A charming fishing village on the Ligurian coast, Portofino is one of the most picturesque settings in the country. It's a popular day trip destination with tourists - most arrive by boat to the cobbled piazetta surrounded by colorful facades that house boutiques, restaurants, cafes and residences. While the village is small in size, it's notorious for being over-the-top expensive, but if you can manage even a couple nights in Portofino, you're in for a real treat. The relaxed atmosphere makes the sleepy village my favorite place to either start or end a trip to Italy. Below you'll find a guide to all my favorites including beaches, sights, hotels and restaurants.
Twinning with the beautiful Portofino waterfront.
HOW LONG IN PORTOFINO
One to two nights. Length of stay in Portofino depends entirely on how long you want to relax. Portofino is sleepy, quiet and low stress, all reasons why I love to start or end trips to Italy in this charming village. If you're someone who likes a packed day of sightseeing, then visiting Portofino by day trip might be a better option, as there isn't a lot to do. But if a late morning coffee, midday village stroll, afternoon on the beach and aperitivo on the piazetta sound appealing, then opt for one to two nights in town.
If I owned a scooter, it would look just like this.
Portofino's iconic golden villa sits perched on Cannone Bay. From the main road in front of Hotel Piccolo, there are steps that lead down to the tiny, quiet cove where visitors will find a small patch of rocky beach, as well as coastal rocks for sunbathing. The water is calm, and the dazzling Ligurian villas are close enough for a swim. Cannone Bay is a five-minute walk from the main part of town.
This 15th century castle is accessed via a short climb from the harbor, up the cobbled alleyways and past the Chiesa San Giorgio. Castello Brown itself is underwhelming (it feels more like a museum than a castle), but the views from the grounds perched high atop the Ligurian peninsula offer a sweeping panorama of the village waterfront.
It's a 20 to 30-minute walk from Portifino's port to reach Paraggi Beach. The small stretch of coast is divided by private beach clubs where guests pay for access to their umbrellas and sun beds. There is also a small section of free public beach.
SANTA MARGHERITA LIGURE
The resort town of Santa Margherita Ligure is a 10-minute drive from Portofino. If you're looking for a bit more liveliness than sleepy Portofino, then hop over to its bustling neighbor for an afternoon of food, shopping and an iconic Riviera beach scene at Spiaggia Regina Elena.
The iconic Golden Villa on Portofino's Cannone Bay.
Quiet morning on the waterfront before the day trippers arrive to town.
STAY IN PORTOFINO
Nestled in the hills overlooking Portofino is the Belmond Hotel Splendido, one of the most luxurious properties in Italy. Once a 16th century monastery, this enchanting retreat boasts Old World charm that has welcomed Winston Churchill, Clark Gable, Humphrey Bogart and Elizabeth Taylor. The pool is one of the prettiest in Italy, perched above the dreamy Riviera coastline. The hotel's location is ideal, a short walk to both Cannone Bay and the harbor.
A second upscale option in Portofino is Eight Hotel Portofino, a short stroll up the road from Belmond Hotel Splendido. The intimate boutique property houses a mere handful of rooms in an authentic Ligurian house.
A completely underwhelming property with dreary rooms, but it's one of the few midrange options in Portofino, and the location pretty is epic. Hotel Piccolo sits just below the Belmond Hotel Splendido, so you get the same epic location for a third of the cost. And it's just a few steps away from Cannone Bay, one of the most iconic coves in Italy.
Cannone Bay is a small public beach, a five-minute walk from the center of town.
Two weeks in Italy packed into this giant luggage.
EAT IN PORTOFINO
DA | GEMELLI
Small restaurant located in the heart of the harbor with al fresco dining right on the water. Menu includes a selection of pastas and fresh seafood.
Located in the heart of Portofino on the piazetta, Ristorante Puny also serves up pastas and a variety of seafood dishes. Wonderful spot to people watch over lunch or dinner.
Popular restaurant located right on the town piazetta. Menu is pricey, but they serve a delicious selection of fresh pasta (the pesto lasagna is delicious!) and seafood. Trattoria Tripoli is always packed - arrive at opening for lunch, and make reservations for dinner.
Family-run establishment tucked away in the back of town that serves fresh pasta and seafood. Trattoria Concordia is small, reservations recommended for seating at dinner.
Last minute shopping in Portofino.
You don't need a drone to take this photo, simply walk up to Castello Brown from waterfront.
GETTING TO AND AROUND PORTOFINO
For travelers arriving by train, the closest train station is Santa Margherita Ligure, and from there it's a short taxi ride to Portofino. Once in Portofino, everything is reachable on foot. The entire length of town can be strolled in just 15 minutes - that's what makes Portofino such a popular destination to visit by day trip.
I love the bright colors that adorn the piazetta.
One of the prettiest swim ladders backdrops in Italy.