A guide to Portofino, a small corner of heaven in Liguria | Bellarome

A guide to Portofino, a small corner of heaven in Liguria

Portofino is an Italian town of 382 inhabitants in the metropolitan city of Genoa in Liguria.


The municipality is located in the western part of the Gulf of Tigullio, in a bay at the foot of the promontory of the same name, east of Genoa, marking in fact the geographical border between the Golfo Paradiso and the Tigullio.

The entire municipal territory is included in the Portofino Regional Natural Park and in Portofino Marine Protected Natural Area.

This splendid seaside resort, immersed in an ancient atmosphere, made of seafaring traditions, has been and is still loved by artists, famous people and writers who have praised its praise.

The “small square”, the meeting point of the international jet set, is the symbol of Portofino, while the small port with its characteristic brightly coloured houses is there to witness the great maritime tradition of this village, whose inhabitants were called by the Greeks and Romans ” dolphins ”, for the ability to navigate.

Portofino is known for its wonderful clubs and nightlife that can satisfy both younger and more adult tourism. Not only that: it presents numerous sites of historical and archaeological interest that testify to the different phases of the history of Italy. If you are a lover of cultural travel, then, it is precisely here that you must go to enjoy some of the wonders of Italy.

The charm of these places, the good cuisine of Liguria and the many cultural and naturalistic itineraries make this corner of the Gulf of Tigullio an ideal destination at all times of the year, although most tourists appreciate it especially during the summer months, when the luxuriant nature and the warm waters of the sea make Portofino a corner of paradise.

Let’s begin our virtual tour in this wonderful seaside resort!


Portofino Lighthouse

The tip of the Portofino lighthouse is one of the most evocative environments of the whole promontory, sometimes it is hit by strong currents that reduce visibility and prevent exploration; but when conditions allow you to visit it, you immediately realize how immensely varied and spectacular this environment is.

Active since 1910, at a height of 40 m from the sea and a range of 16 nautical miles, the Portofino Lighthouse still represents a fundamental guide for mariners.

Located on the homonymous Punta which represents the border between the Gulf of Tigullio and the southern area of the Portofino Promontory, it is a place of sightings of cetaceans including dolphins and occasionally whales.

When you arrive near the Lighthouse, it almost seems to be on top of the world, it is an arduous task to describe the emotions that the landscape can generate in your soul.

Near the lighthouse there is a panoramic terrace and a small room, where enjoying an aperitif at sunset is something sublime: we recommend it.

Castello Brown

Castello Brown is a unique location in the world, located in the center of the bay of Portofino, dominates the mythical “square” and is surrounded by the most prestigious villas of the international jet set.

The promontory on which Castello Brown stands has seen many changes throughout history. Thanks to studies and excavations carried out in the 50s, Roman remains have been found dating back to around the second or third century AD. and attributable to a watchtower. It is certainly the strategic position along the coast that has favored the evolution of the fortifications: from the Roman tower to the construction of a real castle which is believed to have occurred around the tenth century.

In 1435, the castle proved its strategic-military importance when it saved Portofino from the attack of a Venetian fleet. The castle was under the dominion of the Visconti of Milan until 1425 when Tommaso di Fregoso occupied both the fortress and Portofino. At the time, the Castello consisted of a turret that served as a home, a cistern and a crenellated wall.

In 1500, the building was renewed and expanded with the construction of a battery, a sighting tower and another building on the hill opposite the castle. The new buildings were built a few meters away and in positions that allow a wide view of the village, the control of the marine horizon and the naval movements that could immediately be communicated to the Castellano.

In 1728, further enhancement works were carried out including the restoration of the walls and the replacement of the entire armament. When, in 1746, yet another attack on the castle was foiled, this time by an Anglo-Austro-Sardinian garrison, Duke Richelieu – descendant of the Cardinal – ordered that a French garrison be placed to watch over the town and the gulf.

With the passage of Portofino, first to the Kingdom of Sardinia, then to that of the new Kingdom of Italy, the castle lost its strategic and military importance: it was abandoned and definitively disarmed in 1867. To raise destiny of this historical construction was the English Consul Montague Yeats Brown who, after admiring it from the sea while going out on his Black Tulip vessel, was fascinated and bought it for the sum of seven thousand lire. Brown entrusted the task of restoring the castle to the architect Alfredo de Andrade and to the engineer Pietro Tamburelli.

The building was completely transformed into a private residence without distorting it: as evidence of this are the written testimonies of Baron Alfonso von Mumm living in the nearby San Giorgio castle, which describe how the Consul did not alter the original design in any way and furnished the property with “furniture and furnishings by a great connoisseur and collector”. The last property of the castle, which collected the historical information received to date, was the Englishman John Baber.

Castello Brown is available exclusively for private events, conferences, meetings, weddings, parties and celebrations, as well as exhibitions and exhibitions of art and culture, culinary events, tastings and catering.


Church of San Giorgio

The church of San Giorgio is a Catholic place of worship located in the municipality of Portofino, uphill San Giorgio, in the metropolitan city of Genoa.

It is located on the top of the promontory, which dominates the cliff on one side which then continues to San Fruttuoso, and on the other the village of Portofino.

It is accessed via a pedestrian lane after about 10min walk from the right of the Piazzetta, or with a steep staircase that starts directly from the Umberto I pier.

According to a plaque contained inside, the first building, in Romanesque style, dates back to 1154 (although an old chapel probably existed perhaps even dedicated to pagans); it was rebuilt at least four times throughout history.

Inside there is a relic of San Giorgio Martire, patron of Portofino, brought back home by the sailors from Portofino who participated in the Crusades: it is located in a shrine dug into the pudding (the rock that makes up the promontory) located just below the altar.

The cult of the Saint is strongly felt by the inhabitants of the place: every sailor today as in the past, before leaving Portofino turns a glance and a prayer to the Sanctuary. Testimony of this devotion is represented by the countless ex-votos kept in a hall of the sacristy.

The structure was revised and modified in 1691 and at the same time the road (San Giorgio climb) was enlarged which allows you to reach the church from the main square of the seaside village; a further restoration and expansion took place in 1760. During the second war conflict the church was completely destroyed by a bomb dropped by a dive bomber.

The reconstruction works took place shortly after the end of the conflict, in 1950, with funds from the same inhabitants who rebuilt it with new altars and furnishings, but according to the ancient structure of 1760.

Inside, there are the relics of San Giorgio, patron saint of Portofino, brought by the Portofinese sailors returning from the Crusades.


Abbey San Fruttuoso

The abbey of San Fruttuoso is a jewel nestled between the land and woods of Mount Portofino. It is a Catholic place of worship located in the bay of the same name in the municipality of Camogli, also called Capodimonte, within the terrestrial and marine park of Monte di Portofino. The church is the seat of the homonymous parish of the Vicariate of Recco-Uscio-Camogli of the archdiocese of Genoa.

The abbey is dedicated to Saint Fruttuoso of Tarragona, bishop and Catalan saint of the third century, whose ashes are kept in the abbey, where they would have been transferred following the Arab invasion of the Iberian Peninsula.

The abbey cannot be reached by any road, but can only be accessed by sea or by taking two panoramic paths: one that descends from the above Portofino mountain and the other that runs along the coast starting from the bay of Portofino. The abbey overlooks the opposite bathing beach.

It is a unique place, overlooking the splendid bay of Portofino, an ideal place for those seeking an escape from the world between dream and history.

The architecture of the Abbey is characterized by the typically Ligurian Romanesque style: white marble and slate from the surrounding valleys.

The complex includes the monastery with its cloister and the tombs of Doria, the primitive church and the parish church. On site you can also admire the historical archaeological finds and visit the small village.

The abbey of San Fruttuoso is the idyllic result of the encounter between the work of man and that of nature, the concrete demonstration that when these two forces coexist, I hide real eternal works of art.

In its bay there is the famous statue of Christ of the abyss, placed in 1954 on the seabed and restored in the nineties. Since 1983, the abbey has been part of the architectural heritage of the Italian Environment Fund, thanks to the donation of the owners Frank and Orietta Pogson Doria Pamphilj. Periodically, there are concerts of classical and light music and other initiatives promoted by FAI.

In 2014, the Istituto Poligrafico e Zecca dello Stato coined 5 euro coins in silver for the Abbey of San Fruttuoso.


Portofino Regional Natural Park

The Portofino Regional Natural Park is a protected natural area located in the Riviera di Levante, about thirty kilometres east of Genoa, in the geographical area of ​​the eastern Golfo Paradiso and western Tigullio. The body mainly consists of the municipalities of Camogli, Portofino and Santa Margherita Ligure, the latter being the park and the Portofino marine protected natural area.

Established in 1935 and passed in the 70s under the direct control of the Liguria Region, Portofino Natural Park protects the area of the homonymous promontory in the territory of the Municipalities of Camogli, Santa Margherita Ligure and Portofino.

The park overlooks both the Gulf of Tigullio and the Golfo Paradiso and represents the protected coastal area located further north of the western Mediterranean, easily visited with its scenic trails of varying difficulty and therefore suitable for everyone’s needs.

In a landscape of unique beauty, it houses one of the largest floristic concentrations in the Mediterranean, as well as a remarkable variety of fauna and important architectural testimonies, offering an extraordinary combination of peasant and seafaring civilization. The initial phases that led to the birth of the protected area developed in the early thirties of the twentieth century from the idea of ​​building a road that starting from the town of Camogli reached Santa Margherita Ligure passing through the mount of Portofino. The work was taken into much consideration, especially by the president of the Province of Genoa and the Genoese prefect, but the funding did not come from the government of Rome and the coveted project never took off. On the other hand, consideration was taken to protect this small corner of Liguria, later establishing not only the park but also the Portofino protected marine natural area. The territory had an area of ​​1061 hectares consisting of the municipalities of Camogli, Portofino and Santa Margherita Ligure.

In 1978, the Monte di Portofino Park  was put under the protection of the Liguria Region, management that led to the creation of a regional park protecting the entire area up to the present day.

The proposal to transform the regional park into a national area was merged with the Chamber of Deputies by merging the Marine Protected Area into the new territorial borders. The proposal was welcomed positively by the municipal administrations concerned.

In 2010, on the occasion of the seventy-fifth anniversary of the establishment of the park, the institution had proposed the inclusion of the protected territory among the world heritage sites protected by UNESCO; the Portofino site, however, was not among the candidates proposed by the Italian national commission for UNESCO presented in Paris on March 31, 2011.

Abbey of Cervara

The Abbey of Cervara, or abbey of San Girolamo al Monte di Portofino, is a former monastic complex, a place of Catholic worship, located along the provincial road 227 that from Santa Margherita Ligure leads to the village of Portofino. The abbey is surrounded by various gardens, including an Italian garden overlooking the sea which gives it a unique aura.

Cervara is part of the network of the Great Italian Gardens, the Association of Historic Houses and the Ligurian Gardens.

The building was built in 1361 on the idea of ​​Ottone Lanfranco, Genoese monk chaplain of the abbey of Santo Stefano di Genova, and after the consent expressed by the Colombian monks, owners of the land, in March 1360. In a few years the monastery was erected Colombian named after Saint Jerome.

Within the innovative policy of Pope Eugene IV, who after the recomposition of the “Little Schism” introduced favourable and intellectually valid orders in churches and strategic convents were placed to direct to Cervara the Benedictine monks of Cassino of the monastic order (from the black habit). It was the same process that in other Genoese churches, especially those in which the rule of San Colombano (with white monastic tonic), applied, introduced these orders: as in Santa Maria di Castello, at the Santissima Annunziata di Sturla, at the Madonna del Monte, at the Certosa di Rivarolo.

The monastic Benedictines acquired the structure in 1420, after the serious damage caused by the conflict between the Guelphs and the Ghibellines. The structure became the mother house of an autonomous congregation of the Cassinese Order, also incorporating the abbey of San Fruttuoso di Capodimonte, near Camogli, of which Pope Eugene IV himself ordered restoration work in 1435.

From the point of view of art history, the monastery became the symbol of the spread of Flemish culture in Liguria, a fact which is remembered above all in the convent of the Polyptych of David, the best known, and the portable triptych with the Adoration of the Magi (now preserved in the rooms of Palazzo Bianco in Genoa) by Pieter Coecke van Aelst, Flemish author of the mid-sixteenth century, active in Antwerp, who stylistically looks at Italian mannerism.

The Cervara monastery was elected as an abbey in 1546, further fortifying the structure due to the raids and looting of the Saracen pirates in the nearby towns of Santa Margherita Ligure, Rapallo, Camogli and Recco. The building therefore underwent a considerable architectural change, especially with the new cloisters and the bell tower.

At the end of the eighteenth century, following the suppression of religious orders in 1798-1799 imposed by the Ligurian Republic at the time of Napoleon Bonaparte, the complex was abandoned and sacked and finally used as a farmhouse-home. In 1804 Trappist monks from France acquired the monastic complex by opening a school, but already in 1811 they left the convent.

In 1868, it was bought by the marquis Giacomo Filippo Durazzo and three years later (1871) sold to the Somaschi fathers. From 1901 to 1937 it was entrusted to the French Carthusians.

Cervara was declared “Italian national monument” in 1912 and is part of the network of the Great Italian Gardens, the Association of Italian Historic Houses and the Ligurian Gardens association.

Since 1937, the abbey belongs to private individuals and is open to the public for cultural shows, musical concerts, and guided tours. The visit is also possible by appointment.


Protected Marine Natural Area of Portofino

The protected marine natural area of Portofino is a protected marine area established by decree of the Ministry of the Environment on April 26, 1999, based in Santa Margherita Ligure, and is located in the eastern territory of the metropolitan city of Genoa between the municipalities of Camogli, Santa Margherita Ligure and Portofino. The area has been declared a Specially Protected Area of Mediterranean Interest.

At the Chamber of Deputies, the proposal to transform the Portofino regional park into a national area is currently under consideration at the Chamber of Deputies, bringing together the protected marine area in the new territorial borders. The proposal, presented to the Chamber in a hearing of 24 January 2007 but already advanced in 2004, was positively accepted by the municipal administrations and other interested bodies, especially after the recent consent of Santa Margherita Ligure, headquarters of the park authority regional and marine protected reserve.

The submerged cliffs of the Portofino Promontory host a vast fauna and a rich flora, almost unique in the Mediterranean sea.

The area was divided into three safeguard zones, called A, B and C. In all three areas, free navigation, hunting or catching of fauna, underwater fishing and diving are prohibited unless otherwise specified. In any case, underwater activities that require contact with the seabed are prohibited, and anchoring of boats is also prohibited.

Zone A (Integral Reserve) includes the stretch of inland sea (Cala dell’Oro) delimited by the junction of the points identified in Punta Torretta and Punta del Buco. It is the stretch of sea where navigation, stop, access, bathing, sport or professional fishing, scuba diving are strictly prohibited.

In zone A the environment is fully preserved and only rescue and scientific research activities authorized by the manager are allowed. Bathing is prohibited.

Zone B (General Reserve) goes from the Punta del Faro of Portofino, under the municipality of Portofino, to Punta Chiappa, located in the hamlet of San Rocco di Camogli, without prejudice to the access corridor and the bay of San Fruttuoso.

This area is characterized by wider constraints: sport fishing is allowed (regulated) only to residents, scuba diving with air breathing apparatus is allowed to diving centers and authorized private individuals, while diving in apnea is freely allowed and free bathing. In addition, scuba diving from the shore is allowed only at Punta Chiappa, the Dragone and the Colombara.

This stretch of sea is much loved and visited by divers, attracted by the remarkable naturalistic value of the seabed and in particular by the triumph of the red sea fans and the wealth of fauna. It is in this area that the Christ of the abysses is found.

Zone C (Partial Reserve) extends on both sides of the Portofino Promontory and is famous and admired for its vast Posidonia oceanic meadows. Further activities are allowed, and diving and bathing is free, apart from specific limitations for environmental protection. Sport fishing is allowed  to residents and non-residents.