Portofino is an enchanting fishing village on the Italian Riviera. Known for being a destination for celebrities, Portofino offers visitors the chance to experience la dolce vita. You can expect to find charming restaurants dishing up regional specialties, water as green as emeralds, dramatic seaside cliffs blanketed in vegetation and pastel-colored homes lining the harbor. As an effortlessly romantic and timelessly beautiful locale steeped in history, it’s no wonder the world’s rich and famous like to lounge in Portofino.
If you’re planning a voyage to this coastal Ligurian jewel, you’re likely wondering where to start. Whether you have just 24-hours in the seaside town or a few days to spare, Portofino has so much to offer. Check out places to eat and things to do in Portofino as you plan an unforgettable journey.
What to Do and See in Portofino
Would a trip to the Italian Riviera be complete without succulent seafood or seaside cocktails? How about exploring medieval monasteries that overlook the sea, or hiking through the coastal forest with a gentle breeze on your back? You’ll find it all in Portofino. Here are some of the best places to eat in this spellbinding port town and attractions you don’t want to miss.
1. Visit the Church of San Giorgio
Church of San Giorgio, or Chiesa di San Giorgio, is a yellow Romanesque-style church perched atop a hill. Named after the town’s patron saint, the church was built in the 12th century. It was destroyed during World War ll and rebuilt in the 1950s. Step inside to admire artwork or observe relics brought back from sailors after the Crusades. Make sure to take in the panoramic view from the churchyard.
To get to the church, you’ll follow a path from town. Enjoy the scenery along the way, and get out your camera once you reach the top. You’ll get to take some postcard-perfect pictures to remind you of your journey.
3. Taste the Sea at Trattoria dei Pescatori
Located in nearby Santa Margherita, Trattoria dei Pescatori is a dependable spot for the catch of the day and other regional specialties. Open since 1910, Trattoria dei Pescatori has been serving guests the freshest ingredients with their nourishing and simple dishes since day one. Head to Trattoria dei Pescatori, and you’ll find a restaurant that adores tradition, from the cozy interior decorated with antiques, to the wholesome homemade pasta. Start your meal with anchovies marinated in oil and lemon, or if you visit during the winter, make sure to try their classic rossetti –– newborn anchovies boiled and served with mashed potatoes and artichokes. Other dishes to enjoy include house-made pasta and their trademark fish soup.
4. People-Watch in La Piazzetta
La Piazzetta is the main square and heart of Portofino. Lined with restaurants serving Ligurian cuisine, intimate cafes, and designer boutiques, it’s the perfect place to pull up a chair, order an espresso, and watch the people pass by.
There are plenty of ways to enjoy a leisurely afternoon or evening in La Piazzetta. For example, you might stop at Excelsior to order Portofino’s signature cocktail, which mixes gin, pineapple and curaçao. Make sure to try the ice cream with whipped cream and fresh strawberries at Excelsior –– its main attraction. To experience La Piazzetta like a local, head there for a 7 o’clock aperitivo and enjoy focaccia and Giancu de Purtufin –– a wine that is only produced locally.
5. Travel Through Time at the Cervara Abbey
The Cervara abbey was founded by a group of Benedictine monks in 1361. It sits on a cliff between Santa Margherita and Portofino and is surrounded by Mediterranean vegetation such as pines, ash trees and European nettle trees. Over time, the monastery expanded into the magnificent structure you see today. Famous poets, leaders, inventors and other prominent figures have paid it a visit over the centuries. During the 1500s, the monastery was a target for pirates. A watchtower near the main gate helped to keep them out.
Today, the monastery is available for events and guided tours. On display is a two-level garden, which was once the vegetable garden for monks. The garden features topiary art, a 17th-century fountain and plants such as wisteria, birds-of-paradise flowers and an ancient pink pepper tree. The guided tour starts in the oldest part of the building –– the crypt –– and ends in the wisteria courtyard. It makes several fascinating stops along the way. The Cervara is a must-see for history buffs or anyone who wants to step back in time for an unforgettable look at a magnificent property next to the sea.
6. Take a Kayak Tour of the Marine Reserve
The Marine Reserve of Portofino is a protected area of sea in front of Mount Portofino. It’s the ideal spot for outdoor adventurers who enjoy kayaking or scuba diving thanks to an abundance of colorful marine life and coral in the water. If you want to enjoy a day of slowly exploring the coast, observing wildlife and discovering secret coves, consider setting aside time for a kayaking adventure. You’ll find multiple kayak tour companies along the coastline to suit your needs.
If kayaking is not your style, consider taking a private boat tour instead to kick back and savor la dolce vita. Make sure to look out for playful dolphins along the way.
7. Rest at the Gassetta Mill
The Gassetta Mill, or Mulino del Gassetta, is a historic mill that offers visitors a beautiful place to rest after hiking through the Park of Portofino. Stop here to eat, relax, visit the small museum and buy local products. At the mill restaurant, you’ll find simple, local eats that adhere to Ligurian traditions and are made with garden-fresh ingredients. The mill has partnered with the project La Portofinese which aims to revive tradition, recover abandoned land and bring back centuries-old cultivation and animal husbandry techniques. The partnership allows mill visitors to buy local honey and craft beer.
9. Spend the Day at Paraggi Beach
If you’re craving a day of sand, sun and relaxation consider lounging on Paraggi Beach. Paraggi Beach features soft white sand and vivid green water that makes it hard not to want to go for a swim. It’s a popular destination, so plan ahead to reserve a spot. If you want a day to do nothing but soak in the hypnotic beauty of Portofino while leaving your worldly worries behind, Paraggi Beach is a worthy addition to your itinerary.
10. Sip Local Wine at Winterose
Winterose Portofino is a cozy spot to shop for wine. You can also grab a seat at an outdoor table and sample wine while watching the harbor. Here you can taste white wine or olive oil proudly produced in Portofino, and enjoy snacks that complement the flavors, such as Parma ham. This is a secluded part of the harbor where you can relax as you watch the waves lap against the shore.
11. Stock up on Italian Delicacies at Seghezzo
If you are enjoying the pasta, wine and other treats of Portofino, stop into Seghezzo, a gourmet market, and pick up some to take home with you. At Seghezzo, you’ll find wooden shelves stocked full of locally produced delicacies, such as scented olive oil and house-made treats, like a quince pie and exquisite chocolates. If you are looking for souvenirs to bring home to friends, a bottle of Ligurian olive oil or a bagful of colorful Italian candy is sure to fit the bill.
A visit to Seghezzo is a must if you’re hoping to enjoy a seaside picnic or want to enjoy some treats during your day out at the beach.
12. Invest in Luxurious, Handmade Shoes at Mingo
As far as some people are concerned, “Italian” is synonymous with luxurious shoes. One of the best places to find handmade, luxury Italian shoes is at Mingo. Calzoleria Mingo Portofino has been producing luxury shoes since 1936. The shoemaker has been a hit with celebrities pretty much since it got started. L’Avvocato, aka Gianni Agnelli, the president of Fiat and at one time the richest man in Italy, was known to travel to Portofino in his boat just to pick up the shoemaker’s renowned moccasins. In addition to moccasins, the brand is known for its sandals and ballet flats, which are available in a rainbow of colors.
13. Indulge in Designer Goods
You’ll find more than handmade shoes when shopping in Portofino. La Piazzetta is also lined with many designer boutiques. If you love the likes of Louis Vuitton, Dior or Armani, you might wonder why you would need to travel all the way to Portofino to see what is on offer. While it’s true that many designers also have outposts in places like Paris or Milan, it’s also true that many of the designer boutiques in Portofino stock products you won’t find elsewhere. The bags, clothing and shoes you’re likely to see at the Louis Vuitton boutique in Portofino will have more of a resort vibe compared to what you would see in other stores.
Along with shopping at designer label boutiques, you can also shop at curated boutiques that stock designer labels. One example is Spinnaker, which first opened in Alassio in 1976. Today, the boutique has locations in Alassio, Portofino and Sanremo. The boutique offers clothing for men and women and features a long list of Italian and international designers, such as Prada, Burberry and Gucci.
14. Tour an Eco-Farm
La Portofinesse aims to develop areas of the park of Portofino with an emphasis on sustainability and wellness. Along with the refurbished mill, the project features an eco-farm, which is available for tours. The farm tour starts at a hops plantation, takes you to vineyards and olive tree groves and finishes up at the apiary. Along the way, you’ll get to learn more about the inspiration for the project and about how the lands were redeveloped and recovered. You’ll also learn all about bees and the process of honey-making.
The tour wraps up with a picnic starring locally-made products. Locally-produced beer, the first of its kind from the area, and honey will be among the local products you’ll get to sample during the picnic.
If you’re looking to reconnect with nature while you recharge your batteries, the project also offers eco wellness retreats, complete with yoga, Pilates and meditation sessions.
15. Surprise Someone You Love With Beautiful Jewelry
If your trip to Portofino has you in a romantic mood, one way to celebrate is by purchasing some hand-crafted, one-of-a-kind jewelry from Luca 1959. Every piece of jewelry produced by Luca 1959 is meant to be unique. When you buy a Luca 1959 piece, you can rest assured that you won’t see the same ring on someone else’s finger or the same necklace adorning someone else’s neck.
Not only are Luca 1959’s pieces unique, but they are also conscientious. The jeweler has a rigorous policy when it comes to sourcing its jewels. Every stone on offer from Luca 1959 complies with the United Nations Resolutions. The company guarantees that its diamonds are conflict-free so that you rest easy that the gift you’re giving your love (or to yourself) has done no harm.
16. Savor Limoncello at Faro Di Portofino
The faro, which is Italian for “lighthouse” is a must-see while you’re in Portofino. The white lighthouse, built in 1917, is accessible from the town square. As you walk through a pine forest to reach the faro, you’ll pass the Church of San Giorgio and Castello Brown –– both worth a visit. Once you reach the peninsula, you’ll find Portofino’s still-active lighthouse. Celebrate your arrival at the lighthouse by visiting the on-site bar and taking time to relax. Order a limoncello, take in the breathtaking views and watch the sun transform the sea into a shimmering veil.
Plan Portofino With Windstar Cruises
There’s nothing quite like the beauty and charm of Mediterranean coastal towns, and Portofino is no exception. With water the color of gemstones, mouthwatering seafood, fascinating historical sites and lush greenery, Portofino is a destination many travelers dream about. It’s a place to leave your worries behind and cherish each moment as you sip limoncello or feel your toes submerge in the crystal clear water. It’s hard not to fall in love in a place that’s steeped in romance and even harder not to fall in love with Portofino itself.
If you’re interested in exploring Portofino and the Italian Riviera, you want to allow plenty of time for planning to ensure you see, do, and taste everything your heart desires. At Windstar Cruises, our Vacation Planners are waiting to help you plan your journey to Italian coastal treasures for a captivating experience you’ll never forget. To learn more, browse our Mediterranean Cruises today or contact a Vacation Planner and start planning the cruise of your dreams.
If you’re ready to experience the beauty of Portofino in person, contact one of our vacation planners today!