Santa Margherita to Portofino, a romantic Mediterranean walk

The Santa Margherita to Portofino walk can only be described as enchanting. Elizabeth Von Arnim describes the setting of Portofino in her novel The Enchanted April as a the tranquil setting that brings together companions in hope and love. The beauty of this walk can also inspire the same emotions.

The ramble takes you up 200 m (650 ft) and is only 4.4 km (2.7 mi) long. However due to the number of stops on the way to admire the scenery we took over 1 ½ hours to complete the trip.

Santa Margherita

The Santa Margherita di Pagna is an ideal point from which to explore the Portofino Peninsula. The town itself bustles with tourists throughout the season and at weekends. There are plenty of places to eat, especially along the front. There are a couple excellent delis and some interesting shops.

While there, we found a small restaurant away from the main shopping area called L’Insolita Zuppa, which translates into The Unusual Soup. If you want to sample Italian food other than pizza and pasta I highly recommend it.

There are many routes that criss cross the Portofino Peninsula and the major paths are well and distinctively marked.

The route begins

Our route begins at the port of Santa Margherita. Check out the map to see exactly where or look out for the grand building below.

The imposing Victorian edifice is the marker for the start of the Santa Marghertia to Portofino walk

If you are facing this Victorian edifice turn right and up the small road behind it. You’ll see a footpath sign directing you to Nozarego. The path climbs quite steeply and you’ll soon see your first wonderful view of the Mediterranean.

The first stunning view on the Santa Marghertia to Portofino walk
First view of the Med

Well maintained route

You’ll only need a reasonable pair of trainers to walk this route. The paths are well maintained and easy to follow.

In addition to the clear paths you’ll find the way well signposted.

Finally, to make the route as clear as possible there are many frequent markers on the stone walls, trees or telegraph poles at frequent intervals.

You follow the single cross on the way up and the three dots on your descent.

The views

The advantages of taking this walking route from Santa Marghertia to Portofino are the outstanding views that are glimpsed through the trees as you walk along the path.

The sun plays on the Mediterranean on the Santa Marghertia to Portofino walk
The sun reflects off the sea

It’s strange how the reflection seems to sweep in a zig zag across the sea.

A yacht in the distance on the Santa Marghertia to Portofino walk

The path looks directly down on the sea below. Someone sits out in the bay in their huge yacht. Should we look down on them?

See for miles on the Santa Marghertia to Portofino walk
See for miles

From the highest point one can see for miles all along the Ligurian coastline.

The path descends

After you have taken in the outstanding views the path suddenly descends towards the beach.

The three spots leads you straight down and you emerge beside the Hotel Argentina at the little cove of Paraggi.

When we passed through this little hamlet of Paraggi there were still quite a few people enjoying the autumn sunshine. A great time to visit this little beach, still warm enough and not too crowded

The lovely cove of Paraggi on the Santa Marghertia to Portofino walk
Sun bathing at Paraggi

The path crosses the road and follows the headland above the road. See the map.

The path into Portofino

An easy path continues above the road and sea below.

There are still beautiful sights to see.

A villa peccherei on the sea's edge on the Santa Marghertia to Portofino walk
A villa perched on the rocks

Continue along the path which takes you around the headland of Niasca.

Chestnut grove on the Santa Marghertia to Portofino walk
The story of Chestnut trees in the locality

The board tells the story of how chestnut trees have found sanctuary in the micro-climate that exists in this headland.

The path carries on

When you turn the corner at the tip of the headland you see your first site of Portofino.

Portofino comes into view on the Santa Marghertia to Portofino walk
The first view of Portofino

Money has been attracted to this little harbour for long time. An example is this victorian pile.

An expensive villa on the edge of the sea


However it is not surprising that people have been attracted to this enchanting spot. Since 1950 tourism has been the most important ecom=nomic activity in Portofino.

Our destination on the Santa Marghertia to Portofino walk

Stars have been attracted to the port. They have included Rex Harrison, Rita Hayworth, Liz Taylor, Richard Burton, Clark Gable, Humphrey Bogart, Ava Gardner, Vittorio Gassman, Marcello Mastroianni, Robert De Niro, Liza Minnelli, Alain Delon, George Clooney, Madonna, Peter Gabriel, Denzel Washington, Ringo Starr, Barbra Streisand, Rod Stewart. A large collection for such a small resort.

This small harbour is squeezed into the surrounding hills which come close down to the waters edge. All around the port are restaurants catering for the visitors.

High above sits Castello Brown, named after a 19th century British Consul who bought the dilapidated castle. The castle featured in a wonderful film version of The Enchanted April starring Miranda Richardson, Joan Plowright and Alfred Molina. Watch the film on YouTube, I loved it.

Return to Santa Margherita

You can, of course, walk back the way you came. However to complete the romantic day inspired by the beauty before you enjoy a slow return by boat on the ferry.

Finish your romantic journey on a boat ride to end the Santa Marghertia to Portofino walk
The return to Santa Margherita

The views from the ferry are just as attractive as they are from the hills above.

What Next?

If you enjoyed the Santa Margherita to Portofino stroll then you can find more great walks at Find a walk – Riviera.

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