Portofino (& Santa Margherita) Day Trip from Genoa

Sunset over Santa Margherita, Italy

Italy is known for a lot of drop-dead-gorgeous places, but the most famous one’s don’t fit the typical travel budget (Capri, Venice, Lake Como…). At least – they don’t fit mine! That never stops me though. I just have to find ways to be creative. Portofino was one of those way-too-expensive places for me (one night at Belmond Hotel Splendido starting at €832? *calmly closes laptop and walks away*). But it had been on my saved images on Instagram bucket list for way too long to simply skip it during my five-week trip in North Italy. So, I decided I would day trip from nearby Genoa, multiple days if I had to! And day trip I did. Not only did I get to experience Portofino, but nearby Santa Margherita as well, and a combined day trip to both is now something I would highly recommend. Thus, I’ve created this travel guide detailing exactly how to visit Portofino and Santa Margherita on a day trip from Genoa. This is also the most budget-friendly way to enjoy the beauty that is Portofino. Ready?!

White statue in Piazza Martiri della Libertà
Orange hotel in Baia Cannone, Portofino, Italy.
Sail boats in Portofino harbor, Italy.


Travel from Genoa to Santa Marghertia by Train

Start the day (ideally) somewhat early, and head to Genoa Brignole train station. Catch a regional train heading to or stopping in S. Margherita Ligure-Portofino for €3.60 one way. In forty minutes, you’ll be in sunny Santa Margherita. You can also purchase a ticket for half the travel time, but double the price. (Check train schedules the night before.)

Travel from Santa Margherita to Portofino by Bus

For now, skip Santa Margherita, and make your way straight to Portofino, to try to beat out some other day-trippers. From the train station, head to the bus station I’ve highlighted on the map below. Go inside the small building, and purchase a round trip ticket to Portofino from the attendant inside. Tickets cost €3 one-way and €5 round-trip. The attendant will let you know the bus number and where to wait for it. Buses come rather frequently, since everyone is trying to get to the same place (you might have to stand)!

Recommended reading: The Ultimate Comprehensive Genoa Travel Guide


Portofino harbor and yachts.

Personally, I was less than impressed by this pretty little place. Due to its small size and large popularity, I simply did not like the atmosphere. Its few streets felt overly crowded, the gelato was the most expensive I saw during my entire five-week Italy trip (more than in Venice or Milan!), and it felt like a spot for retirees to just sit, eat, and shop. That being said, I DO still recommend a visit. I just don’t recommend making it too long. Within a couple hours, I recommend being sure to see the following.

Window Shop Around the Town Center

Cafe chairs and hanging flowers along the waterfront of Portofino harbor.

Once in Portofino, explore as you please. There are several outdoor cafes for an early lunch lining the harbor and main plaza, but these are pretty pricey. I recommend bringing some sort of packed picnic lunch if you’re on a budget. Make a lap around the few streets and the edge of the harbor, and you’ve honestly seen most of what there is to see in town.

Hike to Castello Brown

Castello Brown on a hill behind Portofino harbor with boats.

Hike to Castello Brown for the best views over Portofino. The scenery all along the walk will have you turning around and snapping pics from every angle. If you care to enter the castle towards the end of this trail (I didn’t), it’s a  €5 entry fee. The trail is uphill but very doable, and there are even benches every now and then for you to relax and take in the view.

Chiesa Divo Martino

Chiesa Divo Martino in Portofino, Italy.

Keep walking past the castle until you reach Chiesa Divo Martino. This tiny church is free to enter, but rather underwhelming, in my opinion. But the views over the water are unreal from the open area to the side of the church. No filter needed to see how bright blue the Ligurian Sea is.

Baia Cannone

Orange building hanging off a cliff in Baia Cannone, Portofino, Italy.

Head back down into town and walk around as you please. Once done with Portofino, start walking uphill. Stop by Chiesa di San Martino e Giorgio on your way to the car road. You’ll pass by this picturesque insta-famous pink and orange building hanging off a cliff in Baia Cannone.

Paraggi Beach

Paraggi Beach in Portofino, Italy.

Walk along it until you reach the real jewel of Portofino; Paraggi Beach. The bright blue-green waters of this lush, little cove are something like a dream. You can pay to rent a beach chair, or post up for free along the pebbles or flat rocks along the side. If you fancy some water activities, you can rent kayaks and stand-up paddle boards from Outdoor Kayak, located on Baia di Niasca beach (which you pass when walking from town to Paraggi).

Recommended reading: The Best (and Super Easy by Train) Day Trips from Milan


Sunset over Santa Margherita, Italy.

After you’ve had enough fun in the sun, head back to the road and locate the bus stop nearest this beach (I’ve provided a map below). Ride the bus back to Santa Margherita, where you can relax for the rest of the day.

For most tourists, this lovely sea-side town is nothing more than the closest train station to Portofino. But I highly recommend giving Santa Margherita some time, especially if you like less-touristy places. While Portofino felt entirely catered to wealthy, older, foreign tourists, Santa Margherita felt like a real place of residence. I noticed locals out and about; older men playing water polo in the sea; young girls taking turns riding a hover board around the park, elderly couples relaxing on park benches… 

Villa Durazzo

Villa Durazzo park in Santa Margherita, Italy.
Palm trees and sea view from Villa Durazzo park in Santa Margherita, Italy.
White statue and lamppost in Villa Durazzo park in Santa Margherita, Italy.

The best way to explore such a place is by simply wandering around. As far as “attractions” go, simply be sure to stop by Villa Durazzo (now a free-entry public park with sea views) at some point during your wandering.

Have an Affordable Dinner

Margherita cheese pizza in Santa Margherita, Italy.

As you can imagine, the food in Santa Margherita is much more reasonably-priced than that in nearby Portofino. So find a place that catches your eye, and wind down before catching the train back to Genoa. Alternatively, get some pizza to go from one of the pizzerias lining the main street area.

Piazza Martiri della Liberta

View of Piazza Martiri della Libertà in Santa Margherita with colorful buildings behind and water in front.

Take it across the street to the park in Piazza Martiri della Libertà. Not only is this the budget friendly option, but it also affords you a front-row seat to the Ligurian sea during sunset.


With just two days in Genoa, I recommend choosing accommodation close to both the train station and the historical center. For those of you traveling on a budget (like I always do!), I can recommend this hostel, where I stayed for five nights during my own visit to Genoa. It is a five-minute walk from the main train station, was clean, and the staff gave some great day trip suggestions. It’s a social hostel in that there are organized events every night, but it is still calm enough [that a grandma like me had no problems]. It’s not the cheapest hostel (I paid high-30-somethings USD a night), but it’s not the most expensive either, and there aren’t many hostels in the city. Breakfast is advertised as included, but it’s so minuscule that I made a routine of getting coffee and a pastry for €2.60 right down the street. 

While in Genoa, I met other travelers who stayed at this hostel, located in the historical center, and they seem satisfied with it. 


Have you visited Genoa, Santa Margherita, or Portofino? Do you have any questions on how to make this same Portofino day trip from Genoa? Let me know in the comments below, and I’ll do my best to answer your questions. It really is a great way to visit Portofino on a budget!

Are You Visiting Portofino? Pin this Article to Return to Later.

If you haven't heard of this little gem in the Italian Riviera, you're in for a treat! Portofino is normally an expensive travel destination in Italy, but with my travel guide, learn how to see Portofino on a budget by making a day trip from nearby Genoa.
If you haven't heard of this little gem in the Italian Riviera, you're in for a treat! Portofino is normally an expensive travel destination in Italy, but with my travel guide, learn how to see Portofino on a budget by making a day trip from nearby Genoa.
If you haven't heard of this little gem in the Italian Riviera, you're in for a treat! Portofino is normally an expensive travel destination in Italy, but with my travel guide, learn how to see Portofino on a budget by making a day trip from nearby Genoa.


  • Rachael
    February 16, 2020 at 12:25 PM

    Portofino looks beautiful. Too bad about the crowds and expensive gelato though!

    • That Travelista
      February 18, 2020 at 7:18 PM

      Definitely! Luckily Santa Margherita is a bit less crowded but still lovely 🙂

  • samantha
    February 13, 2020 at 8:27 PM

    All your photos are amazing and it sounds like you and I think alike in ways to budget hacks around the places we want to go! Thanks for detailing this out!

    • That Travelista
      February 14, 2020 at 2:15 PM

      Woohoo great minds think alike! 😉

  • Lenore | The Nitty Gritty Travel OT
    February 13, 2020 at 3:42 PM

    Well written article. I love that you gave great budget friendly tips, and alternative ways to explore these popular destinations in Italy.

    • That Travelista
      February 14, 2020 at 2:15 PM

      Thanks, Lenore!: )

  • kyliedunkley
    February 12, 2020 at 3:17 PM

    Such great advice on where to spend your time while in Portofina. These places are beautiful and now I have to go!

    • That Travelista
      February 12, 2020 at 9:19 PM

      Portofino and Santa Margherita are both gorgeous! I hope you can see them soon!

  • Melissa
    February 12, 2020 at 12:29 PM

    I love this post! Thanks for all the detailed info such as the transit costs! Definitely on my bucket list!

    • That Travelista
      February 12, 2020 at 9:19 PM

      So glad it’s helpful, Melissa!!


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