The Ultimate Guide to a Day Trip from Milan to Portofino
by Coco Tran On October 26, 2023
Italy is full of stunning seaside villages, but none compare to the beauty and glamor of Portofino. This colorful fishing village on the Italian Riviera has long been a favorite retreat for Europe’s rich and famous.
With its picturesque harbor, colorful buildings, high-end shops, and cliffside hikes, it’s easy to see the appeal. Portofino makes for a perfect day trip from Milan to escape the bustling city and enjoy a quintessential taste of the Italian seaside lifestyle.
The Ultimate Guide to a Day Trip from Milan to Portofino
In This Article: Table of Contents
How to Get from Milan to Portofino Day Trip
Portofino is located about 130 km (80 mi) southeast of Milan. With no direct train or bus services available, getting there requires a combination of transportation options. Here are the best ways to reach Portofino from Milan:
Milan to portofino Train + Bus
This is the most common and convenient way to travel from Milan to Portofino. Here are the steps:
- Take a train from Milan Centrale station to Santa Margherita Ligure Station. Trains depart hourly and the journey takes 2-3 hours.
- From Santa Margherita Ligure, take bus #82, operated by AMT Genova, to Portofino. Buses run every 15-30 minutes and take about 15 minutes.
- Buy train tickets in advance on Trenitalia and bus tickets can be purchased on board.
Milan to portofin Train + Ferry
For a more scenic journey, take the ferry from Santa Margherita Ligure to Portofino.
- First take the train from Milan to Santa Margherita Ligure as described above.
- From the station, walk 10 minutes to the ferry port and take a 15 minute ferry across the harbor to Portofino.
- Ferries leave every 30 minutes in high season and cost around €12 round-trip. Buy tickets at the port.
Getting to Portofino from Milan by Ferry
- Take the train from Milan to Santa Margherita Ligure
- Walk 10 minutes to the ferry terminal
- Ferries depart every 30 minutes for the 15 minute crossing to Portofino
- Buy tickets at the terminal, expect to pay around €12 roundtrip
- More scenic than the bus, especially when approaching Portofino by sea
Milan to Portofino by train
- Direct trains not available, must transfer in Santa Margherita Ligure
- Trains from Milan Centrale to Santa Margherita Ligure take 2-3 hours
- They run hourly, buy tickets in advance on Omia website
- From the station take bus #82 to Portofino (15 mins, €1.50 ticket)
High-Speed Train Options from Milan to Portofino
- No direct high-speed train, but can take Italo or Frecciarossa to Santa Margherita Ligure
- Cut travel time down to as little as 1.5 hours from Milan
- Transfer to bus or ferry to reach Portofino
- High-speed trains more expensive than slower regional train
Milan to Portofino Driving from
- Drive time around 3 hours without traffic
- Take A7 south out of Milan, continue on A12 along coast
- Exit at Recco/Rapallo for Portofino
- Parking limited in Portofino, better to park in Santa Margherita Ligure
Distance and Travel Time from Milan to Portofino
- Distance is approximately 80 miles (130 km)
- Travel time is around 3-4 hours each way
- Quickest option is high-speed train taking as little as 2.5 hours with perfect connections
For maximum convenience, book a guided tour transfer from Milanto Portofino. Companies like This one offer private sedans and vans seating up to 8 people.Shared shuttle services are also available for budget travelers.
No matter how you choose to get there, the journey from Milan to Portofino takes around 3-4 hours each way. An early start is recommended to have sufficient time to explore the village and surroundings.
What to See and Do in Portofino
Portofino is a small seaside village, but it packs a lot of charm and beauty into its modest size. Here are the top attractions and activities for a great day trip:
Marvel at the Harbor
Portofino’s picturesque harbor is its definitive landmark. Look at the colorful houses clustered around its shores, the luxury yachts moored in the marina, and the coming and going of small fishing boats. Postcard views abound.
Wander the Village Streets
Portofino’s quaint streets lined with pastel-colored houses are a delight to explore. Pop into high-end boutiques, art galleries, cafes and gelaterias. Don’t miss the historic Church of St. Martin overlooking the main square.
Hike to the Lighthouse
For spectacular panoramas over the village and harbor, follow the coastal path 45 minutes uphill to the Point of Portofino lighthouse. Continue to the neighboring coves of Paraggi and San Fruttuoso if time allows.
Relax at a Beach Club
Soak up the ritzy seaside vibe at a beach club like Paraggi Beach Club or Lo Smeraldo Beach Club. Spend the day sunbathing, sipping cocktails and swimming in the turquoise Ligurian Sea.
Take a Boat Tour
Join a boat tour to discover secluded coves and admire Portofino’s beauty from the water. Popular options include trips to the nearby fishing village of San Fruttuoso or a coastal cruise to the Cinque Terre.
Eat Fresh Seafood
Being a fishing village, Portofino is renowned for its seafood. Sit harborfront at Ristorante Puny or Splendido Mare and feast on dishes like spaghetti with clams, grilled branzino and anchovies drizzled with lemon and olive oil.
Do Some High-End Shopping
Portofino offers world-class shopping opportunities. Browse boutiques selling designer fashion brands, jewelry, watches, Italian leather goods and more. The prices reflect Portofino’s upscale status.
No matter how you spend your time in Portofino, arrive early to avoid the afternoon crowds that descend on this popular Italian Riviera destination.
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Getting Around Portofino
Since Portofino is so small, getting around is easily done on foot. The entirety of the village center can be explored in an hour or two. Here are some tips for getting your bearings:
- Portofino is pedestrian-only so leave your car parked outside of town. The closest parking is in Paraggi, a 10-15 minute walk away.
- Wear comfortable walking shoes, as Portofino’s cobblestone streets and steep staircases can be challenging in heels or sandals. Leave the stroller behind as well.
- Pick up a free tourist map at the info point in the main square to help navigate Portofino’s winding streets.
- If mobility is an issue, ask for an accessibility map showing wheelchair-friendly routes and elevators. A limited shuttle bus also services the village.
- For further afield attractions like the lighthouse hike, consider an e-bike, scooter or taxi boat rental to save your legs.
Portofino’s petite size makes it the perfect Italian seaside village to explore on foot in a relaxed, carefree way. Let yourself wander and you’ll soon find your bearings in this magical place.
Where to Eat in Portofino
Dining in Portofino focuses squarely on fresh Mediterranean seafood and regional Ligurian cuisine. Prices are high, but the harborfront views make it worth the splurge. Here are some of the best restaurants to try:
The seaside outpost of the exclusive Splendido Hotel offers a gorgeous terrace for dining on refined seafood entrees and wines from their extensive list.
Tip: make a reservation one month in advance for lunch or dinner.
An intimate family-run spot overlooking the harbor, serving classics like seafood spaghetti, mussel soup, grilled fish and their signature chocolate cake. Reservations essential.
Ristorante lo Stella
Elegant fine dining right on the marina. The multicourse tasting menu is a special experience, with dishes like lobster ravioli and sea bass baked in rock salt. Jacket required.
Cantina dello Zio Bramante
For a more budget-friendly option, try this small trattoria tucked away from the harbor. No-frills, delicious Ligurian home cooking like pesto gnocchi and stuffed anchovies.
Chuflay Bar Gelateria
Don’t leave without trying Portofino’s fabulous gelato! This bright and cheerful gelateria near the harbor makes their gelato fresh daily. Try unique flavors like rose or gorgonzola.
Dining in Portofino is expensive, so consider a picnic lunch from items bought in town to help limit costs. But do save room for a harborside dinner splurge – the views are unmatched!
Where to Stay in Portofino
Most visitors choose to stay in Milan or Santa Margherita Ligure and visit Portofino as a day trip. But some exclusive overnight options exist if your budget allows:
Belmond Hotel – Splendido Mare
Part of the Belmond luxury hotel collection, the Splendido Mare boasts a cliffside setting, stylish rooms with harbor views, a world-class spa and Michelin-star dining. Rooms start around €1000.
Eight Hotel Portofino
Ultra-chic boutique hotel with a mere eight rooms, each impeccably furnished in a modern style. Enjoy a intimate, exclusive ambiance just steps from the harbor. Rooms from €800.
Charming family-run small hotel near the main square, offering comfortable rooms and suites decorated in breezy Mediterranean decor. More affordable rates from €250.
Domina Home Piccolo
Boutique townhouse hotel on a quiet side street, with cozy, nautically-themed rooms and a lovely breakfast buffet. Rates from around €200.
Limited hotel options mean booking well in advance is essential if you want spend the night in picturesque Portofino. Be prepared to splurge for this unique opportunity.
When to Visit Portofino
Portofino enjoys a year-round mild Mediterranean climate. Peak season runs May to September when the weather is ideal for sunbathing and swimming.
This is also the busiest and most expensive time. For smaller crowds and lower prices, visit in April/May or September/October. Winters are quieter with occasional rainy days.
The holiday atmosphere sparkles in December. Whenever you visit, you’ll be charmed by Portofino’s beauty.
Tips for Visiting Portofino
Follow these tips to make the most of your day trip from Milan to pretty Portofino:
- Leave early to avoid crowds. Daytrippers pour in during the afternoon.
- Wear good walking shoes as the cobblestones and stairs can be hard on feet.
- For restaurants, make reservations in advance. Walk-ins are unlikely, especially at dinner.
- All of Portofino is pedestrian only. The nearest parking is a 10 minute walk away at Paraggi.
- Bring cash. Many shops and restaurants do not accept credit cards, especially under €25-50.
- Photography is a must! Capture those gorgeous harbor panoramas.
- Don’t shy away from side streets and alleyways to find hidden gems.
With its colorful beauty and cliffs plunging into sapphire waters, Portofino lives up to all the hype. Enjoy life’s finer things like shopping, dining and relaxing here alongside Europe’s elite. Escaping the crowds of Milan for an excursion to this Italian seaside paradise makes for an unforgettable day out along the riviera.
Day Trip Itinerary from Milan to Portofino
Planning a seamless day trip from Milan to Portofino requires some strategic timing. Here is a suggested 10-hour itinerary:
7:00am – Leave Milan on the first direct train to Santa Margherita Ligure. Grab breakfast onboard.
9:30am – Arrive in Santa Margherita Ligure. Walk to ferry terminal.
10:00am – Catch the ferry to Portofino. Enjoy the 15 minute crossing.
10:15am – Arrive in Portofino. Spend the morning wandering the village before it gets busy.
12:30pm – Have lunch at a harborfront restaurant. Try the fresh seafood!
2:00pm – In the afternoon, hike up to the lighthouse for panoramic views over the town and coastline.
4:00pm – Return to the village and relax with an Aperol spritz at a beach club or cafe by the marina. Do some shopping.
6:00pm – Take the ferry back to Santa Margherita Ligure.
6:15pm – Catch the train back to Milan. Sit down for dinner onboard.
9:00pm – Arrive back in Milan after a long but rewarding day on the Italian Riviera.
This relaxed itinerary allows you to experience Portofino’s charm without feeling rushed. Squeeze in as much as you can of this beautiful seaside escape!
Extending Your Stay in the Italian Riviera
If time allows, consider extending your Italian coastal getaway by spending additional nights elsewhere along the Riviera:
Santa Margherita Ligure – Base yourself in this elegant seaside resort town and take day trips to Portofino (15 mins away) and the Cinque Terre (1 hour).
Rapallo – Lively harbor town 15 minutes from Portofino by bus. Makes a more affordable base.
Camogli – Charming fishing village near Portofino, known for its colorful houses and delicious seafood.
Sestri Levante – Postcard perfect scenery at this town nestled between two coves. 35 mins from Portofino.
Cinque Terre – See the iconic pastel villages of the UNESCO-listed Cinque Terre, just an hour north.
With its stunning seascapes and chic resort towns dotting the coastline, extending your Italian Riviera escape promises more magical moments along one of Europe’s most beautiful coasts.
Visit Portofino from Milan
A day trip from Milan to Portofino makes for an iconic Italian travel experience. Revel in the high-end ambiance of this beloved coastal village as you wander the picturesque streets, savor fresh seafood by the harbor, hike to gorgeous viewpoints, relax at a beach club and more. Follow these tips and you’ll be living “la dolce vita” like a local in no time on the Italian Riviera. Let the splendor of Portofino inspire you!
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