One day in Portofino, the jewel of the Italian Riviera

Mara Noveni | Live the World

November 23, 2022

One of the great ways to discover Italian beauties is to spend a day in Portofino, the jewel of the Italian Riviera, a seaside village located in Liguria. It is one of the first tourist resorts in Italy, a UNESCO heritage site, and is part of the Metropolitan City of Genoa in the Gulf of Tigullio. The name of this famous place derives from the denomination attributed by the ancient Romans, "Portus Delphini", in reference to the presence of a large number of dolphins that, already at the time of Pliny, the Elder, populated its waters.

Portofino is part of the Portofino Natural Park and the marine reserve, which also houses the cetacean sanctuary. The park is located between the Gulf of Tigullio and the Golfo Paradiso. It is a real naturalistic oasis, perfect for outdoor lovers, with its more than 80 km of paths that cross wild landscapes, rural settlements, and seaside villages, so rich in art and history.

© iStock/Olga Gavrilova

At the beginning of the 1900s, the British and the Germans discovered that this small fishing village could become a perfect place for holidays. If until the 1950s this town retained its character as a seaside village, today it has almost exclusively become a tourist destination. The Portofino square, as well known as the famous Piazzetta (like Capri), is the central point of the town and is located right in front of the marina, which hosts luxurious boats from all over the world. The village is a small jewel set in the park, with its colourful houses overlooking the marina, which at sunset takes on a fabulous appearance, in contrast with the intense green colour of the surrounding Mediterranean scrub.

© iStock/Olena_Z

Portofino is clustered around the small harbour and is known for the colourful façades of the buildings that line the shore. Along the path, there are cafes, restaurants, and small shops. This seaside village is accessible by car, but there is only a small parking lot and limited space. Therefore, I suggest you arrive by bus, water taxi or taxi from Santa Margherita Ligure, where you will leave the car. You can also rent an e-bike from Rapallo; the ride takes about 20 minutes.


Museum of the Park

This is a sculpture park, the tour lasts about 10 minutes, and from the top, it offers a wonderful panorama from its terraces, perfect for taking beautiful pictures. After visiting this open-air museum and climbing a ladder and then a climb, you arrive at Castello Brown.

© iStock/Marina113

Castello Brown

Castello Brown, dating back to the 1400s, dominates from above, with its impressive architecture and numerous rooms decorated with paintings. The first floor of the castle houses several themed rooms, from the Dolce Vita to images of Winston Churchill, Walt Disney, Oliver & Hardy, etc. A room is also dedicated to the representation of Portofino in miniature. The castle houses a Mediterranean garden with roses and pergolas on the outside, at the end of which we find a large and suggestive panoramic terrace.

© iStock/Luca Lorenzelli

The Lighthouse

Another walk from Castello Brown awaits us, lasting less than ten minutes to the lighthouse. At the end of this winding path, we find ourselves in front of a wonderful scene, the great white lighthouse standing against the blue sea. It is really worth it! The Portofino lighthouse has been active since 1910 and is a sighting place for cetaceans, dolphins, and whales. At the most extreme and panoramic point, we can sit for an aperitif at the Il Faro di Portofino lounge bar, open from morning until sunset. Here, you can taste La Portofinese Spritz, a special aperitif based on prosecco, soda, and limoncello, accompanied by a platter of Ligurian specialities.

© iStock/PhotoFires

Church of San Giorgio

Upon returning from the visit to the lighthouse, we find ourselves in front of the Church of San Giorgio, with its bright yellow facade. The church houses the relics of this famous saint. It is a very small church, built on the promontory cliff, destroyed four times during the wars, and always rebuilt.

A legend tells that the city of Portofino, home of expert sailors, put these men at the disposal of the Maritime Republic of Genoa for the galleys that went to the Holy Land. Returning from one of these trips, the sailors of Portofino brought with them the relics of the body of San Giorgio, which are still hosted inside the church. Even from the churchyard, you can enjoy a wonderful panorama, which offers an overview of this romantic Ligurian village.

Next to the Church of San Giorgio, suspended between sky and sea, we find the Terrace of San Giorgio, a perfect place for your photos on Instagram!

© iStock/boggi22

After visiting the upper part of Portofino, we go back down to the Piazzetta, enjoying the splendid views that nature and the place offer us. In the last part of the descent, we encounter small, charming shops which offer souvenirs and typical local products. Once back in the Piazzetta, we can enjoy a refreshment stop in a restaurant to taste the typical Ligurian dishes or in a bar for a refreshing drink or an ice cream, accompanied by the romantic sound of the lapping of the small waves.

A perfect way to end one day in Portofino, the jewel of the Italian Riviera, is to swim in the turquoise waters, at least in the summer. You can choose between the tiny town beach, a little crowded but very characteristic, or the Paraggi Beach, one of the most beautiful beaches in Liguria, where navigation is forbidden.

Portofino, the jewel of the Italian Riviera, is one of the best-known places in the Ligurian Riviera. But I will also tell you about other experiences not to be missed in this beautiful region, where the climate is always mild, and tourism is active. Other places, other stories ... not to be missed!

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