Portofino, Italy, things to do
What to see in Portofino, how to get there, the places that amazed me and the stereotypes that I have (in part) demolished. In this post, I will tell you about my day in one of the most beautiful villages in Italy, one that is also unexpectedly rich in history.
I admit, Portofino was certainly not in my top 10 of things to see in Liguria. I’ve always thought of it as too exclusive, unauthentic and extremely expensive.
But one day my wife said, “We could go to Portofino and take a walk to the lighthouse” and so, on a pleasantly sunny morning, we took the car and went.
find A cheap flight right now!
Where is Portofino?
Portofino is located at the western end of the Gulf of Tigullio, at the foot of a promontory. It is part of the Portofino Regional Nature Park and the protected marine natural area.
Its extension is tiny (about 1.8 square miles) but its sheltered and strategic position made it a safe landing place for ships until the era of the maritime republics.
Today Portofino has certainly changed since then and we immediately notice it as soon as we set foot in the square. Boutiques, expensive restaurants, but especially… jewelers, all crammed together.
Old-fashioned boats have left room for superyachts.
The real sailors have sailed to other shores while the performers and celebrities have begun to populate the village.
How to get to Portofino?
You can reach Portofino in several ways:
- By boat, from Rapallo/Santa Margherita Ligure or from Sestri Levante.
- By train stopping at Santa Margherita Ligure and then by bus (line no. 882).
- By bus, again from Santa Margherita Ligure (line no. 882).
- On foot, following one of the many paths through the regional park.
- By car, take the A12 highway and exit at Rapallo/Santa Margherita Ligure. I do not recommend this option because the parking spaces are scarce and the rates are terrific.
What to see in Portofino?
As I said, Portofino is tiny so, unless you want to do a trek on the promontory, you can safely see it in half a day and veeeeery calmly.
Here are the things that deserve a visit (I left for last what for me was really the TOP):
The harbor and the square
…of course. With the colorful houses that overlook the bay, which stand out between the blue sea and the lush vegetation of the promontory.
It will take you very little to walk through the marina but don’t just look at the chic places: raise your nose and look at the balconies: some are finely painted.
San Martino Church
The church of San Martino seems stuck between the provincial road and the houses of the village. It dates back to the 12th century and was built in a Lombard Romanesque style. If from the outside it seems rather sober, the interior of the church is richly frescoed.
To find it you will have to go up the alley that starts at the north-eastern end of the square.
San Giorgio Church
This church deserves a place in this list more for the scenery that you can admire from up there than for the church itself. It too dates back to the 12th century and offers a truly unique view of Portofino.
To reach the church of San Giorgio, starting from the small square, take the road uphill at the southern end, where the yachts dock.
It is clearly indicated, along with the path leading to the lighthouse of Portofino.
The Castle of Brown can be reached along the same route as the Lighthouse. Passing past the Church of San Giorgio, uphill, you will arrive at the stronghold.
The castle is beautiful and offers a 360-degree view of the Gulf of Tigullio, the promontory of Portofino, the port and the Church of San Giorgio.
Brown Castle is, in my opinion, a MUST visit, if you come to Portofino.
Its construction began in the 10th century. Until 1425 it remained under the dominion of the Visconti family and then passed under the Genoese rule. The original building, consisting only of the tower, a surrounding wall and a cistern, was enlarged over time.
In 1797, Napoleon conquered Liguria and the castle passed into the hands of the French who enlarged it further.
The building ceased to be military and strategic garrison after the unity of Italy. It was purchased by an English consul, Mr. Montague Yeats Brown, who restored it and converted it to a private home, furnishing it with taste and, above all, without altering its true nature.
Finally, in 1961, the castle became property of the municipality.
The most amazing thing about the castle is the view from the terrace and the circular tower. From any window, you can admire a breathtaking panorama: overlooking the sea or the hills.
The summer opening time is from 10.00 to 19.00 and the cost of the ticket is €5.
Don’t miss the room where you can see the photographs of the important people who visited Portofino: from Loren to Totò, from Churchill to Laurel and Hardy, from Walt Disney to Mastroianni.
Continuing the walk past the castle, the trail leads to the tip of the promontory and the lighthouse of Portofino, where you will find a bar and an exceptional barman.
The cocktails here are fabulous, my advice is to relax by filling your eyes with blue…