Walk or Hike from Santa Margherita to Portofino

A Travel Guide for Getting to Portofino -Walk, Boat or Bus.

Hike the Portofino Hills or Walk to Portofino by the Seashore.  

You will love the walk to Portofino from Santa Margherita ! This wonderful Italian Riviera icon has been attracting the rich, the famous, and the ordinary since before Ligurian Pesto was invented.* Just everyone wants to see what the fuss is about. It's a serious question. Why would Giorgio Armani and Dolce & Gabbana have villas in a little fishing village? Since it's at the end of a peninsula and there's a crush of your fellow humans with the same idea, you need our help. We visited twice recently, with paper and pen and camera, to walk from wonderful Santa Margherita Ligure to Portofino. We also provide all the information you need to visit Portofino.
Portofino Harbor, Liguria
Portofino Harbor, Liguria                                          K. Hurley

Getting to Portofino Your choices are walking or using a bus, ferry boat, water taxi, or taxi. Driving your car rental to Portofino is a losing proposition. If you are allowed on the road at all, there are perpetual traffic jams and very little parking. The closest you can get by train is Santa Margherita. If you are able, we highly recommend you walk at least one way for a complete experience. This article describes the level seaside walk and a hilly but direct hike from Santa Margherita Ligure to Portofino. See More Info below for the other transport modes and resources for longer and different hikes.

The Safe Seaside Walk  Until recently, the walk from Santa Margherita Ligure to Portofino was a challenge, and not one to be taken lightly. Imagine a narrow road curving scenically along a beautiful coast, past promontories, sandy beaches, and craggy outcrops. Now picture two way traffic, including buses, with pedestrians flattening themselves against the stone sides of the road, trying to disappear for a few minutes in order to survive. There are a lot of out-of-date travel websites that still describe it that way. Fortunately, things have changed.


Seaside Walk, Santa Margherita to Portofino
Seaside Walk, Santa Margherita to Portofino
Replace the terrified pedestrians with walkers and joggers who now have the best views from a sidewalk or boardwalk running along the seaside of the road - suspended next to the road in the narrowest sections. Strolling couples, hikers with back packs, families with baby carriages share the walk, smiling and greeting each other as proper vacationers do. The view is to the south, the hills of the Italian Riviera meeting the bays and inlets of the Bay of Tigullio. The water is a constantly changing mosaic of blues that range from indigo to light aqua, with sunbathers below here and there on sand if available, on pebbles and rocks if not. In the shallows just below, you might see sport divers with enormous flippers searching for sea food.

Walkway to Portofino
Walkway to Portofino
The walk is easy and takes about 75 minutes since it's only 5.4 km - just over 3 miles - from the center of SML. Our directions are short: walk west along the shore. There’s only one section of about 50 feet where there isn't room for a sidewalk, and you pay close attention, then you’re back to your casual stroll.  Just over half way is Paraggi, a perfect cove with services and a beach, where the song Love In Portofino was written. The sidewalk then crosses the road and continues as a paved path in a pretty forest with gentle ups and downs. The views of the ocean, the rocky shore, and a few villas are artfully framed by pines and oaks.

There are a couple of different descents once you approach Portofino, and they’re all good ways to reach the famous piazzetta. Take the first stairway down, and you’ll descend to the near side of the pretty port, with boats, restaurants, shops, and plenty of places to sit and admire the views. Follow the path all the way and you'll arrive at the Church of San Martino to enter the small town from the land side.
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Where to Stay to See Portofino?
Liguria Hotel Guide & City Selector
Minimize the crowds and enjoy Portofino, Cinque Terre, & Liguria. We help you choose your location with the Pluses & Minuses for each town or city:
Link: Part 1: Cinque Terre South - Gulf of the Poets
Link: Part 2: Cinque Terre North to Portofino
Link: Part 3: Towns on the Portofino Peninsula
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Where are all these towns?
Liguria / Portofino / Cinque Terre Map
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The Overview Hike
View from Madonna della Neve toward Portofino
View from Madonna della Neve toward Portofino
There's a pleasant and direct hike from Santa Margherita Ligure to Portofino that provides excellent views of the south side of the Portofino Promontory. Overviews of SML will give way to glimpses of old villas and old farms. You'll pass little chapels and have the coast laid out in front of you like a travel brochure. There are flowers and vines, forested sections and garden scenes.

The hike takes less than 2 hours to reach Portofino from its unpromising start behind an IP gas station near the west end of Santa Margherita's harbor. It is hilly, but it's not torture. It is suitable for energetic children, but it could be slippery on the way down if there has been recent rain. The place names along the hike are:  SML-Madonna della Neve-Nozarego-Cappella di Gave-Paraggi, and the Paraggi-Portofino sidewalk as above. The blazes are red 'plus' and then red 'three dot'.

Olive Trees with Harvest Nets on the Portofino Slopes
Olive Trees with Harvest Nets on the Portofino Slopes
The hike starts with a steady hill climb on Salita Montebello in direction Nozarego and the views are a quick reward. The trails have periodic signs, so you'll have little trouble (note: you are not heading to Portofino Vetta as vetta = summit). When the first hill levels off, you are near the chapel of Madonna della Neve, and it's a nice place to rest and look. When you restart, you'll be on a road for about a 100 meters, then there's a left up a ramp toward a small group of old houses.

The hike continues past villas and gardens and olive groves, bordered often by stone walls. The views are inland here and seaward there, but always pleasantly distracting. When you reach Cappelletta di Gave, a tiny settlement, there's a marked trail junction, and our trail starts down. The descent is often walled, but after 15 minutes you arrive at Paraggi and there's lots to look at as you join the seaside walk described above.
Travel Tip___________________________________________________________________
Renting A Car in Italy.  Car rental prices are important, but don't rent based solely on low price and stick to well known companies. We have two articles to help you:        
                                          Link: Independent Car Rental Reviews for Italy 
                             Link:Car Rental Tips for Italy - Pick It Up Right 
We advise getting your car from one of the companies with the fewest problems reported (Avis, Europcar, Hertz, Autovia, Budget) either direct or via a reputable car rental broker such as AutoEurope. The advantages of using AutoEurope are the added services without paying more - 24/7 help line before, during, and after the rental; easy changes and cancellation; as well as available less expensive zero excess (deductible) insurance. If you find our efforts helpful, We hope you'll make your reservation through these links -using the links do not raise your price.
AutoEurope(US)  Auto Europe(UK)    Avis(English)    Avis(IT)      Budget Rent A Car (English)
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More Info
Read about the song that drew you here, whether you know it or not: Portofino - History of A Famous Place.

How to Bus to Portofino ATP Buses leave Portofino about every 20 minutes from 6:15 AM to 11:15 PM (to 12:45 AM in summer). In Portofino the bus stop is where the SML road enters town. Nearby is a ticket vending machine, and the one-way fare was 1.50E in April, 2014. In SML, catch the bus in the center of town or at stops along the route to Portofino. Buy tickets at a ticket machine, the tourist office or a news kiosk. Remember to validate your ticket upon entering the rear of the bus. ATP Bus Website Home (click Servizi per Utente / Percorsi e Orari / then the SML - Portofino map segment).

Ferry Boats to Portofino
Ferry boats operate along the coast from March through October, and it's a great way to see the famous coastline. We have an article with complete information, including ferries to Cinque Terre: Portofino Ferry Boat Schedules from Rapallo & SML

Local Artist Painting in Portofino Harbor
A Local Artist Painting in Portofino Harbor
Servizio Marittimo del Tigullio operates the ferry boats around this Gulf of Tigullio, serving Portofino, Rapallo, Santa Margherita Ligure, Sestri Levante, Chiavari, Lavagna, San Fruttuoso, Portovenere and Cinque Terre. All the times are in our article.

From Camogli. For ferry boats on the Liguria's Gulf of Paradise to the north read: Camogli to San Fruttuoso Ferry Boats with Recco & Portofino. There is info for boats serving Recco, Camogli, Punta Chiappa, San Fruttuoso, Portofino, You can create a ring tour by changing ferries at San Fruttuoso. For example boat SML-Portofino-San Fruttuoso, then  boat San Fruttuoso-Camogli, then train Camogli-SML.

Water Taxi to Portofino  You may want to consider this mode when travelling with more than 4 people, or if you are feeling flush. For example, the captain in SML said it cost 100E for a round trip to Portofino, 200E for both Portofino and San Fruttuoso including wait time with the trip including as many as 12 people.
SMI Water Taxi. On the dock near the ferry. 339-8414266.
Cesare Charter. On the pier in Portofino 340-7926139 or 349-3109959. Cesar Boat Charter Portofino
Portofino Taxi Boat On the pier in Portofino. Andrea at 338-3168058. Portofino Taxi Boat. This family run company has numerous good reviews on Trip Advisor.

Taxi to Portofino Taxi stands are in the center of SML near the Tourist Info and at the train station. In Portofino, near the bus stop. However, the published rate in summer between SML and Portofino is an expensive 35 Euro. Here are two taxi websites: Alessandro Taxi (SML) and Giovanni Taxi (SML)

Risseu - Ligurian Pavement Design. San Martino, Portofino
Longer Hikes Around Portofino
You can easily create your own itineraries in the Portofino Park to match your interests and abilities using a bus, train, or ferry to complete a ring. For example, if you take a train to Camogli, we describe a Camogli to San Fruttuoso Hike that is a joy, and you can then catch a ferry back to SML from San Fruttuoso.

Il Parco Regionale di Portofino by Studio Cartografico Italiano is a very good map available at local newstands. It shows the Portofino Park with trails at 1:10,000, at the larger region at 1:25,000.

Local Knowledge. The multilingual website Portofino Trek created by local residents provides good information on hikes in the park, including suggested itineraries, descriptions and estimated times, and useful links.


Some of our Liguria Travel Articles
Getting to Portovenere   All about buses, parking, hiking, taxis, hotels, boats in Portovenere.
Portovenere Travel Guide - The Top Ten Attractions Portovenere's attractions for reasonable folk
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Castle to Castle Along the Gulf of the Poets All about Lerici - exploring, parking and hotels.

Getting Around La Spezia  Describes parking in La Spezia, as well as bus info and other goodies.
La Spezia Travel Guide: Top Ten Attractions as told by people who  have actually been there.
A Guide to the Local Food around La Spezia  Food of the area, as told by expert mangioni.
 
Getting to Portofino - Walking, Hiking, and More  Describes fabulous walking and hiking from Santa Margherita Ligure to Portofino.

The Most Beautiful Villages of Liguria Part 1 The Rock Villages A 7-part series covering 28 great little towns.

Buddy Can You Spare a Click? 

If we've helped, you can thank us by using these links to get quotes and/or reserve your car rental.
 AutoEurope(US) Auto Europe(UK) or this link to make Italy hotel bookings Booking.Com.Italy.

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* 1863. Since you like pesto, we have an article you might like: The Extracomunitari - Ligurian Pesto and Pizza Margherita

Written by Martha