Hi Frugalistas! If the Cinque Terre is all about slow, low key travel, Portofino is definitely its glamorous, posh (and expensive) sister. Just an hour away by train, it makes one of the best daytrips from Cinque Terre . So sit back, and enjoy the visit on a day trip from Cinque Terre to Portofino – whether you travel from the Cinque Terre to Portofino by ferry, or by train, I know you are going to enjoy one of the best Cinque Terre days tours you can take.
How to travel to Portofino
The distance from Cinque Terre to Portofino is not great. Portofino is just an hour from the Cinque Terre by train. Unfortunately there is no direct train to Portofino, but you can easily hop off at Santa Margherita Liguria. SML as it is often referred to is a stunning destination in its own right, so regardless of how you are getting to Portofino, do take time to look around the harbour, admire the interesting painted buildings and soak up some lovely views over the town towards the mountains – stunning. (You can also take this trip in reverse of course, to take a trip from Portofino to Cinque Terre).
How to get to Portofino from SML
Getting to Portofino you have three options: the ferry (runs regularly), the bus (runs frequently) or you can walk. The walk is about an hour around the coastal road, but is completely flat, so is easy (so much so, I featured it as one of my walks for non-hikers in the Cinque Terre in a previous post). I was fortunate to be spending the day with a fellow traveller, and given the wonderful weather, we decided a walk was in order. And what a stunning walk it was. Largely in the shade in the morning, we enjoyed the brilliant blue sea, the breathtaking views, oh, and that’s right, those sumptuous private villas…..
More dedicated walkers will take the longer inland walk – watch for the pretty tiled sign en route to lead you off the coast road.
Four things to do in Portofino
If you aren’t sure what to do in Portofino in one day, here are some suggestions:
1. If you want to shop in the Cinque Terre region and designer labels are your thing, then shop away. I’ve visited many fishing villages in my travels, but never one with its own Louis Vuitton, Hermes, Pucci and Missoni boutiques. Personally, I just loved being around the gorgeous little harbour, enjoying the sunshine and watching the Italian school kids on their field trips.
2. Find a harbourside restaurant (the geography of the harbour allows for a choice of sunny side or shady side for lunch – they think of everything in these 5 star resort towns!) and enjoy a leisurely lunch. There are no bargains here – expect to pay for an entrée (appetiser) what you were paying for a main course in the Cinque Terre. You definitely pay for the aura here.
3. Watch the little wooden fishing boats bobbing in the harbour, and admire the magnificent wooden cruisers, reminiscent of the town’s glamour heyday in the 1950s (when Elizabeth Taylor, Ava Gardiner and Greta Garbo first put the town on the A List map).
4. Eat gelato – go on, you know you want to!
Returning (unfortunately) to SML
Buses and the train from Portofino to Cinque Terre are too ordinary for such a fabulous destination, so my companion and I decide the only way to head back to SML is by ferry. There is no ferry from Portofino to Cinque Terre, so we take the ferry back to SML. We brave the hoards of fellow daytrippers, and the chaotic ticketing process, but thoroughly enjoy our ride back on the ferry.
Ending the day trip Cinque Terre to Portofino perfectly
When our train arrives back in Monterosso we realise we need to wait ages for our connection to Manarola, so hop a Cinque Terre ferry back. What a way to end a perfect day. The light hits the villages perfectly, and you can’t help but compare the austere grandeur of the Cinque Terre with lush, wealthy Portofino. There’s only one way to make this day even better – a great meal at our “favorite” restaurant in Manarola, complete with a large plate of grilled seafood for only a few Euros more than our tiny entrée (appetiser) in Portofino.
Portofino and Cinque Terre are both wonderful places to visit in Italy. If you are in the Cinque Terre, do make the effort to visit its wealthy neighbour – you won’t be disappointed.
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Best Guidebooks for the Cinque Terre & Portofino