Our favourite day trip on the Italian Riviera is the hike from Camogli to San Fruttuoso in the Portofino Regional Park. The day includes pretty seaside villages, a forest hike, good food, a swim in the turquoise sea of an isolated bay, an ancient abbey, and a ferry ride along the beautiful Ligurian coastline. It doesn’t get much better than this.
Our perfect day began with the 8.16am train ride from Rapallo to the fishing village Camogli, just nine minutes away. It’s an easy walk from the train station down to the waterfront where we ate slices of focaccia in the warm morning light overlooking the harbour of pastel coloured villas and fishing boats.
Camogli is much smaller than Rapallo and Santa Margherita with a quieter, laid-back vibe. The pebbly beach is a more pleasant place to relax as there’s no busy road running along the seafront like there is in the larger towns. We’d like to have had more time to explore this cute village, but we wanted to start our hike before it got too hot.
From the seafront, we could see our next destination—the church of San Rocco perched disturbingly high above the cliffs on the wooded peninsula. At least we knew what direction to head, so we followed the harbour road until we reached a parking lot and police station where there are signs for the trail to San Rocco. The trail marker is two red dots and a red ring—at San Rocco, those two trails will divide for alternative routes to San Fruttuoso.
We hiked for 30 minutes up many steps to San Rocco Church. Here we found views back down to Camogli, a cafe for an espresso boost, and a water tap at the start of the trails to refill your bottle.
The Trail to San Fruttuoso
From San Rocco, the trail divides and there are two options to get to San Fruttuoso. The coastal trail via the Batterie with its World War II bunkers has the best views but is harder and only recommended for expert hikers. It includes a section where you have to use chains to navigate the slippery rocks above steep drop-offs. This trail is supposed to take 2.5 hours from San Rocco (although some people report longer) and the trail marker is two red dots.
We were scared off by some horror stories of that trail and took the easier inland trail through Pietre Strette. The trail is marked by a red ring and is well-marked and easy to follow. It’s supposed to take two hours from San Rocco, but the entire hike from Camogli to San Fruttuoso (including a break at San Rocco) took us two hours. We found it quite easy (the steepest bit is up to San Rocco) and in hindsight probably would have been fine on the coastal trail.
Our hike took us through chestnut and olive groves and pine forest and was a mix of ups and downs until we reached the middle of the peninsula and cut down towards San Fruttuoso. From there it’s 50 minutes downhill all the way along many switchbacks. The trail is rocky, so decent shoes are needed.
Arriving in San Fruttuoso is such a treat. The hamlet consists of a few restaurants, a 10th-century Benedictine monastery of golden stone, and a 16th-century watchtower that overlook the small pebble beach and vibrant turquoise sea. With the dramatic mountain backdrop, it feels secluded and far from the real world, despite the crowds on the beach.
We enjoyed the view as we ate a tasty pesto lasagne lunch with local white wine at Da Giovanni and then hit the beach. You can rent sunbeds and umbrellas or half the beach is free. Floating in the clear water looking back at the abbey and the mountain we’d descended was a special experience. You can also visit the monastery.
The Ferry Back to Rapallo
The only way to leave San Fruttuoso is on foot—back to Camogli or on to Portofino—or by ferry. When we were there in mid-September, the last ferry was at 3.30pm, even though the online schedule said 5.30pm, so it’s best to get an early start. More ferries are scheduled on weekends and in peak season (check the SMT schedule). You could also take the ferry back to Camogli (check the Golfo Paradiso schedule). Bear in mind that the ferries do get cancelled if the sea is rough. We called them before our hike to check they were running so we wouldn’t be forced to hike out as well.
The ferry journey to Rapallo (€11, 30 minutes) was the perfect ending to a perfect day trip. The coastline is spectacular, and we were able to get the best views of Portofino, Santa Margherita Ligure, and Rapallo from the sea.
Camogli to San Fruttuoso Hike Map
For a more detailed map, see Portofino Trek.
San Fruttuoso is one of the most special places on the Italian Riviera, and I highly recommend you visit, even if you take the ferry rather than hiking in. Nothing beats the feeling of having earned your lunch and swim after a hike, though, so if you can hike it’s well worth it. It really was the perfect day.
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