Portofino Peninsula - San Rocco to Abbey of San Fruttuoso
The Portofino Peninsula and its towns of Camogli, Rapallo, Santa Margherita, and Portofino are well known - beautiful, accessible, offer good hikes and walks and much quieter than the tourist laden villages and towns of the Cinque Terre to the south. We spent many carefree summer weeks in the towns of Rapallo and Santa Margherita when I was a student – when living in Italy was cheap and cheerful, sunny and fabulous. For a poor student tired of the gloom of a Glasgow winters this Italian Riviera coastline was paradise! I always planned on revisiting but it didn’t seem like the place I’d drag my family to when they were young so now they’re footloose and independent this was the perfect time to done our walking shoes and hit the hiking routes and once again remember why we loved it so much first time around.
We chose to stay in Camogli which is easy to travel to by train from Genoa staying in the Hotel Casmona, located halfway along the stairway that links Piazza Schiaffino and Via della Repubblica to Via Garibaldi, the waterfront promenade. Set in a 19th century villa facing directly on to the promenade of Camogli the hotel has 19 rooms with a sea views. The rooms are modest but clean, roomy and ours had the most fabulous views out over the sea – also it is just 5 mins walk from the station.
For this hike we chose to walk from the churchyard of San Rocco via the Batterie, a magnificent belvedere overlooking the gulf, where you’ll see the remains of bunkers dating from the Second World War and on to the Abbey of San Fruttuoso, located in a spectacularly beautiful bay beneath a steep wooded hill to the west of Portofino.
This walk is not for the feint hearted – it requires stamina and guts! It’s not a hike for first timers or anyone with a fear of heights. At times you will be literally dangling from iron chains to swing out across rocky outcrops but this makes it all the more exhilarating especially once you stagger down the final steps into the enchanting bay of San Fruttuoso.
To avoid a difficult start to the trail I’d recommend you don’t start your walk in Camogli but take a local bus up to San Rocco. You’ll avoid hundreds of steps and the views from the road are fabulous – you also get to mix with locals travelling along one of the most beautiful commuter bus routes imagined!! Leave the church by following the waymarkers with 2 dots. The first stretch is sheltered by the trees and is not particular difficult. Arriving at Batteries you can take a detour and go off to Punta Chiappa by taking a path, which will soon turn into a staircase. Punta Chiappa – described as a ‘little bit of heaven’ - where the water is so clear and calm, you’ll be able to see tiny little fish in high definition without any problems. It’s secluded, tranquil and the perfect place to swim. I’d recommend you visit for longer on a separate day as this walk requires your full attention – so don’t be distracted and continue on!
Follow the trail and after climbing on the main path, you’ll arrive at Passo del Bacio . Here the landscape changes: the trail crosses very exposed places where chain-assisted traverses of steep cliff faces help you to continue the trail. This is where your stamina and fearlessness is required - but persevere as the views are quite spectacular. Also be warned that in the heat of the say you are fully exposed to the sun so cover up and take ample amounts of drinking water as there is none available en route.
At this point you face a quite hard climb up through forest and scrub which leads near Punta Torretta , where you begin the descent towards the sparkling blue bay of San Fruttuoso.
San Fruttuoso Abbey is not connected to the road network but only accessible on foot or by boat - it was quiet when we visited late April but gets busy with day boat trippers in high season. There are 2 small café/restaurants, a small jetty for incoming boats and a small pebble beach with clear, cool water for swimming. From here you can return to Camogli by small ferry boat and view the spectacular cliffs you safely traversed earlier in the day – exhilarating! But beware as sometimes the ferry doesn't run if the seas are high and choppy. If you’re not completely exhausted from the walking and heat you could carry on by foot to Portofino following the route via Vessinaro, Capelletta, San Sebastiano and Palara.