If you’re staying in Genoa for a decent length of time, taking a day trip from Genoa to Portofino might be something you’re considering. It’s only a short distance down the coast and is a good opportunity to see more of those famously picturesque Ligurian coastal towns.
Some tourists might prefer to head even further down the coast and nail Cinque Terre in a day, and that’s totally cool too. But for others, Portofino is a much more manageable, stress-free day trip. And you have the option of stopping off at one or two more coastal towns along the way.
I visited Genoa in August this year and stayed for a whole week. So, I had time for a day trip from Genoa to Portofino and another to Cinque Terre. Both day trips featured beautiful coastal towns and other positives and negatives. You really can’t go wrong with either.
Here’s all the information you’ll need to take an enjoyable day trip from Genoa to Portofino on a boat cruise.
Day Trip from Genoa to Portofino
Take a boat cruise
The best way to take a day trip from Genoa to Portofino is by hopping on a day cruise. Portofino is a bit of a pain to get to as it doesn’t exactly have a train station. And I would imagine driving in Italy is only for tourists with a death wish. Or at least a parking/driving ticket wish. Plus, via boat, you can see all the coastal towns that you can’t see inland.
To check out the timetables and routes before you go, check out the tour company, Golfo Paradiso’s website. Which I recommend doing if you’re travelling in the offseason as boats only depart on certain days March-September.
If you’re travelling in the peak season (July and August), like we did, head to the Tourist Office on Via Garibaldi the first day of your trip for a timetable. But you should be okay because boats depart every day except Monday.
Where the boat departs
The boats depart from Porto Antico, the port on the far west side of the Genoa Harbour. You want to keep close to the edge and walk passed Eataly until you see a ticket booth with a flag that says, Golfo Paradiso. The boats are docked right next to the ticket booth so that’s easy. The Tourist Office should also give you directions, but it’s not hard to find.
Tickets and prices
Boats depart at 9:00, and try and get there as early as you can, no later than 8:30. Granted, we went in peak season so the line was super long. It might not be as busy off-peak but I still say get there as easy as possible.
Check your timetable brochure for prices, but it was €24 return each when we visited Portofino. I know, it’s a little steep. Travelling by boat is definitely not the cheapest option.
The Tourist Office told us that we should head to the ticket office the day before as the boat may be full. But once we got to the ticket office, they told us you can only buy tickets on the day. So that’s something to know about in advance!
It makes sense to not sell tickets before the day because the cruises are weather permitting. So, you don’t want to buy tickets ages in advance only for them to cancel the boat trip. You don’t get your money back!
Top tip: If you want to take photographs of the coast as you sail by, on the way from Genoa to Portofino sit facing the back of the boat on the right-hand side (left if you have to face forwards). It’s always better to sit facing the back as you’ll see more. And if you are facing the back, the right will be closest to land. And hopefully, no people will ruin your photographs.
Of course, on the way back from Portofino to Genoa, you still want to face the back but it will be the left-hand side this time!
Travelling by Train
If the boat prices aren’t worth the views and you’re not bothered about stopping off at other towns along the way, you can travel from Genoa to Portofino by train and then catch a bus. Take a train from Genoa Brignole train station to S.Margherita Ligure Portofino and then take the N. 82 bus 20 minutes to Portofino. The train timetable will be easy to look up but it will be the bus that’s a pain.
When I tried to travel by bus around Genoa, it was only when I tried to hop on a bus I realised I needed a bus ticket before I boarded. A quick google search told me I could only buy bus tickets in newsagents and ‘other places.’ But I looked around and there were no newsagents or shops near my bus stop so… where was I supposed to buy my ticket?!
I guess you might be able to buy bus tickets at the train station, but I really wouldn’t know. It seems stupidly complicated.
First Stop: Camogli
What the heck is a Camogli?! Is it a type of pasta? You’d be forgiven for thinking so, but no.
See, on the boat cruises from Genoa to Portofino, you have the option of stopping off in a couple of other places before you dock in Portofino for the day. This makes so much sense because, when I was researching Portofino, I was surprised by how small it is and there aren’t tonnes of things to do. And considering Portofino is an expensive town, you couldn’t spend a day eating your way around the cafes and gelaterias without forking out hundreds of euros.
So, we spent an hour in Camogli before hopping back on the cruise to the next stop. Boats generally depart from each of the stops every hour, but please listen to the announcements on the boat. And ask a staff member if you think you missed something important. Most speak pretty good English.
It’s actually a really lovely, pretty, coastal town. If you fancied a day sunning yourself on the beach or a dip in the sea, Camogli would be the perfect place. There were lots of bars and restaurants on the seafront so you could feasibly stay the whole day.
We only walked around for an hour, but it was worth the stop-off.
Second Stop: San Fruttuoso
This tiny little place was next on the list of stops from Genoa to Portofino. I was interested in stopping off in San Fruttuoso because it was a filming location for the Colin Firth film Genova (2008).
In all honesty, if you don’t fancy stopping off in San Fruttuoso and want to get to Portofino earlier, then do it. It’s a tiny, tiny place with a rammed beach with a couple of restaurants/bars, an abbey and not really anywhere else to go. But I’m still glad we stopped there!
We visited San Fruttuoso’s Abbey (which was expensive to enter at €7 each) and it was okay if you’re interested in that kind of thing. You can see the church without buying a ticket so you might just want to do that. Again, the Abbey was a filming location so I was interested to see the whole thing.
Other than that, there’s not much else to visit. However, stopping off for an hour isn’t a long time anyway.
Please note: The boat leaving San Fruttuoso to Portofino may not leave the exact port you arrived at from Camogli. It is a separate area over the steps. It’s super important you listen closely to the announcements when you arrive in San Fruttuoso. If you are unsure, it’s worth asking at the desk (literally a person sat at a table on the port) where you need to go.
Yep, only my dad heard the announcement and because me, my mum, and my sister didn’t, we missed the boat and had to wait another hour.
Final Stop: Portofino
The whole reason you’re on this day trip from Genoa: to visit Portofino!
Portofino was a holiday hotspot for the British upper class in the 1940s and 1950s, just as the French Riviera was for the Hollywood elite at that time. British Expats built expensive vacation homes in Portofino and the actor Rex Harrison (from My Fair Lady (1965) moved to Portofino permanently. I’m sure the pretty landscape, harbour and warm climate had something to do with that decision.
Nowadays, since the celebrities scattered elsewhere, it’s overrun by tourists and it’s hella expensive. I’m talking €8 a bottle of beer expensive. Yeah, I know. Ex-pen-sive.
What to Eat and Drink in Portofino (including Gelato!)
If you’ve got a few pennies tucked away for a nice meal, Ristorante O Magazin is the one I’d pick. The restaurant is right on the seafront and they utilise seasonal ingredients.
For a budget option, Pizzeria El Portico is just off the main square and is probably the most reasonably priced restaurant in Portofino.
I sampled the gelato from Bar Gelateria San Giorgio. It was €3.50 for a small cup and that was pretty nice. Price-wise, that’s only about €1.50 euro more than a small gelato in Genoa (though I think the ‘small’ sizes are bigger in Genoa). It’s got really bad reviews on TripAdvisor but I thought it served decent, authentic gelato and the price reflected the location. Some people got 3 scoops and had to pay €7 which is mad! But also, it’s Portofino sooo I don’t know what they expected. It’s just a really expensive place.
Things to do in Portofino
There aren’t tonnes to do in Portofino if you don’t have a passion for expensive boutiques. There’s Castello Brown that you can walk up to for a nice vantage over the town, though the Castle itself, I think, is only open on weekends.
You can also walk towards the church of St Martin’s which is a really nice looking church, then follow the road around to the east side of Portofino for a nice walkway. And, there are of course a lot of tourist shops near the main harbour.
Do you know what I would do? Grab a beer, coffee or gelato at a cafe/bar on the harbour and savour it for as long as possible and watch the world go by before going for a wander. Pidgins can be a problem so you don’t really want to eat food outdoors.
I’ve been quite negative on Portofino regarding the hoards of tourists and the prices. But actually, it is a really pretty place and worth visiting, along with Camogli and Sann Fruttuoso. And if you take a boat, you should have a nice, relaxing day trip from Genoa to Portofino and back again.
Getting back to Genoa from Portofino
The last boat on our cruise departed Portofino at 16:50, and if you didn’t get that you were screwed. The boat will then dock at some other towns along the way, but you will be dropped off in Porto Antico where you started. Check your timetable for up to date departure times, and of course, ask the boat staff once you dock in Portofino if you are unsure about pick up times.
And that’s my guide to a day trip from Genoa to Portofino! If you have ANY questions at all, don’t hesitate to leave a comment below and I’ll get back to you ASAP.