Portofino - how much time?

Old Jan 1st, 2016, 12:36 PM
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Portofino - how much time?

Happy New Year!

I am planning a trip for May 2016 to France and Italy. We are planning to visit Portofino from the French Riviera and then onto Milan. I know a lot of people aren't very fond of it, but this might be the only chance I get since we have a flexible budget and travel time. I have previously been to Cinque Terre and spent a few days there and had 0 regrets. Despite it being high season, I only felt like it was overwhelmed with tourists in particular places during the afternoon, but other than that the trails were great and the evenings were nice. My current travel partner isn't into hiking and prefers something more upscale like the South of France, and she wants to visit Portofino as well.

The plan is to take the Thello train from Nice to Genoa and a regional train to Santa Margherita Ligure, where we will stay. The estimated travel time (according to rome2rio.com) is ~4.5 hours and we will spend the rest of the day in SML. The next morning we want to go to Portofino by bus and around evening take an IC train from SML to Milano. We prefer the IC train because it is faster and would save us 1 hour.

It won't be tiring, even though it sounds like it - just based on previous travel experiences. But is 5 hours (9:30-2:30) in Portofino enough to wander the town, go to a bar for a quick lunch and maybe take a boat to San Fruttuoso and back (not sure about this). We aren't too interested in places like Camogli and Rapallo. I'm sure they're nice and I've seen some people prefer them to Portofino, but we are fine with just Portofino and SML.
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Old Jan 1st, 2016, 01:06 PM
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5 hours is about 5 times as much time as you will need to see all of Portofino at a very leisurely pace. Rather than take the bus there, however, I would suggest that you take a boat from Santa Margherita Ligure. It is the nicest way to enter Portofino, and there is no chance you will get stuck in traffic or end up standing on the bus the entire way, unable to see anything.

I highly recommend that you not eat in Portofino, where the food is very overpriced and not very good, even if you only want a sandwich. Your idea of going to San Fruttuoso is great, but if you want lunch, most places there serving food there are sit-down restaurants that require reservations --- they are terribly charming, right at the water's edge, but they are not cheap and they are not quick. Plus, you might want to have more flexibility in your day.

The best options for a quick lunch that day are to either pick up a picnic in Santa Margherita Ligure -- (the shop Pestarino, right in the middle of town, is goof for that) so you can eat a picnic in San Fruttuoso, on the beach -- or, visit Portofino for 2 hours, take the ferry to San Fruttuoso just to see how pretty the cove is, but then continue on by boat to Camogli to buy lunch.

In Camogli you will find lots of options for a quick lunch at a nice price with a pretty view, and after that you can take a bus or train back to Santa Margherita Ligure. The bus has wonderful views but don't take it if you easily get motion sickness. The train is shorter, and if you want to can keep going 5 minutes more and visit Rapallo for a gelato at Frigidarium (one of the best in Italy) or go another 10 minutes to Chiavari for cocktails and window shopping.

If it is raining (sorry!), then skip Portofino in the morning and go to Chiavari by train, because the town has covered walkways so you will stay dry and you can enjoy a nice lunch at Luchin or Cafe Defilla. In the afternoon, if it has stopped raining, go to Portofino by boat if they are running and return by bus.

If you go to Chiavari, when you get off the train, walk in the diection that is away from the sea toward the hills, and keep walking (10 minutes) until you come to the old part of town with covered walkways.

On the weekends, Portofino is much more crowded than during weekdays, so definitely go by boat and not bus to avoid traffic jams.
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Old Jan 1st, 2016, 03:19 PM
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Definitely agree to take the boat over to Portofino from SML. Very scenic and much more pleasant than any bus. It takes about 10-15 minutes.

We took the earliest boat, wandered the tiny town for about 1 hour, then parked ourselves at one of the restaurants next to the marina and had a long lazy wine-filled lunch. The entertainment was free - watching the various yachts wiggle into the tiny harbor.

The little town was jam packed with cruise ship people by 11 am. and we were very glad we went early.
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Old Jan 1st, 2016, 09:51 PM
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Thank you! That sounds great that it's ample of time to spend in Portofino. Is the ferry/boat something you book there on the spot? I was looking for something "official" and this is what I found: http://traghettiportofino.it/en/line...ls/line-fares/

I was also wondering if it is easy to book a private boat tour to San Fruttuoso from Portofino? I know it will be pretty expensive, but we are willing to spend if it's reasonable and available.

I was thinking the same thing about finding a snack bar and having a picnic at either Portofino or San Fruttuoso. Thanks for the recommendation! Thank you for all the restaurant recommendations! We might be checked into our hotel by 4:00 PM so we can head to dinner at one of those places if possible if there isn't as good options in SML itself.
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Old Jan 2nd, 2016, 02:13 AM
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No, the ferry boat is first come, first serve. Most of the time, everybody has no problem at all getting on the first boat of their choice. The schedule you found is the right schedule.

One time I was in San Fruttuoso and missed the ferry to Portofino, and a local taxi boat offered me a ride for 50 euros. But I wouldn't be surprised if the same boat taxi would have put the price at 70 euros on a crowded day going the other way, or maybe I could have offered him 40 and he would have accepted. But I really have no idea. Your hotel desk might know, or the tourist office.

But there is very little if anything that a private water taxi is going to show you that you can't see from the ferry. There is a sunken staute of Christ in the cove of San Fruttuoso that can be seen if you take a ride in a glass-bottomed boat. I have never done it.

Just be aware that if you want to go from San Fruttuoso around Punta Chiappa to Camogli that this is a different ferry company, and you must buy a separate ticket once you are in San Fruttuoso. I think the name of that ferry company is Golfo Paradiso -- but you can find the information online just by doing a search for "Camogli ferries San Fruttuoso".

Pestarino in Santa Margherita Ligure is not a snack bar but a gastronomia -- or delicatessen. It sells many prepared dishes, cheeses and meat, plus things like olives and anchovies and pasta, and there is a bakery next door to assemble your own panini and a fruit seller opposite -- but none of these people will give you plastic knives and forks, or napkins, so bring your own from home or keep the ones you get on your flight over. If you don't speak Italian, you can point and when they ask how much you want ("Quanti?") you can tell them you want enough for two people, thank you -- due persone, per favore -- and it will work out fine.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AgH6eYWBPyM

You shouldn't have any trouble finding a restaurant in Santa Margherita Ligure, no need to get back on a train and go elsewhere.
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Old Jan 2nd, 2016, 02:38 AM
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If you were thinking that Portofino was going to take 4/5 hours, then you'll be disappointed when you get there. Let's be clear about the place: you arrive by bus at the end of the tiny village which is also where the road ends. Once off the bus you have a couple of hundred yards (approx) to walk down to the sea.

You'll walk between small shops on this "main" street, some OK, some selling the usual tat that's available anywhere. There are a couple of parallel streets but these are quiet and unremarkable with a hotel or two. The small "square" at the seafront has a couple of restaurants round it to the right, and shops and a cafe or two to the left. The path to the left has some high end shops along the sea to the end of the path, some 60/70 yards. The harbour to the right has a small park that's terraced above and a very expensive hotel on the top.

The tiny marina has boats in and out including tenders from cruise ships if you are unlucky enough to be there on such a day.

And that's about it. The cove is as scenic as thousands of others, the shops and cafes are overpriced and I cannot begin to imagine why the place has hordes of tourists descending on it. Hype from somewhere, Rick Steves perhaps?
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Old Jan 2nd, 2016, 07:34 AM
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Actually, Rick Steves became a multi-millionaire advising people NOT to go to Portofino, but to go to le CInque Terre instead. Portofino got its cachet as a yacht harbor in the 60s & 70s, when it became popular with international celebrities and the super-rich.

Rubicund sounds like the kind of tourist to Portofino who is unwilling to walk up a hill. For those willing to do that, there are pretty views overlooking the sea, the Castello Brown (which often has art exhibits), and a fascinating cemetery. For those interested in Italian art, there is a tiny Tournabuoni gallery in the via Roma that sells works of some of Italy's finest mid-century artists.

I live in the area and many people who visit me also visit Portofino simply because they vaguely heard of it. Every single one of them has told me they didn't like it. All of them felt ripped off to greater or lesser degrees by the cost of food, drink, gelato, etc. Walking through Portofino one day with mother, she and I tried to figure out the difference between a 600e purse on an outdoor rack in Portofino, and the 16e purse I was carrying, purchased at my local outdoor market. It's possible the 600e purse had nicer zippers.
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Old Jan 3rd, 2016, 01:13 AM
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haha I'm not exactly in the dark about what Portofino is like/how small it is. I do want to take my time taking nice photographs and getting good views of the place, but I know a lot of people say "if you think you have half a day in a place you really have 2-3 hours", so I didn't want to underestimate how much time I actually required, and it's good to know I will have more time to spare. I was half expecting people to say not to bother going anywhere in the morning if I plan to catch a train to Milan later in the day, so I'm glad this doesn't seem to be the case.

I was wondering, sandralist, if you know how people tend to take pictures like this: http://i.imgur.com/joR3vxe.jpg The sidewalk ends at some point on that road so I'm not sure if we're allowed to walk there, but I know there is a bus stop nearby and people can also climb up from below - is that place accessible by boat?

Thanks for the tip about the ferries/boats. In Venice I found the vaporetti frustrating to ride so unless necessary we skipped them and preferred to walk instead. I think there's no real way to avoid the crowd in Portofino given that the first ferry reaches there after 9. Pestarino (thanks for the video!) opens very early too, it seems like. So we'd be able to get a picnic and take the first ferry out which is perfect.
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Old Jan 3rd, 2016, 03:32 AM
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Oh do stop it SL. You have absolutely no idea of my travel mores any more than you have of civility to other people. You really are the most self opinionated, insufferable fool. No one doubts your knowledge of the area, but it's about time you stopped attempting to belittle others.
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Old Jan 3rd, 2016, 04:47 AM
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The best pictures are from the castle - http://www.pbase.com/annforcier/image/151986095

I agree with pretty much everything that's been said so far except I'd give it 3-4 hours but that includes a leisurely walk up to the castle and around and a lot of time taking photos. The next 10 or so after that photo are also of Portofino (then some of San Fruttuoso)). You are going in May so it may not be so bad, but in July San Fruttuoso beach was completely carpeted with people. I had to sit on the edge of a rock just to sit down for a few minutes. Having lunch there would not have worked (maybe different in May). I did go into the convent and that was very nice (and hardly any people in there). I was in Portofino in the morning, the light was good and it wasn't too crowded. Even take away gelato and ice tea was extremely expensive.
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Old Jan 4th, 2016, 11:45 PM
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Thank you for the pictures! I will definitely go to the castle. I can completely see what you mean when you say the beach was carpeted with people. It was no where near as that bad at Monterosso even with how the crowds are, so I'm hoping it will be a lower volume in May.
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Old Jan 6th, 2016, 08:53 AM
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Hi maja,

I am pretty sure that picture was taken somewhere at or very near Castello Brown. Here is a picture taken from the air of the harbor. If you look all the way to the left of the picture, the last bit of purplish tower before everything is trees is Castello Brown:

http://www.bestourism.com/img/items/...stle_12039.jpg

If you've never seen the movie Enchanted April, it was set in Portofino, mainly at Castello Brown, so you might enjoy it beforehand.

Rubicund,

Can't see how I top you for being opinionated! You gave an all-around slam to not just Portofino but the people who visit, and it appears you missed half the town -- which is only possible if you don't walk uphill, given how small it is. There are unique features to the town, and that needed to be pointed out to someone going. Maybe you would have found your visit more interesting if some local know it all had given you a clue ahead of time as to what to look for.
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Old Jan 7th, 2016, 02:12 AM
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SL, no-one tops you! I "slammed" none of the people who visit, but suggested that they responded to "hype" by visiting. I've seen all of Portofino, both up and downhill and remain nonplussed by it.

I note that you slam all of Portofino's catering:

"I highly recommend that you not eat in Portofino, where the food is very overpriced and not very good, even if you only want a sandwich"

shopping:

I live in the area and many people who visit me also visit Portofino simply because they vaguely heard of it. Every single one of them has told me they didn't like it. All of them felt ripped off to greater or lesser degrees by the cost of food, drink, gelato, etc. Walking through Portofino one day with mother, she and I tried to figure out the difference between a 600e purse on an outdoor rack in Portofino, and the 16e purse I was carrying, purchased at my local outdoor market. It's possible the 600e purse had nicer zippers.

Overpriced galleries do not a village make.
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