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A Quick Guide to the Italian Riviera (And One Perfect Day Hiking to San Fruttuoso)

Travel Mar 9, 2016

A Quick Guide to the Italian Riviera

Just north of Cinque Terre is the rest of the Italian Riviera – gorgeous coastline with pretty coastal villages, gardens and little bays. The main towns in the area are Portofino, San Remo, Santa Margherita and Camogli, charming and perfect if you want to get away from the crowds in Cinque Terre. We visited last year in August, and I’ve been meaning to share with you this little trip for a while. In general there is so much to love about this part of the Italian Riviera, but what I wanted to share with you in particular is the one seriously perfect day we had. You know those travel days right? Armed with zero expectations, somehow everything falls into place and you find yourself in a moment that you’ll remember forever. For us it was our hike from Portofino over to an old Abbey in San Fruttuoso. Read on for more!

The rock jetty below our lunch spot in San Fruttuoso.

A Quick Guide to the Italian Riviera


After checking out all the towns in the region, we were happy with our choice of base in Santa Margherita –  a perfect balance being less crowded than the Cinque Terre, less touristy/fancy than Positano and more relaxing than Genoa. We stayed at Hotel Blu Di Te – it didn’t have a water view but made up for it with a lovely courtyard and epic breakfast spread.


Have an amazingly fresh seafood dinner at Trattoria Dei Pescatori (Wes would be proud of the decor). We went back twice because we loved it so much!

Stock up on some yummy pastries before setting off on your hike at Canale in Portofino.

Have lunch overlooking the ocean at Restaurant Carpo Nord just before Paraggi.


Hike over to San Fruttuoso…. More details on this below… Don’t miss it!

Visit the gorgeous Villa Durazzo in Santa Margherita.

Take a ferry – boats run between many of the different towns, and they’re a great way to see the beautiful towns from the water. You can even go all the way to Cinque Terre if you want to!

It wouldn’t be a trip to Italy if you didn’t take a whole day to hang out in a gorgeous Lido on a sunbed. I loved the gorgeous inlet at Paraggi for this.

You can also walk the whole coastline – there are plenty of easy walking tracks both along the roads and into the hinterland.

Take in the view of Portofino from Castello Brown – the castle on the hill.

Good to know

You might like the look of Portofino the best (after all, the crew from the Bold & Beautiful holiday there often), but the more gritty towns of Santa Margherita and Camogli were more interesting (and.. less $$$).

Breakfast at Hotel Blu di Te. Platewear perfection!

The walk from Santa Margherita to Portofino gave me some serious holiday house envy. ha.

The gorgeous gardens of Villa Durazzo in Santa Margherita.

Loved all the overdone architecture in this part of the world – wedding cake everything!

The back alleys of Portofino.

A tiny glimpse of Portofino through the trees on our hike.

The pretty bay in Portofino. If you look closely you’ll see that the facades are actually painted on and not moulded – they’ve been painted using the tromp l’oeil style that creates an optical illusion of 3D. It feels weird when you realise this but every town in the region has it and you soon grow to like it. At least I did!

One perfect day hiking from Portofino to the Abbey in San Fruttuoso

This is something you simply CANNOT miss if you are in the area.

Starting at the back of Portofino, you take a steep track over the hills. It’s around 5km to reach San Fruttuoso during which you walk through forests, vineyards, down steep hills and finally get to the bay. There are spectacular aerial views of Portofino and the Golfo Paradiso, and for a moment there we felt like we were the only people in Italy. Two hours later we got to the inlet, and couldn’t believe how beautiful the Abbey was. Walking through the arches we were ecstatic to find a gorgeous little cafe Da Giorgio, built straight into the oceanside cliffs – umbrella precariously wedged between rocks. Because what’s a perfect day without the perfect lunch? Naturally we ordered everything on the menu – fresh anchovies, salads, mussels, clam pasta and buckets of wine. Everything tasted so amazing, partly because we were starving from the hike and also because it was just so so beautiful. If you’re looking for romance (dare I say it), this is where you’ll find it.

If you look closely you can see Ben at our cliffside table. Take me back!

The inlet is actually the middle point in the hike between Portofino and Camogli, so you can walk out if you can be bothered. I say stay, have a wine and enjoy every blissful moment, and instead catch the ferry home. You can also use the ferry to get to the Abbey if walking is out of the question. If you’re game and the water isn’t too choppy you could also check out the Christ of the Abyss.

The gorgeous Benedictine Abbey.

Lunch and the boat that took us home in the background. We wanted to take the ferry back but because of the choppy water no ferries were running, instead we got our restaurant to organise a boat back to Camogli – with a few other people it wasn’t too expensive. We were adamant not to be walking back!

The pretty beach at Camogli.

Getting off the boat at Camogli – we caught a train back to Santa Margherita from there. All in all an incredible day.

We had a frantic dip into the rocky waters at Camogli.

I love everything about Italian Beach culture!

Our favourite fish restaurant in Santa Margherita.

Finishing the day well. Here’s to the next unexpected, perfect travel day. I wonder when it will be…

Tags Italy travel

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