Visit the Italian Riviera: How to Plan a Day Trip to Portofino from Cinque Terre

Bellissima Portofino! Portofino is a place in Italy made famous by its picture perfect port, colourful array of buildings and celebrity sightings. The little town along the Italian riviera was the inspiration for the 1950s song, “Love in Portofino”! While it may be often overshadowed by its neighbour, Cinque Terre, Portofino is a wonderful day trip destination for anyone visiting the region of Liguria and can be easily reached from the five towns that make up Cinque Terre: Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza and Monterosso al Mare.

Planning a trip to Italy? Click here for 14 things you should know before you go to Italy!

Here’s what you need to know to help plan a trip to Portofino from Cinque Terre!

Tips you should know before you go

How do I get to Portofino?

Note: Although this article will focus on how to get there from Cinque Terre, Portofino can actually also be easily reached from Genoa, Levanto, Pisa and Florence.

Portofino does not have its own train station, so if you are taking a train the closest station is in Santa Margherita Ligure. Click here for the train schedules and input “S. Margherita Ligure-Portofino” as the name of the destination station.

  • From Cinque Terre/Levanto by train: There are number of direct trains from each of the 5 towns to Santa Margherita Ligure. The direct trains take anywhere from 40-55 minutes, and the indirect trains will take an hour or so. Once you arrive at Santa Margherita Ligure, take bus 82 to Portofino from outside the station: the drive will take approximately 20 minutes. These buses can get really packed during the summer so plan accordingly!
  • From Cinque Terre/Levanto by ferry: Take the train to Santa Margherita Ligure and then hop on a ferry. Ferry schedules available here but are subject to change.
  • From Santa Margherita Ligure by foot: If you do not want to take the bus or ferry from Santa Margherita Ligure, walk! It’ll take you over an hour but if you have the time (and sunscreen), then why not?
  • From Cinque Terre by car: Don’t do it. There just isn’t enough parking available in Portofino and it can be stressful trying to find a space.
  • From Cinque Terre by scooter: The best way to get there IMHO. The drive takes a leisurely hour or so and also means that you can travel door-to-door without transferring at Santa Margherita Ligure. This option also provides a lot more flexibility so you don’t have to worry about missing the last ferry back or missing the train. Oh, and the views during the drive are incredible! We hired our scooter from Paddock Scooter in Levanto and the drive took just over an hour.

How long should I stay? Portofino is not a large town, so half a day is more than enough. If you leave in the morning by 9 am you can make it back to Cinque Terre for dinner.

Are there ATMs? Bring cash. Most places don’t accept card or have a spending minimum and there aren’t many ATMs.

Is it easy to use my phone to navigate? Cell signal is decent along the coast, make sure you have a local SIM card so you can use Google Maps, or make sure you download maps before you leave the house.

Visiting Cinque Terre? Check out my practical guide to visiting Cinque Terre here!

The best things to do and see in Portofino

Portofino is not a large town, and unlike places like Capri and the Amalfi Coast, there is not actually a ton of things to do. The beauty of Portofino is in wandering around the town and soaking up the atmosphere. If you are visiting Portofino for a day trip, here are the top 3 things that you shouldn’t miss:

1. Walk around and check out the harbour

In the center of town is a row of beautiful multicoloured buildings and a number of laidback coffee shops and restaurants. Grab yourself an Italian gelato and wander around for a little while before strolling over to the harbour. I have never seen so many luxury yachts in one place before! If you’ve been to places like Monaco then you might be unimpressed, but for the rest of us this is seriously cool. The shiny exteriors of the boats glisten under the Italian sun, and it’s enough to make you wonder how you can score yourself a ride on one of these babies.

Once you’ve picked your jaw up off the floor, swing around to the far end of the port to find the trail up to Castle Brown.

2. Check out Castello Brown

Castello Brown sits on top of a hill overlooking the Gulf of Portofino and the harbour. The castle is surrounded by beautiful gardens and you can walk through the grounds from 10 am to the late afternoon (hours change depending on season, so make sure you check the website). Entry costs €5 but this is worth visiting because even in the summer there are no crowds here. Head to the outdoor terrace and you get an amazing panoramic view over the town and gulf – if you are an avid photographer then this is where you want to be!

The property is also available for weddings and events – imagine yourself getting married with this view in the backdrop!

Portofino 1
Portofino 9
Portofino 7
Portofino 6

3. Explore the gulf and bay of Portofino by kayak

If you know me well, you will know that I do not enjoy 1) hiking and 2) kayaking/canoeing. It’s never been my thing, and it never will be. This is the only exception: kayaking in Portofino is a great way to head to some of the most quiet parts of the coast and jump into the crystal clear Ligurian Sea. If you turn left (facing the sea) from Outdoor Portofino you will reach a busy beach in Paraggi, a neighbouring town, but if you turn right and kayak past the next bend then you will find yourself at Port Bay, a private little cove where you can hop out of your kayak and go for a swim.

Outdoor Portofino is a 10 minute walk from Portofino and offers kayak rental at €10-15 per hour (including a life jacket). You can also rent snorkeling gear if you don’t want to hop in a kayak. The shop offers lockers to keep your valuables safe. The best part? Outdoor portofino has a hot shower available to warm you up after your chilly dip in the sea!

Where to stay in Cinque Terre

During our first 2 nights in Cinque Terre, we stayed in Riomaggiore at La Dolce Vita, conveniently located right on the main street. The room was spacious, comfortable and had a little balcony overlooking the heart of town. The only thing is that they do not offer breakfast, but it was easy enough to wander downstairs and pick up freshly baked pastries. Click here to book your stay at La Dolce Vita or click here for even more hotel options in Cinque Terre!

Looking for other day trip ideas from Cinque Terre? Check out my guide to visiting Portovenere here!

However, if you are visiting Cinque Terre, here is my biggest tip: you don’t actually have to stay within Cinque Terre! In fact, hotels in the five towns are significantly more expensive. We opted to move from Riomaggiore to Levanto, which is one town over from Monterosso and used that as a peaceful base for exploring the coast (plus, it has a beautiful beach and awesome restaurants!). The Cinque Terre towns can get extremely crowded so it’s nice to be able get away from it all in the evening.

If you’re looking to do the same thing, look no further than Villa Caterina in Levanto, a wonderful family-owned property with beautiful gardens and rooms. It is a short walk away from the train station or you can rent a scooter to zoom your way around the coast. Click here to book your stay at Villa Caterina in Levanto!


Have you visited Portofino? What are your tips to travelers visiting the area?

Looking for more travel tips on visiting Italy? Head on over here!

This article contains affiliate links. If you choose to book using these links, I will earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. Thank you for supporting my website by using these links, I only recommend products or services that I have personally used & hotels I enjoyed visiting. How to Plan a Day Trip to Portofino from Cinque Terre. The little town along the Italian riviera is famous for its picture perfect port, colourful array of buildings and celebrity sightings. While it may often be overshadowed by Cinque Terre, Portofino is a wonderful day trip destination for anyone visiting the region of Liguria. How to Plan a Day Trip to Portofino from Cinque Terre. The little town along the Italian riviera is famous for its picture perfect port, colourful array of buildings and celebrity sightings. While it may often be overshadowed by Cinque Terre, Portofino is a wonderful day trip destination for anyone visiting the region of Liguria.

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36 Discussion to this post

  1. I would love to spend a day at the Italian Riviera! Great post, Flo!

  2. Sapna says:

    Loved the photographs.
    Hiring scooter is a good idea as it gives flexibility. Does it require the international driving license to hire a scooter?

  3. Hra says:

    What a great post!! Its so useful!! I love organise my trips 🙂 Cinque Terre its on my bucket list for sure <3

  4. Veronik says:

    I have always read so much about how great and beautiful Cinque Terre is. Have to visit this city soon!

    • Flo says:

      Veronik, Cinque Terre is made up of 5 towns 🙂 Portofino is not within Cinque Terre but is an easy day trip destination from CT.

  5. Bea says:

    Thanks for this guide! Any suggestions on the best time of the year to visit? 🙂

  6. Barbara says:

    Great post and beautiful pictures! I’d love to be there right now 😀

  7. Rebecca says:

    Really useful guide here. I hear they’re trying to cut back on the amount of tourists per year – which is a good thing, but means it might be harder to visit?

    • Flo says:

      There’s been a lot of news about a supposed “ticketing system” but nothing is in black and white yet! The talk re: placing a cap on visitors is not new and some other places like Santorini are considering doing the same. If I hear of anything official I’ll let you know!

  8. Michaela says:

    Wow, this is a great post full of useful information! This region is still on my list, so I hope one day I’ll manage to do this part of Italy. Thanks for sharing!

  9. sam says:

    I think youve just described my perfect day in italy…..seriously! plus your photos are beautiful, a dream article to read 🙂

  10. Chloe says:

    I love kayaking, I would need to try this if I went there! Haven’t been to Cinque Terre yet but will have to visit as well as Portofino. Your pictures are stunning.

    • Flo says:

      Hope you make it to Cinque Terre soon! I would only recommend staying for 3-4 nights and then exploring more of Liguria afterwards

  11. Oh, I so want to go to the Italian Rivera – even more so now. Great photos and information, I plan on exploring a lot of Italy.

  12. Jiahui says:

    Bookmarked this. Great insights to Italian Riviera I didn’t know.

  13. mihaela says:

    I love the amount of info you give here! Detailed enough but not too overwhelming for the reader. Plus the photos are excellent! 🙂

  14. Nam says:

    I thought Portoveneree was gorgeous enough already but eeek! Would’ve love to kayak there.
    Somehow when I hear about Portofino I always thought it’s in Almafi coast (oops)
    Such an awesome guide! I have met a few people who stayed in Levanto – but my sis and i were on super budget tour and stayed in Biassa’s hostel 😛

  15. Cassandra says:

    Flo, your photos in the post are GORGEOUS! I really need to visit this part of Italy soon!

  16. Ingrid says:

    This is one place i still haven’t been to in Italy and it is on my to do list for next year, i really net to get there! I will save your post since it has a lot of interesting facts on getting there and things to do! And thanks for the tip about not staying there, i can imagine a hotel there can get really expensive

    • Flo says:

      It’s also just more convenient to stay in other better-connected towns! I hope you get to visit Portofino soon, Ingrid!

  17. Miranda says:

    I’m interested in the Castello Brown and stroll along the area, looks so gorgeous.

  18. Rob Taylor says:

    For some reason I didn’t realize there was a ferry up to Portofino from CT. We totally skipped over and gave ourselves an extra beach day in Deiva Marina since it seemed a hassle. And now I kick myself.

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