The Best Way To Experience Portofino And Its Cruise Port

The Best Way To Experience Portofino And Its Cruise Port

Multicoloured villas look out across Portofino’s sparkling waters while local trattorias serve up traditional cuisine; it’s an idyllic Italian scene and one much-loved by cruise guests sailing throughout the Mediterranean. But time in this picture-perfect Italian Riviera fishing town can sometimes be short. So, take a look at our guide on how to make the most of your time here.

What to expect when you arrive at Portofino cruise port

Portofino is found on the west coast of Italy, in the northern part of the country and just 40km from Genoa. It is a tender port, meaning that cruise ships cannot dock here due to its shallow waters. Instead, they anchor in the bay and passengers are ferried to the pier using the ship’s tender boats. In 2016, the Genoa Maritime Authority permitted cruise ships to dock closer to the harbour, reducing the transit from 1300m to 560m, or from 12 minutes to 5 minutes, approximately.

This process, known as tendering, can be time-consuming. Ship security has to take the first tender boats. The ship’s staff, such as those offering excursions or refreshments, will need to get off too. If you are lucky enough to get on one of the first tender boats, then that is the best way to maximise your time on shore. Otherwise, it may be worth waiting until the rush is over and getting off towards the end of the process. Whichever way, don’t forget to take a moment before disembarking to enjoy the stunning view of Portofino from the sea.

Be aware that if weather conditions are unfavourable, sometimes cruise lines may decide it’s safer to divert to Genoa where tendering is not necessary. Therefore, if Portofino is topping your list as a destination to visit, it’s worth booking your cruise in the summer to make sure you get to see it.

It all gets much easier when you step on dry land. The main village square, Piazza Martiri Dell’Olivetta or La Piazzetta, is only about a third of a mile away. If you’re interested in a shore excursion, buses go from the parking lot just a few minutes’ walk away. Or you can pick up a boat tour from the pier. There are toilets located right by the port, too, if required.

Things to do in Portofino

Portofino has a population of just 500 and is pretty compact; therefore, easy to explore independently. Around its cobbled streets, there is plenty to interest history and culture-lovers. For those looking for something a little more energetic, a short hike will take you up to some of the iconic views overlooking the bay, or you can engage in one of the many water sports available.

Taking in the postcard-worthy harbour is a must. Regarded as a glamorous yacht resort, it has a plethora of high-end bars, restaurants and shops intertwined amongst the pastel-hued buildings that make this town so notable. 

Overlooking the harbour, you’ll find the 15th-century military fortress, Brown Castle. Rich in historical artefacts that reveal its fascinating history, it also offers spectacular views from its hilltop location. Meanwhile, San Martino church, built around 1100 A.C, holds a quiet beauty. Don’t miss out on taking a step inside to discover its beautiful paintings.

Portofino Natural Park offers some excellent hiking routes of varying lengths and difficulty. The rolling trails explore the Mediterranean landscape speckled with olive trees and a shoreline showcasing sparkling waters and secluded coves.

Kayaking is a fun way to explore the coastline independently and discover some stunning natural locations frequented by a variety of marine birds. Or, if you love to scuba dive, diving in San Fruttuoso to see the immense bronze statue of Christ of the Abysses has to be on your bucket list.  

Nearby places to visit

Take a boat to San Fruttuoso Bay to discover its serene 13th-century Benedictine abbey. Tucked away between the verdant green of Portofino Regional Natural Park and the quietly lapping Mediterranean Sea, it makes for a relaxing way to spend a few hours. You can also reach it on foot through Portofino Natural Park.

An ideal place for chilling out in the sun is Santa Margherita Beach at the Bay of Paraggi. It’s around 4 miles from Portofino and offers pristine waters that are great for snorkelling.

Portofino has a number of neighbouring villages, such as Santa Margherita Ligure, Rapallo and Camogli, each with their own unique charm while continuing the captivating theme of the Ligurian Riviera. If you are only onshore for a day and want to visit these nearby villages, then it’s worth booking an excursion that will take them all in and ensure you return in time for your ship’s departure.

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