbs and spices of the region. There are also a number of gelato stalls along the harbor, serving a kind of Italian ice cream. One of the more signature flavors is nocciola, a blend of hazelnut and chocolate. Other small bites include things like focaccia and vegetable pies. Be aware that restaurants in Portofino run on Italian time with lunch served generally between 2pm and 4pm and dinner hours starting at 8pm.
TransportationThe nearest major airport is Genoa Cristoforo Colombo Airport in the city of Genoa which has daily flights from other major European cities like Rome, London, Munich, Paris, Moscow, and Istanbul. From there it is easy to rent a car and make the journey to Portofino in a little over an hour due to city traffic (distance is actually just over 22 miles). Be aware that Portofino's streets are very narrow and windy.
The next closest airports are in Nice, France and Milan, Italy.
The nearest railway station is about 5 km from Portofino in Santa Margherita Ligure. A train from Genoa will take about 45 minutes, and then you can catch a bus from the S. Margherita Ligure-Portofino station to Portofino.
Frequent ferries also go to Portofino from Santa Margherita Ligure, Rapallo, and Camogli, from late spring through early fall.