The Cinque Terre – daytripping to Portofino

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 a wonderful day trip.  So sit back, and enjoy the visit!

Picture perfect Portofino

Picture perfect Portofino


Portofino is just an hour from the Cinque Terre by train.  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 gettng 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!

Walking to Portofino allows you also enjoy pretty Santa Margherita

Walking to Portofino allows you also enjoy pretty Santa Margherita

Getting to Portofino from SML


Here 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…..

Our first glimpse of Portofino harbour

Our first glimpse of Portofino harbour

More dedicated walkers will take the longer inland walk – watch for the pretty tiled sign en route to lead you off the coast road.

We didn't head inland - we didn't want to miss the stunning sea and views

We didn’t head inland – we didn’t want to miss the stunning colours and views 

Four things to do in Portofino

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.  Personally, I just loved being around the gorgeous little harbour, enjoying the sunshine and watching the Italian school kids on their field trips.

Even the Hermes boutique had a relaxed, village vibe

Even the Hermes boutique had a relaxed, village vibe

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 entree  (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 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.  We brave the hoards of fellow daytrippers, and the chaotic ticketing process, but thoroughly enjoy our ride back on the ferry.

The bus returns to SML from a square above the harbour - complete with this magnificent wisteria

The bus returns to SML from a square above the harbour – complete with this magnificent wisteria

Ending the day perfectly

When our train arrives back in Monterosso we realise we need to wait ages for our connection to Manarola, so hop a 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 entree (appetiser) in Portofino.

Our return to Manarola by ferry - more stunning views to end a stunning day!

Our return to Manarola by ferry – more stunning views to end a stunning day!

If you are in the Cinque Terre, do make the effort to visit its wealthy neighbour – you won’t be disappointed!

If you feel inspired to visit the Cinque Terre, why not start planning now with a guide book from my store? (This is an affiliate link, so I will earn a small commission for your purchase – thanks!)

Related posts:

Walks for non-hikers in the Cinque Terre

Dining in the Cinque Terre

10 tips for enjoying the Cinque Terre

Cats of the Cinque Terre

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15 Comments on “The Cinque Terre – daytripping to Portofino”

  1. Pretraveller 12/06/2013 at 7:49 pm #

    Jo, thanks for sharing the options to explore Portofino as a day trip! While I have visited Cinque terra before I have never taken the option to visit Portofino. As a result of your article the next time I am in that part of the world I will definitely try to visit.

    • frugalfirstclasstravel 12/06/2013 at 8:18 pm #

      Thanks Anne. It makes a great, easy day trip that I would thoroughly recommend. It also makes an interesting contrast with the more ‘homely’ atmosphere of the Cinque Terre

  2. C L Smith 12/06/2013 at 11:08 pm #

    Beautiful post…makes me dream 🙂

    • frugalfirstclasstravel 13/06/2013 at 6:17 am #

      Yes, it was just one of those perfect days. The way we did it was an easy and inexpensive way to experience a very pricey part of the world.

  3. holidayaddict 13/06/2013 at 6:40 am #

    Oooooh! I think I’d definitely like Portofino. I can’t get enough of Italy at the moment, though I’m sure it’s time to give more attention to Spain or France.

    I love looking at the coastline from the water – lovely photos! And I don’t mid coughing up cost-wise when it’s clearly worth it and a one off. Just gorgeous!

    • frugalfirstclasstravel 13/06/2013 at 9:06 am #

      Hi Clare, yes Portofino has got you written all over it! If you do it as a day trip from the Cinque Terre it is not expensive – just the train ticket and the ferry or bus fare. It’s only expensive if you want to stay, shop or eat a large meal. We managed a cheap day by just eating an entree (appetiser) and a glass of wine for lunch, then finishing with a gelato from a shop afterwards. We ate our main meal back in Manarola that evening. I can’t remember the exact price of the train ticket, but it wouldn’t have been more than 5-7EUR return, and the ferry was EUR6 one way. So unless you are on a tiny shoestring budget it isn’t expensive.

  4. Geek Goddess 13/06/2013 at 10:36 am #

    Oh, gorgeous!!

    • frugalfirstclasstravel 13/06/2013 at 12:18 pm #

      Have you been?

      • Geek Goddess 13/06/2013 at 12:20 pm #

        I’ve never been to Italy. A friend and I have a trip planned for Istanbul for September, but I think I need to nudge her to go somewhere else, for obvious reasons.

      • frugalfirstclasstravel 13/06/2013 at 12:55 pm #

        hhmm, what a lovely dilemma! I’ve got first trip to Istanbul planned for Oct.

  5. sarahhedonista 10/07/2013 at 8:05 pm #

    Every year we say we will make it to Portofino. Ahh, maybe this one. Got to the Cinque Terre a couple of years back though, and that was a highlight. I actually found the CT quite expensive compared to the hills of Umbria (we took a 3-day sojourn), so have no idea what I’m going to think of Portofino!

    And have fun in Istanbul – one of my favourite places.

    • frugalfirstclasstravel 11/07/2013 at 7:55 am #

      Personally, unless you’ve got money burn, I think daytripping to Portofino is the only way to go. It’s pretty, and the trip there from Santa Margherita is delightful, but with an entree (appetizer) costing the same as the most expensive main course in Manarola, it is on another planet price wise…….

  6. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) 20/08/2014 at 8:20 am #

    I’ve only recently come to know of Cinque Terre and it’s really high on my wish list – sounds just beautiful and I’ll definitely keep these tips in mind if I go!


  1. Three great walks for non-hikers in the Cinque Terre | frugalfirstclasstravel - 13/06/2013

    […] Daytripping to Portofino from the Cinque Terre […]

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