Hiking Portofino to San Fruttuoso

In the beginning of July, we accompanied a friend on a family vacation to Portofino, where we stayed in the hills on a former olive tree farm (yes, we are molto fortunati).  One of the highlights of the trip was hiking from Portofino to San Fruttuoso.  In fact, I liked the hike so much that I did it twice in one week (once with others staying at the house and again with Luke when he joined for the weekend).

Like many Americans, I had heard of Portofino (a former fishing village and now upscale vacation spot located near Genoa).  I had never heard of its neighbors, Santa Margherita Ligure and Paraggi (where we visited frequently during our stay).  And I had never heard of San Fruttuoso (a tiny village that can only be reached by foot or by boat). And so, when I agreed to walk to a place called San Fruttuoso, I had no idea what was in store at the end of the 2 hour trail.

Spoiler alert: if you want to be surprised like I was, scroll no further and leave for the hike immediately.

The port of Portofino

The hike itself is moderately difficult and offers spectacular aerial views of Portofino and the Golfo Paradiso. We were hiking on a warm July day, so by the end of the hike, we were hot, hungry, and happy to descend from the woods to find a small pebble beach with welcoming waters. I missed the memo that we would be swimming and hadn’t brought my swim suit.   But with water too refreshing to pass up, I jumped in wearing sports bra and hiking capris (luckily both of the quick-drying variety).

Once in the water, two people from our group baded me to swim out further and peek around the corner.

That’s when I saw this:

Surprise! This is the Abbazia di San Fruttuoso, an abbey dedicated to San Fruttuoso of Tarragona that was first built in the mid-10th century. In addition to the abbey, San Fruttuoso is home to Christ of the Abyss, a bronze statue of Jesus submerged in the water (I think you need to go scuba diving or on a special boat tour to see it).

We hung out at San Fruttuoso for a few hours. We ate our packed lunches (though there are a couple of restaurants there), cooled off in the water, and did some tuffi (jumping from rocks into the water).

Instead of retracing the trail home, we hopped on a ferry back to Portofino for about €7.50/head. Departing from San Fruttuoso by ferry was equally as exciting as our arrival. As the ferry pulled away from the shore, and the abbey got smaller and smaller becoming swallowed by the surrounding hills, I imagined what it must have been like for pirates or explorers to stumble upon San Fruttuoso after days at sea. Che bello!

The details

Length: 2 hours

Description: The hike is moderately difficult with a handful of steeper ascents and descents, but I think is accessible to a wide range of skill levels (as long as you take breaks to rest and hydrate as needed). We did the trip with a mixed group ranging from 11 – 45 years old. There is a fair amount of signage along the trail pointing you in the right direction.

The path starts at Via del Fondaco at the bottom of the parking lot near the police station (we started partway up the hill from the house we were staying in). After walking on the road and up some steps, you reach the church of San Sebastian. Continuing up the road, you encounter a gate. The gate is not meant to keep out humans (but rather wild boar), so go ahead (just close the gate behind you). Eventually, you enter the woods, where the path is rocky and alternates many times between ascents and descents. Near the end of the hike, you come to a large concrete platform which is a landing site for helicopters. Continue across the landing platform. Walk down the hill and through a small stretch of houses. You reach a restaurant, which means you’ve arrived. This is the first of the two beaches of San Fruttuoso. Walk through the restaurant’s portico to the smaller of the two beaches or continue walking a little further to reach the larger beach and the Abbazia.

While at San Fruttuoso, you can also visit the museums in the Abbey and the Torre Doria.

Some links
More pics of the hike from my iPhone
Parco di Portofino website (including a general map of the park’s trails)
Portofino Ferry website
Portofino Trek website (with some suggested itineraries in the park. The first part of this itinerary outlines the hike from Portofino – San Fruttuoso)
Madeline Jhawar’s Five Favorite Places to Hike in Italy (including hiking options from Camogli to San Fruttuoso and/or Portofino)
A Quick Guide to Near but not In Cinque Terre from Grounded Traveler

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