Are you planning your holidays in Portofino and want to know what to see in a day?
Looking for a guide to explain the best itinerary for your short visit to Portofino step by step?
In this article, we will discover the best Portofino attractions together, and how to visit them all in one day.
Are you ready for this? Let’s get started.
One day in Portofino Italy
Located in the western part of the Gulf of Tigullio, under the promontory of the same name, Portofino is part of the Natural Marine Protected Area located east of Genoa.
Characteristically a fishing village, with small colourful houses alternating with elegant boutiques, this famous tourist resort is one of the main attractions in the Ligurian Riviera.
What to see in Portofino in a day
If you only have one day to spend visiting Portofino, you can still immerse yourself in the magical atmosphere that this small town can offer, even in just a few hours.
Its name, the etymology of which dates back to the ancient Romans who called the village Portus Delphini (precisely because of the presence of many dolphins along the coast), is indicative of the type of landscape that develops precisely around the port, overlooking the incredible crystal clear waters of the bay of the same name.
Being a typical seaside village, you can start your visit right from the sea, perhaps reaching Portofino by docking at its marina where the traditional fishing boats are anchored alongside the luxurious yachts of billionaire tourists who are used to spending long periods of vacation here.
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The old part of the village still preserves the structure of a typical Roman colony, appreciable in the numerous ancient finds that characterize the historic center.
Start your visit from the famous Piazzetta, which overlooks elegant shops, restaurants and bars, where you can stop to enjoy a fresh aperitif.
Considered the symbol of Portofino, this place has been celebrated in numerous films (the most recent are The Wolf of Wall Street with Di Caprio and Murder Mystery with Jennifer Aniston and Adam Sandler).
In July 2012, the Piazzetta was classified as a historic venue in Italy, thanks to its cultural value that has made it famous throughout the world.
In this magical place, you can admire the elegant rows of houses with pastel-coloured facades, which at sunset take on a fabulous appearance, perfectly integrated into the green frame of the surrounding Mediterranean greenery.
Church of San Martino
In the oldest part of the old town, I recommend you pay a visit to the church of San Martino, built in the twelfth century, in honor of San Martino.
After climbing the long staircase located in front of the facade, you can admire the nave, finely decorated both laterally and in the vaults which are decorated with polychrome frescoes.
The area of the presbytery preserves numerous works by artists of all ages.
Oratory of Santa Maria Assunta and Church of San Giorgio
Another monument that you cannot overlook is the oratory of Santa Maria Assunta, a splendid example of Gothic style that stands out against the panorama of the surrounding mountains.
The church of San Giorgio, which houses the relics of the saint, is also a very interesting destination for its Romanesque architecture.
Castle Brown Portofino
Through the ascent to the church of San Giorgio, you can reach, after a walk of about ten minutes, the Brown Castle, surrounded by a scenic Mediterranean garden full of roses and pergolas.
I suggest you visit the many rooms inside, all enriched with paintings of great artistic interest.
Pay particular attention to the stairs for their characteristic medieval coffered wooden roof, with paintings depicting images of saints and martyrs.
A must-see stop is the one on the panoramic terrace, from where you can enjoy a 360-degree view of the coastal areas below.
Although the construction of Brown Castle seems to date back to the second century or from the time of Roman domination, the structure that you can now see dates back to 1400 when it was used for military purposes for the protection of the underlying historic center of Portofino.
At the end of the 1800s, it was purchased by Sir Brown, who commissioned its renovation, transforming it from a military fortress into an exclusive home, one of the most famous in the world.
The park of Portofino
The natural park of Portofino, located in the area of Golfo Paradiso, has an area of eighteen square kilometers and is covered in lush Mediterranean vegetation, consisting of dense forests of hornbeams, hazels, strawberry trees and olive trees.
A visit through the paths of the park is absolutely recommended, as it would allow you to immerse yourself in the fabulous nature of the place, populated by a particularly varied fauna.
Established in 1939 to protect the typical species of Mediterranean vegetation that grow on the steep slopes dotted with outcropping rocks, the park is accessible on foot or by mountain bike.
I recommend that you take a close look at the many species of birds that live there, including some birds of prey, such as buzzards and peregrine falcons, that nest on the cliffs below.
In addition, many species of wildlife live inside the park, the most common being wild boars, beech martens, foxes and numerous domestic goats, as well as the red squirrel, which have become so accustomed to visitors that they no longer scare when visitors pass.
With more than eighty kilometres of paths and numerous archaeological sites to see, this natural park allows you to isolate yourself from the crowds of tourists and offers you a break for reflection in the shade of the thick vegetation. Connected to the land there is also a marine protected area, where a variety of protected fish fauna live: it is the Marine Area belonging to the Natural Park, which I recommend you to visit.
The Mount of Portofino
The Monte di Portofino, the highest peak of the promontory, belongs to the Ligurian Apennines, and at six hundred meters in height, is located on the border between the municipalities of Santa Margherita Ligure and Camogli.
If you love trekking and breathtaking views, I suggest you spend a few hours on an excursion to this earthly paradise, where the typical forests of the Mediterranean are home to many wild animals.
Crossed by a dense network of paths, this enchanted place allows you to climb from the beach of Paraggi along the Valley of Mills, where you can see many ruins in a natural environment of rare beauty.
An alternative route is the one that goes up from Santa Margherita along a more difficult path and then descends towards the historic center.
While the north-eastern side is almost completely covered by thick woods, the southern side is characterized by the alternation between steep valleys and rocky walls, which descend steeply to the coast.
Walking along some paths, you will surely be enchanted by the view overhanging the sea of bays that can only be reached on foot.
Portofino beach: which are the best beaches near Portofino?
What if I feel like going to the beach?
During your short holiday in Portofino, it is impossible not to stop at one of the many beautiful beaches that line the bay.
If you love unspoilt natural scenery, I suggest that you make an excursion to one of the many coves accessible by sea, where you can dive into the intense turquoise waters, which lap beaches formed by silver pebbles.
The most famous beaches of Portofino are Paraggi, San Michele di Pagana and Santa Margherita Ligure.
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The beach of Paraggi, characterized by small and isolated coves that are located within a bay of particular beauty due to the presence of rich vegetation, is able to offer you a relaxing break, isolating you from mass tourism.
Famous for its coral-rich seabed and the presence of a wreck dating back to 1917, this beach guarantees you the opportunity to dive in the turquoise waters along the coast.
One of the few sandy beaches that you can see on the east coast can also be found nearby.
Located between Portofino and Rapallo, Paraggi is an ancient fishing village overlooking the Gulf of Tigullio, where the color of sea water glissens like emerald.
Due to its geological conformation, this sandy beach offers the opportunity for a pleasant break suitable for children, unlike many other coastal areas of Liguria, where rocks and stones prevail.
Paraggi is rightly considered a place of natural interest, for its enchanting inlet overlooked by the famous nineteenth-century castle, adapted from an ancient fortress in Genoese style, which was used as a sighting center for pirates for its elevated position.
San Michele di Pagana
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Located along the road between Santa Margherita Ligure and Rapallo, the beach of San Michele di Pagana is considered one of the most beautiful corners of Liguria.
You can admire the crystal clear waters of the sea, which reflect the silhouettes of the pines that grow along the coast.
Walking through this small hamlet, you can breathe a timeless atmosphere where the old fishermens’ houses overlook the sea, and the cliffs full of seagulls alternate with the thick Mediterranean scrub.
The village dates back to Roman times and also allows you to admire works of art such as the old parish church, inside which the famous Crucifixion by Anton Van Dyck is kept.
Continuing towards the upper part of the hamlet, you will find the suggestive cemetery, rich in numerous burial monuments, which is part of the Parco della Rimembranza, from which you can observe the sea among centuries-old maritime pines.
The Saracen Tower is of particular interest to many.
Built around 1500, it stands on the pagan tip, the role of which was to defend the neighboring villages from pirate raids.
Many areas along this stretch of coast are owned by the Fondo per l’ambiente italiano (FAI), which has been responsible for their conservation and enhancement since the 1980s.
On the promontory, you can reach the Castle of Punta Pagana, surrounded by a beautiful park, a destination of great cultural interest.
Santa Margherita Ligure
Located in a basin closed by the promontory of Portofino and the Gulf of Tigullio, Santa Margherita Ligure is a popular seaside resort along the east coast.
Visiting this resort, you can admire the beautiful villas and luxurious residences that accommodate tourists all year round, due to the mildness of the climate and the particularly favorable environmental conditions.
This town also has Roman origins and was founded as a fishing village, targeted by numerous pirate attacks.
Walking through its historical centre, you will come across the two villages of Corte and Pescino, which suffered from continuous fratricidal battles in the Middle Ages.
Thanks to the presence of flourishing seaside tourism related to the countless luxury hotels and restaurants of great fame, Santa Margherita is now a popular attraction for cruise tourism, being gifted with a particularly equipped port.
During your excursion, I suggest you visit the beautiful craft shops where you can find famous lace, produced according to local tradition.
Walking along the ancient alleys you can discover the many characteristic corners of the town, rich in a remarkable artistic heritage, which also translates into examples of deco architecture seen on many villas built in the early 1900s.
Among these, the Villa Durazzo-Centurione allows you to admire its large seventeenth-century park with a beautiful Italian garden.
I also recommend a visit to the ancient Abbey of Cervara, a monastic complex whose construction dates back to 1300, built overlooking the sea and surrounded by endless English gardens.
On the promenade you can see the sixteenth-century Castle of Santa Margherita, an imposing building surrounded by greenery, which has now become a private property.
If you are travelling with children, I suggest you take them to the Magic Flute Park, inspired by the famous opera by Mozart, where you can enjoy peace and relaxation among playful paths surrounded by greenery.
Although it is one of the most popular destinations for national and international tourism, Santa Margherita maintains a quiet and reserved atmosphere, typical of a fishing village.
Besides, you can stop at one of the many restaurants, where you can taste the famous food and wine products of Ligurian cuisine, pleasantly ending your stay at this location.
How to get to Portofino
If you want to get to Portofino you can choose between car, train, plane (if you come from far away) or on foot, also selecting the various routes surrounded by nature that characterize these areas of the Ligurian coast.
How to get to Portofino on foot
If you love slow tourism alongside wild and uncontaminated nature, where the silence is interrupted only by the chirps of the birds, I suggest you leave for your trek from Santa Margherita Ligure and walk along a wonderful scenic road, or opt for a more shaded itinerary through the woods, immersing yourself in the aromas of the typical herbs of the local vegetation.
You can reach the Piazzetta directly after walking for about an hour through unforgettable natural landscapes.
Portofino is an almost entirely pedestrianized village, which therefore offers you the opportunity to enjoy the quiet rhythms of sea life.
Alternatively, you can reach Portofino starting from Rapallo, along a wonderful route that is just over eight kilometers long; from the Pagana sidewalk and crossing the path of the Kisses, you can reach your destination in about a hour and a half.
I suggest you admire the famous facades of the fishermens’ houses, painted according to the Ligurian tradition of trompe-oeil dating back to 1700.
Passing from the small Gulf of Paraggi you will arrive in Portofino in no time, after walking along a path which allows you to glimpse the sparkling waters of the sea below.
How to get to Portofino by car
Driving along the A12 Genova-La Spezia motorway, you have to exit at Rapallo, then take the provincial road number 227 in the direction of Santa Margherita Ligure.
From the motorway tollgate, the route takes about twenty minutes to drive when traffic conditions are good.
The journey between Genoa and Portofino by car takes about half an hour.
Where to park in Portofino
Remember that Portofino is a pedestrian zone, and therefore does not allow the transit or parking of vehicles unless authorized.
Therefore, if you arrive near the village, you are obliged to leave your car in the paid car park in Piazza Martiri della Libertà, which is open 24 hours a day.
Alternatively, you can park for free a little further away, near the disco Covo Nord Est, along the road that comes from Santa Margherita Ligure.
How to get to Portofino by train
If you choose the train as a means of locomotion to get to Portofino, you have to get off at Santa Margherita Ligure station, where trains from the Roma-Genova-Torino line, or the Bologna-Parma-Genova line, arrive.
From here you can continue on foot with a journey of about an hour and a half, by taxi or by bus (line 82), using a shuttle service that will take you from the station to Piazza dei Martiri in Portofino in about fifteen minutes.
The buses run at a fairly regular frequency, every half hour.
How to get to Portofino by plane: Which is the nearest airport to Portofino?
The two closest airports to Portofino are Pisa (Glileo Galilei International) and Genoa (Cristoforo Colombo).
From the airport you can choose whether to continue by shuttle bus that takes you to Santa Margherita Ligure or by means of a private car service with a driver, certainly more expensive but much more convenient, especially if you have luggage in tow.
Genoa airport is about forty-five kilometres away, which you can cover using the A12 motorway, if you have a personal car.
Even if you arrive at Pisa airport, you can continue by car or rent a vehicle from one of the many rental agencies at the airport.
How to get to Portofino by ferry
If you prefer to arrive in Portofino by sea, you can use the regular ferry service that ensures a constant connection from the Gulf of Genoa, to that of Tigullio or from the Gulf of Paradise.
In this way, you avoid the motorway, which is always very busy, and you can enjoy a relaxing journey, along with a quiet and very pleasant landscape.
Where to sleep in Portofino: the best hotels and B&Bs
For your stay in Portofino you can choose between four-star hotels with well-equipped rooms and suites of great luxury, considered among the best accommodation facilities in Italy for the excellence of their services, or you can choose to stay at one of the many B&B, which, for a much lower cost, are still able to offer you an excellent stay.
Belmond Hotel Splendido
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If you want to take a dip in the “Dolce Vita” in a historic luxury hotel where famous actors and celebrities such as Elizabeth Tayler, Richard Burton and Jennifer Aniston have stayed, you can take a look at the Belmond Hotel Splendido, housed in an ancient monastery from the sixteenth century, perched on a hill in a panoramic position.
Following a skilful restoration work that has maintained the charm of the building, this imposing building is considered the symbol par excellence of elegance for an elite clientele.
If you prefer to stay near the sea, you can go down to the Belmond Splendido Mare, which overlooks the beach and allows you to live immersed in the hectic seaside life of the place.
Do not forget the refined food and wine specialties that would allow you to discover new flavors and delicious aromas of the sea.
You can take a relaxing dip in the large saltwater pool or experience wonderful boat trips to reach the hidden coves.
The lush park that surrounds the structures allows you to rest in the shade of trees, in absolute silence.
70 rooms and suites at the Belmond Splendido Hotel and 16 rooms and suites at the Belmond Splendido Mare await you for a truly unforgettable holiday.
Surrounded by a lush park and directly overlooking the emerald waters of the bay of Portofino, this four-star hotel looks like a luxurious country villa and allows you to enjoy the many services offered, including a particularly well-kept restaurant.
The fact that you are just over a kilometre from Brown Castle offers you the opportunity to make pleasant excursions inland.
Hotel Regina Elena
Directly overlooking the sea, this hotel is only a few minutes from the beach and allows you to get out of your room and get straight to the beach.
On the beautiful open terrace you can enjoy a unique view and a cool and breezy climate, which can make your stay even more enjoyable.
If you prefer a more informal style, this is an ideal choice as the hotel is housed in a retro-looking Art Nouveau villa located directly on the seafront.
The spacious rooms are equipped with every comfort you would need and allow you to fully enjoy the elegant and refined spirit of the resort.
Hotel Italia e Lido
Built in the thirties, this hotel guarantees the opportunity to stay in a quiet and comfortable environment while being a short distance from the beach, which you can easily reach on foot.
Rooms and suites are spacious and bright, often with delightful terraces overlooking the Gulf of Tigullo.
In many suites, you can also have a fully equipped relaxation area.
Just five minutes from the port but located in a quiet and peaceful tree-lined avenue, Hotel Eden offers you the guarantee of a pleasant stay surrounded by green trees, being able to serve you an excellent bar-restaurant service.
If you are looking for more freedom to enjoy the seaside life to the fullest without schedules or obligations of any kind I recommend you to opt for a B & B, in Portofino you can find many solutions of this kind.
B&B Tre Mari
Located in a hilly area, this B&B is accessible by a picturesque stone staircase that climbs from the sea and allows you to admire fabulous views.
Breakfast, served in the garden, offers you the opportunity to start the day in the best way possible, immersed in the silence and shade of the large trees.
It is also possible to take advantage of the excellent restaurant service that the accommodation has available for guests.
Locanda del Parco
Located in San Fruttuoso in an ancient fishing village with a sea view, this B&B allows you to stay in an informal and private environment because the inn consists of only five guest rooms, furnished with a personal style and all very pleasant.
Where to eat in Portofino: the best restaurants
During your stay in Portofino, one aspect not to be overlooked is that of eating: remember that in this area you can find numerous restaurants with several of them serving the best of local food and wine.
If, on the other hand, you prefer less demanding solutions, you will still be spoilt for choice with many options to suit your taste.
This is one of the most renowned restaurants in Portofino, located near the port, from which it is supplied every day with freshly caught fish products, which are then cooked according to traditional recipes, paying particular attention to detail. You can choose whether to eat outside, under cozy gazebos, or in the elegant dining rooms inside. I suggest you taste the delicious sea bass in puff pastry baked in the oven and the famous homemade pappardelle with fish sauces.
Taverna del Marinaio
Active for over twenty-five years, this restaurant has become one of the symbols of the country and allows you to enjoy its famous appetizers of mixed fish, first courses and dishes, always based on fresh fish products, caught daily. If you are looking for a place of excellent quality but with affordable prices, stop at the Taverna del Marinaio and you will be satisfied.
Trattoria dei Pescatori
A historical restaurant par excellence of the village (opened since the early twentieth century), this restaurant is located in the nearby Santa Margherita and is famous throughout the area for the excellence of its food and wine production, inspired by local traditions. The delicious fish soup, the anchovies boiled and served with artichokes, various specialties based on shellfish and the exquisite soups with pesto are just some of the many possibilities that the menu offers, depending on the season, thus ensuring an undisputed freshness of ingredients.
Cucina di Nonna Nina
If you are looking for a restaurant without too many demands, but that still offers you fresh food and excellent quality, I suggest you get to San Rocco (which is a few kilometers from Portofino) to go to the kitchen of Nonna Nina. Created from a section of an ancient villa characterized by rustic elegance, the restaurant offers you homemade recipes prepared with great passion. Don’t miss the exquisite homemade pasta seasoned with traditional pesto, the fish or rabbit main courses and the famous lemon tart, the delicious taste of which, along with its intense aroma, you won’t forget.
Located directly on the port of Portofino, this renowned restaurant, as its name indicates, is run by twins, both passionate about gastronomy, who have created the menu of the restaurant based on a skillful mix of innovation and tradition. I recommend you taste the many typical regional dishes made with a twist, following the creations of the managers, who are able to offer you culinary experiences that you will never forget. The excellent wine bar is the pride of this restaurant.
If you want to immerse yourself in the magical atmosphere of the Piazzetta, this is the place for you as it allows you to enjoy great food while observing the “nightlife” that animates the area at all times of day and night. The rich menu offers a selection of appetizers based on fresh fish, croutons and snacks with a special flavor, followed by various recipes with fish products but also with meat, enriched with vegetables cooked in every way. Not to be missed is a taste of the delicious pizzas, prepared in a thousand variations, but all equally excellent.
Located on the Piazzetta, this restaurant is also suitable for those who are looking for meat dishes as well as fish because the menu offers a wide choice of dishes of both types. If you are a wine lover, the selection that you can enjoy at Chuflay has been recommended by the Michelin Guide, confirming the restaurant’s great expertise in the field of wine.
Da o Batti
Finally, this restaurant, a little far from the centre and situated in a quiet side street, offers you a relaxing alternative to taste the typical specialities of the Ligurian tradition, including delicious grilled fish flavored only with aromatic herbs or the scrumptious gnocchi with pesto.
Things to do in Portofino: conclusion
Well, we have come to the end of this article about the things to see in Portofino in a day, where we discovered the best attractions, the best hotels and restaurants and some guidance on how to get there.
If you need more information, leave a comment below, I’ll be happy to help you.