Portofino, Italy: A Budget Travel Guide

Portofino in Italy always leaves an indelible mark. This is a magical place where everyone has left its heart. The small square of Portofino is like a postcard: colorful houses reflected on the water, the boats on the marina, boutiques and typical restaurants.

In 60s Fred Buscaglione, an Italian singer, dedicated to Portofino the song “Love in Portofino” which played at Carillon, a little place on the beach of Paraggi which is now a popular disco and restaurant. The song was a big international success selling over 160,000 copies. Also Andrea Bocelli sang it. Listen to the original song!

I found my love in Portofino because I still believe in dreams the strange twist of destiny, in Portofino, took my heart.

Italian celebrities and even Hollywood stars cannot resist its charm. Portofino is a delightful travel destination for romantics, nature lovers and fashionistas, but it is not cheap! Celebrities arrive at Portofino by their yachts and tourists know prices are high. If you follow my tips you will experience the best of Portofino on a budget. Everybody will able to enjoy it, even us mere mortals. A weekend is more than enough to relax under the sun of Portofino.

NOTE: Better not to move by car in Portofino if you want to experience a vacation on a budget. Parking cars are very expensive. A 60 minutes bus ticket is about €1.50. You can get to Santa Margherita Ligure on foot from Portofino, about 5km. You can also choose to get to the main villages on foot (from 30 minutes to 2 hours walking) or by boat. Here is how boats transports work.

Portofino is the park of Liguria and this is why it’s the perfect place for nature hikes who want to explore the park independently (or you can join trekking groups ). There are many paths you can follow.

I spent two days in Portofino and I recommend 3 beautiful hiking trails, surrounded by greenery:

Trail 1. Walk up from the Portofino square to the San Giorgio’s church. You can enjoy an enchanting view of Tigullio bay. The interior of the church is nothing exceptional. Go to Castello Brown. It is a majestic fortress and seems to date back to the X century. The castle garden has Mediterranean plants and it is full of flowers and roses. Inside of it there are marble and slate decorations. Admission ticket is €5. It is open every day from April 1 to October 31, from 10 to 19. In winter, it is open only on Saturdays and Sundays from 1 November to 31 March from 10 to 17.
What makes the castle magical is its location on the bay.

Go up to the lighthouse at Punta Capo. It is about 30 minutes from the square.
  • Save
Trail 2. Another trail starts from the square of Portofino, where there is San Martino’s church, and finishes at Paraggi or Santa Margherita. Walk up to the Cervara abbey at Monte San Girolamo which has a spectacular flower garden. You can visit the abbey only on reservation and the visit includes the church, the cloister, the gardens and two dining rooms. The ticket is €10 for an hour with a guided tour. I think it is a bit expensive. In the garden there is a beautiful wisteria. From here you can walk up to Santa Margherita. No more than one hour and a half walking.
  • Save

TIP: you can also stay in Santa Margherita where you will find more affordable prices compared to the center of Portofino.

Trail 3. This trail is a must (1 ½ hours). It will take you from Portofino to San Fruttuoso, between the Gulf of Tigullio and the Gulf Paradiso. Don’t miss this route! Start from Portofino and take the pedestrian street uphill to the chapel of San Sebastiano, among gardens and villas. There are many other paths which cross. Continue walking. San Fruttuoso is surrounded by pine forests and Mediterranean plants. Its houses, the benedictine abbey, the tower and the pebble beach are charming. You will get to the monastery Capodimone.

  • Save

NOTE: This place is wonderful and peaceful. If you love diving there is the Christ of the Abyss, a bronze statue, placed at 15 meters deep just in front of the abbey.

Hiking in Portofino is a fab experience. You will enjoy stunning views like this one

Top beaches in Portofino

The beaches are accessible to anyone. Among the most beautiful beaches:

  • Baia di Cannone: This is a sandy beach and my advice is to go there to enjoy a fantastic sunset. Very romantic!
  • Baia del Silenzio: you can enjoy a breathtaking view from this beach and fishing boats makes the scene really suggestive.
  • Paraggi: one of the most impressive beaches. Hiking enthusiasts will love this place. Paraggi is perfect for diving, there is also a red coral.
    • Save
  • Corso Italia: you can do jogging or cycling, enjoying a drink just in Portofino.

  • Save

Free events in Portofino

There are always many events in Portofino. Some of them are free! Here are 3 free events you cannot miss.

  • If you love the sea enjoy Pirelli Coppa Carlo Negri event. This year the event is skipped but it will take place again next year, on May 1. It is a historical event in honor of Carlo Negri, an aviation pilot, son of Margherita Pirelli. Sails dot the sea between Portofino and Santa Margherita.
  • If you have a spiritual soul and even a little folk every year, on April 23 Portofino celebrates its patron San Giorgio. The event is called Gran Falò and takes place at Portofino square. There is a huge bonfire with branches and pieces of boats and a pole is placed on the top. The burning pole, depending on how it falls whether out to sea or to the country, indicates if  it will be a good year or a bad year. Then, people cook fishes at the square and they distribute them for free to all participants! The next Sunday there is the procession of the Saint’s relicts.
  • If you have a musical soul, do not miss the concerts of classical music surrounded by nature at Villa Durazzo. The park is free and it is open daily in summer from 9 to 19 and in the winter from 9 to 17. The view is breathtaking, right on the bay of Santa Margherita Ligure. Here you can enjoy also free events. Entrance to the villa €5.50.

NOTE: Drogheria Seghezzo, in Via Cavour in Santa Margherit,a is a traditional grocery store where you can buy Ligurian products and specialties from all over Italy: desserts, fresh pasta, sauces. There is also a small bar.

Restaurants on a budget in Portofino

I recommend some restaurants in Portofino to have lunch/dinner with a good quality/price ratio.

1. IL MULINO DEL GASSETTA. Near Molini, Santa Margherita Ligure. Website. The restaurant is surrounded by greenery of Portofino and offers traditional dishes. In the past it was an old mill and now there is a wine press and a millstone. You can reach it on foot or by scooter. Taste pasta with pesto and spaghetti with pine nuts and olives. Closed on Wednesdays. You pay approximately €10 per person, it depends on your hunger 😉

2. BLUE MARLIN. Via Molfino 150, Camogli. This restaurant is near the church of St. Rocco and here you can taste Ligurian dishes and seafood. Cappon lean with green sauce is very good. Approximately €25 per person.

3. OSTAIA DA O SIGÚ. Via Garibaldi 82, Camogli. Website. It is a restaurant on the beach of Camogli. It consists of a few tables but the view over the bay is breathtaking. Less than €35 per person for appetizer, main course, dessert, wine.

4. RISTORANTE MILLE E UNA NOTTE. Via Aurelia 31, Ruta di Camogli. Website. A romantic restaurant with a €35 set menu. Try the squid stuffed with ricotta and chocolate semifreddo!

5. BAR DAI MUAGETTI PER APERITIVO. Via Mortola 2, San Rocco di Camogli. A sunset drink in this bar is a must! Enjoy the Portofino coast view.

6. CANALE. Via Roma 30. Taste the best Ligurian focaccia.

Hotels on a budget in Portofino

I tried to choose nice hotels with a great price. The first 2 B&B cost a bit more than other ones, but they are very nice.

1. TRE MARI B&B. Via del Fondaco 1, Castagneto. Website. This B&B offers a priceless view. I stayed here when I visited Portofino. You have to climb 180 steps before reaching it so it is better to choose a lightweight luggage! A double room starts from €150 in high season. Book now.

2. B&B LA ROSA BIANCA DI PORTOFINO. Via Mortola, 37, Camogli. The location is ideal for hikers who are going to explore San Fruttuoso. The rooms are comfortable and they have a breathtaking view of the sea. A double room is approximately €120 per night.

3. HOTEL JOLANDA. Via Luisito Costa 6, Santa Margherita Ligure. Website. Near the center and the sea. There is also a parking car and you can enjoy an international breakfats. A double room price starts from €80. Book now.

4. HOTEL NUOVA RIVIERA. Via Belvedere 10/2, Santa Margherita Ligure. Website. This hotel is a villa in Santa Margherita Ligure, near the center and the sea, surrounded by a garden. Book now.

5. HOTEL ARGENTINA. Via Paraggi a Monte 56, Santa Margherita Ligure. Website. It is on the beach of Paraggi, it costs €100 per night for a double room with breakfast.

6. HOTEL PRIMO SOLE. Via Fioria 105, Rapallo. Website. Double room approximately €80.

7. VILLA CRISTINA RAPALLO. Via Paolo Zunino 21, Rapallo. Website. From €56.

Sweeping and picturesque views, nature, sea. Portofino has awesome small corners of authenticity to discover, such as other charming fishing villages like Marzamemi or Acitrezza. They will always be free and for all budgets 🙂

  • Save
Have you ever visited Portofino in Italy? What do you like about this fishing village?

4 replies
  1. Adrian Colwell says:

    Hi Maria,
    Traveling to Portofino this year, and having followed your super romantic restaurant recommendations in Toarmina last year, I’m now enjoying reading your tips for our adventure in Portofino !…..X Thanks

  2. Anna says:

    I’ve seen so many beautiful photos of Portofino and I definitely want to visit. To be honest there are many places in Italy that I want to visit (and I’ve covered the “essentials”: Rome-Florence-Venice-Milan)!


Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.