Portofino Travel Guide: A Weekend On The Italian Riviera

This pretty fishing village is one of Italy’s most alluring destinations.
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Panoramic view of the Portofino coast with colorful buildings and sailboats in the water

The charming fishing village of Portofino is one of Italy’s most alluring resort destinations. Portofino is located along the Italian Riviera just north of the Cinque Terre. This beautiful town features a small harbor lined with colorful homes, designer stores and chic bistros along the boardwalk. It’s a tiny place, home to only 400 residents year-round and a handful of yachts. But it’s a gem that is absolutely worth a visit and makes for a perfect 2-night getaway.

Table of Contents

  • Portofino
  • Paraggi
  • San Fruttuoso
  • Santa Margherita Ligure

Depending on your budget, you can stay in Portofino or sleep at the nearby Paraggi beach. Otherwise, there are plenty of accommodations in Santa Margherita Ligure which is a great base for exploring the area.

View of Portofino's colorful buildings and different boats from the water on a sunny day

What to See in Portofino

There’s not much to do in Portofino but wander and enjoy the beautiful setting of the town. Take a stroll along the harbor before making your way up past the church of San Giorgio to Castello Brown, a 15th-century castle overlooking the harbor. It’s worth the €5 entry ticket to enjoy the gardens and the highest viewpoint of Portofino Bay. If you’re in the mood for a longer walk, you can continue the trail to reach the Portofino Lighthouse and La Portofinese. This eco-farm produces local products (like craft beer, wine, and organic honey). It also arranges guided tours, picnics, and wellness experiences on the promontory.

©DaV Mare, Belmond Splendido Mare

For a decadent lunch with mesmerizing views of Portofino’s bustling square, book a table at DaV Mare – Trattoria di Pesce. Part of the Belmond Splendido Mare hotel, it’s a chic spot that serves excellent traditional dishes made with carefully-sourced, seasonal ingredients. Shellfish is the star of the show, but you’ll also find beef tartare, lamb chops and creative vegetable sides. The trofie with homemade pesto are tossed freshly at your table (and if you’re lucky, you’ll be served the entire pan to scoop every last noodle). The wine list has an ample selection of Ligurian labels, including heroic wines from the Cinque Terre, while the cocktails focus on artisan liquers distilled by family-run producers.

Tucked behind the piazzetta, Gepi is a quaint cafe-gelateria set in a pretty corner of town. Enophiles shouldn’t miss pulling up a seat at Winterose Wine Bar: this little enoteca is perfect for a glass of wine and a bite to eat at lunch or pre-dinner aperitivo. There are only 5 tables outside so call to book ahead. Across the harbor, Ristorante Lo Stello serves excellent fish dishes with scenic views of the water. And Trattoria Tripoli in the main piazza complements al fresco dining with classic cooking (including a delicious pesto lasagna).

How to get to Portofino

The closest train station is Santa Margherita Ligure, which is a great base for exploring the area. From here you can catch a bus, hop on a 15-minute ferry or come on foot. The 5km coastal trail is a beautiful walk that takes you past hidden coves, beach clubs, and seaside villas. Portofino is a pedestrian town but if you arrive by car, there is a parking lot off the main road.

Where to Stay in Portofino

If you can afford to splurge, there is no better place to stay in than the Belmond Hotel Splendido. Originally a 16th-century Benedictine Monastery, the hotel has been welcoming a VIP clientele since 1901. It is thereby considered to be one of Italy’s most iconic properties. Even if you don’t stay overnight, it’s worth a visit for a panoramic lunch.

A pool with sun loungers on a balcony overlooking a scenic bay

What to See in San Fruttuoso

You can’t miss a visit to the Abbey of San Fruttuoso while you’re in the area. The 13th-century Benedictine Monastery is set within a scenic bay that overlooks a pebbled beach. It’s a perfect escape for some sunshine and lunch. You can only reach via boat or on foot (the hike is 2 hours so I’d recommend the boat!). There are multiple destinations where you can hop on a ferry, including Santa Margherita Ligure and Portofino.

During the summer, you can rent sun loungers from the Bagni San Fruttuoso or lay out on the free beach area. The cove is tiny so make sure to show up early to snag a spot. And as usual, visiting during the shoulder season is ideal! I visited on a warm day in April and the setting was pristine. For lunch, book a table at Da Giorgio, a little restaurant set above the sea directly across from the ferry dock. Eating trofie al pesto while gazing at the shimmering sea is certain to be one of the highlights of your trip.

A 13th-century Benedictine Monastery overlooking a pebbled beach full of people

What to do in Paraggi

Set between Santa Margherita Ligure and Portofino, Paraggi is a sleepy beach cove with a sandy beach. It’s low-key and elegant, with a couple of beach clubs and a crystalline sea. Langosteria Paraggi is a gorgeous eatery overlooking the sea. It’s open from morning to night, and they have a beach menu if you want to order directly from your lounger.

Where to Stay in Paraggi

Situated right in Paraggi’s exclusive little cove, the Eight Hotel Paraggi is an idyllic escape. The best part? It’s just a short stroll to Portofino.

Colorful buildings along the Portofino coast on a sunny day

What to do in Santa Margherita Ligure

And last but not least, Santa Margherita Ligure. It may not have the name recognition of Portofino but it’s a chic port town and arguably the best place to stay in the area for the breadth of accommodations, shopping and dining options. From here, it’s easy to move along the coast: catch a train to Chiavari for easy transfers to the Cinque Terre and Rome, or hop on a train to Camogli to explore another beautiful seaside destination.

Marina full of boats on a sunny day in Santa Margherita Ligure

Where to Eat in Santa Margherita Ligure

The best bakery in town is Fior di Ponti which serves up freshly baked bread, cakes, and Liguria’s famous focaccia. Order whatever flavor comes out of the oven because focaccia is best eaten when it’s warm and soft. It’s truly heavenly! For aperitivo, I loved Vineria Macchiavello, an old-school enoteca & bistro located along the main street. There are a few tables outside and you can enjoy abundant finger food to accompany your wine for under €10/person. Vernissage, a small cocktail lounge set on an incline beneath a stone castle, has friendly service with panoramic views of the port.

For lunch or dinner, Reve Cafe is a cozy and romantic little bistro that serves local (and some international) dishes. Angolo 48 is another lovely place that serves contemporary, Ligurian cuisine while Ristorante Beppe Achilli has a great location along the waterfront.

Where to Stay in Santa Margherita Ligure

The Grand Hotel Miramare is a beautiful hotel with a panoramic pool and gardens. Villa Gelsomino Seaside Luxury House is set within a 19th-century palazzo with a gorgeous terrace. If you prefer curated, boho accommodations, try BluDiTe.

View of the coast at sunset with birds flying in the air and a sailboat on the water
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