A Walk from Santa Margherita to Portofino

After enjoying our hotel‘s bountiful buffet breakfast on our one full day in Santa Margherita, we approached the always helpful concierge to inquire about an outing to Portofino. He suggested that, if we were up to it, the 5 kilometer walk from Santa Margherita to Portofino was a worthwhile venture and proceeded to highlight the path on a map with suggested stops both on the way and in Portofino.

From Santa Margherita to PortofinoThe footpath is essentially a sidewalk on the water side of the very narrow winding road. Each turn reveals a new vista, whether villas, small beach clubs, restaurant or open water. Rounding one bend, we immediately sensed we were approaching something very special.

From Santa Margherita to PortofinoCloser inspection led us to an entry gate

From Santa Margherita to Portofinobehind which steps climbed up to a villa perfectly situated high on top of a promontory with magnificent views.

From Santa Margherita to PortofinoIt wasn’t until we were across the way that we could fully appreciate its splendor, overlooking the bay surrounded by cypress, pine and olive trees. I later learned that for years former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi had rented Villa Olivetta until the owners ultimately sold it to Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana. Lucky boys!

Villa Olivetta From Santa Margherita to PortofinoVilla Olivetta From Santa Margherita to PortofinoThe road with sidewalk ends at the beautiful and tiny hamlet of Paraggi. Rather than competing with traffic on the drive, we chose to continue on the pedestrian promenade accessed by stone steps into the hills. While offering welcome shade, the area is also a haven for lush and surprisingly fragrant vegetation and the melodious chirping of birds. The entire district is protected as part of the Portofino Regional Nature Park, a region (both land and sea) not only beautiful but rich in biodiversity. As we neared Portofino, more villas come into view.

from Santa Margherita to Portofino - Quintessence

from Santa Margherita to Portofino - QuintessenceLooking back revealed even more spectacular views.

from Santa Margherita to Portofino

And closer to town, our path became less rustic but no less enchanting,

from Santa Margherita to Portofino

passing beautiful homes

from Santa Margherita to Portofino

that suddenly led down to the center of town.

from Santa Margherita to Portofino

Even in October, this small jewel of a port was hopping.

from Santa Margherita to Portofino

It’s hard to beat the view of painted edifices overlooking the scenic bay.

from Santa Margherita to Portofino

With a local recommendation, we had a delicious lunch at Taverna del Marinaio. My seafood salad was exceptionally fresh and light and the mozzarella in Susanna’s Caprese salad was like whipped clouds of milky nectar.

Taverna del Marinaio Portofino/ photo: Susanna Salkphoto: Susanna Salk on Instagram

Our concierge had suggested a hike up to the Church of San Giorgio, Castello Brown, below, and on to the lighthouse at the tip of the peninsula.

Castello Brown Portofino, ItalyAs time was running short, we decided to visit just the church, a lovely small 12th century structure that has been destroyed and rebuilt several times over the centuries. It contains relics of San Giorgio brought back from the crusades by sailors and houses an unusual small cemetery, below.

Church of San Giorgio,, Portofino, Italy

With enough walking for the day, we returned to Santa Margherita by the short but picturesque ten minute ferry ride.

From Santa Margherita to Portofino

The legendary Hotel Splendido had long been on my bucket list. So for our final evening, Susanna bravely navigated the hairpin curves for the short drive back to Portofino. Originally a monastery, the hotel is majestically situated high on a hill overlooking the harbor. After frequent pirate attacks in the 1500’s, it was abandoned by the monks and not revived until the 19th century, when Baron Baratta converted it to a family summer home. It became a hotel in 1901, now owned by Orient-Express Hotels (Belmond) since 1985, serving as a haven for famous and noble guests for over a century. Whether you stay or just visit for a drink or meal, it is worth the trip – a perfectly splendid way indeed to end a very special day.

Hotel Splendido Portofino

unless otherwise indicated, all photos Quintessence

21 thoughts on “A Walk from Santa Margherita to Portofino

  1. Thank you for my heavenly “vacation” this morning! We have done this journey by boat but next time – I’m taking the path.
    I will revisit this post over and over again today!

  2. Santa Margherita is one of my favorite places. I was lucky to spend 4 wonderful consecutive years there — early in September when it was still warm enough to swim. The fish was incredible and it was so much fun to watch the town on parade in the early evening. You’ve captured it beautifully, especially the residential aspect which is the hidden part of life in the town. Lovely post!

  3. My favorite place ever…I NEED to return. The little shops – incredible…we purchased a handsome inlaid mirror currently hanging in our master bath….ahhhh, the memories. Enjoyed your visit! franki

  4. Where did you stay in Santa Margherita? Your photos are wonderfuli’ve been there many times and your pictures were really delicious! K

  5. I will be going to Italy in June with my husband, daughter and her husband and their three teenage daughters. We plan to go to Cinque Terre and hike between the towns and this looks very similar. Have you ever done that and how would you compare it? I keep hearing about the hordes of tourists there and I assume this would be similar. But this is the kind of stuff we love.

  6. Awesome post!

    Heading to Italy in July – Planning approx 5 night to visit SML, Portofino, Cinque, Portovenere etc.

    Thinking SML might be a good base, thoughts?

    Any other tips greatly appreciated!

    Many thanks

    George :)

  7. This jewel of the Italian Riviera is indelibly planted on my mind. I visited 20 yrs ago… & would love to go back.
    Knew about it from a (now deceased) travel agent friend…. who recommended staying in Santa Margherita – with its trompe leoil fascsdes! (& more economical then Portofino).
    Oh how wonderful! I just caught the ferry around… to Portofino – but the walk I’d do if ever I got to return. Dreams are made of this!

  8. Hi! Thanks for this blog! My friends and I are going there next month. Is it difficult to find that path and gorgeous wrought iron gate? I suppose it’s ok to go up those steps!? I’ve read another blog about the same place but yours sounds much more interesting (the walk). The path is close to the hotel you stayed? Which one was it? Thanks! Sonia.

  9. Walked your route yesterday …glorious. Thank you for pointing to the off-piste route as walking along the main looked rather noisy and too close to the traffic.

  10. I have done this walk, it is one of the most memorable of my lifetime. I even treasure my photo overlooking the bay of Portofino. In fact, I stayed for over a week in a hotel overlooking the sea in Santa Margherita. Just a wonderful memory. Thank you, Tania

  11. We walked the Santa Margherita/Portifino route a year before the pathway was built. Along the very narrow road. Gratefully the traffic was lite that day. It was a beautiful day and walk. And like you we took the ferry back. Two weeks after that walk there was a horrific storm destroying the road and access to Portifino. Hence the new pathway was built. We look forward to our new walk on the pathway this coming 2024 September.

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