Our Top 5 Things to do in Portofino
- Stroll to Castello Brown and the Portofino Lighthouse for stunning views of the Portofino Bay and the Ligurian coastline.
- Visit the beautifully coloured buildings of the Cinque Terre by boat.
- Take the ferry to Santa Margherita and relax on one of Italy's nicest beaches.
- Try the delicious local Ligurian cuisine including fresh pesto and cuttlefish stews.
Luxury and old money. That was our first impression arriving in Portofino. That, and how picturesque it is! Whilst sitting in the Portofino Piazzetta sipping on a coffee you can imagine the rich and famous arriving in the 50's and 60's on their private yachts.
Situated in a beautiful little bay about 45 minutes to an hour from the Cinque Terre and only 45 minutes from Genoa, Portofino is the perfect base for exploring the Ligurian Coast (albeit quite an expensive base).
Things to do in Portofino
What are the top things to do in Portofino, Italy?
1. Walk to San Giorgio Church, Castle Brown and Portofino Lighthouse
For amazing views of the harbour, walk past San Giorgio Church and Castle Brown to the Portofino Lighthouse (Faro di Portofino). Walk up the stairs from the port that take you towards San Giorgio Church which dates back to 1154 but was largely destroyed in WWII. The views from the church and the cemetery are spectacular and well worth a visit.
Continue walking along the coast to get to Castle Brown and Portofino Lighthouse which have even better views of the harbour.
2. Visit the Cinque Terre
The Cinque Terre is one of the most beautiful places in Italy with its colourful buildings perched on seaside cliffs. No cars are allowed in the five towns, Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore, and so the only way to get there by train or boat. The majority of people use La Spezia or even Florence as a base but Portofino or Rapallo are great alternatives.
Hike between the five villages for incredible views from the top of the cliffs (the hikes between Monterosso al Mare to Vernazza and Vernazza to Corniglia are particularly special). You could also try kayaking between Riomaggiore and Manarola for beautiful views of the towns from the water.
3. 'People watch' in Piazzetta Portofino
There is nothing better than sitting in Portofino Piazzetta and enjoying a good Italian coffee while watching people going in and out of the many designer stores and art galleries that line the streets. The designer stores are mainly high-end jewellery and clothing, with very few souvenir stores - which is a bit of a relief to be honest after visiting the Cinque Terre or Amalfi Coast.
Whilst it is expensive to drink and eat in the main square, you have a terrific view of the harbour (and not a single car in sight!).
Many people start the day off with breakfast in the main square before taking a boat for the day on the Ligurian Sea.
4. Visit Santa Margherita and Rapallo
Hourly ferries connect Portofino with both Santa Margherita and Rapallo which are under 7 kilometres from Portofino. Portofino is small and expensive; whilst Santa Margherita and Rapallo are larger and much less expensive (however they are by no means less enjoyable). They both make for a cheaper base for exploring the Ligurian Coastline than Portofino.
Rapallo is the largest town on the Ligurian Riviera and has a beautiful promenade which culminates with a picturesque Castle in the sea - literally about 10-20 metres off the coast.
5. Eat amazing food
There is no shortage of quality (and expensive) restaurants in Portofino. All restaurants in Portofino serve fresh seafood and pesto which are the kingpins of Ligurian Cuisine.
Our favourite restaurant in the area, Raieu, is located about 15 kilometres south east from Portofino along the coast line towards the Cinque Terre. The restaurant serves delicious pesto pastas as well as fresh fish caught from restaurant's personal boat.
Where to stay
Portofino is a picture perfect postcard town but small and very expensive (don't even ask how much parking was!!). The best place to stay is in either Santa Margherita or Rapallo. There is a ferry every hour that travels between Rapallo, Santa Margherita and Portofino so they are all very accessible and it really does not matter where you stay.
We stayed at an Agriturismo in Rapallo, Agriturismo Cerisola, which had incredible views; although you would definitely need a car to stay there. The hosts were a very warm and friendly family who were more than happy to help us plan our days. We'd definitely recommend it.