It’s a bit off the beaten path from our usual tours, but in preparation for a group, I was recently on the trail from Portofino to Camogli, stopping midway at the magical Abbey of San Fruttuoso, a place you can only get to by foot or by boat. It was a gorgeous, crisp morning when my friend Mirko and I arrived in Portofino on the bus, and since the days are short in November, we hit the trail immediately without checking out the town. No matter … I’m sure that in late November, all the shops are sealed up tight like practically everywhere else on the Italian Riviera. The hike out of town starts quite steep and doesn’t give up for about 25 minutes, but it does offer some enchanting views of Portofino down below as you climb. The rest of the trail to San Fruttuoso is absolutely gorgeous too, and with the air as clear as it was, we had a great view of the snow-covered Alps across the sea from us.
After a dutiful stop in San Fruttuoso, where you can visit the Abbey year-round (I’ll admit, though, that we didn’t do so), and after eating a couple of sandwiches we had packed ahead of time, knowing that we wouldn’t encounter the first open cafè all day long, we started the climb out of San Fruttuoso. Now, there are two routes from San Fruttuoso to Camogli. One hugs the coast but is considered an expert trail, and which in theory you can only do with a guide from the Portofino Park (and neither of us is one of those); the other rises straight up the valley inland, where eventually after getting to the top, it makes a long, easy descent to Camogli. I say eventually, because it’s one of the hardest, worst hikes in all of the Riviera. Up, up, up, we slogged, for 60 minutes exactly, with no breaks and … this is the worst part of it … no views. All you see the whole time is trees and more trees. A curse or two may have crossed our lips. And to make matters worse, at this time of year, the sun is so low that even when you get to the top and start the easy, and superbly kept, trail down to the coast again, it’s all in the shadows, which means it is dank and cold the whole way. I guess the only good thing is that the cold kept us moving at a brisk pace. Total walking time from Portofino: 3.5 hours.
Next time, though, it’ll be the ferry from San Fruttuoso to Camogli.