I have wanted to visit Portofino ever since I saw the most perfect, instagram-worthy pictures of the little town. I am so grateful we were able to add a get away to the Italian Riviera with a toddler, while we were in the country for our Babymoon for baby #2. When I conducted research on planning a weekend there, specifically with a child, I ended up not finding too much information. So here we are. I will sum up our itinerary and lessons learned.
Map of Italian Riviera / Selecting a Base City
Because I wasn’t super familiar with the towns in the Italian Riviera, referring to a map helped me decide on a base city and draft an itinerary.
Genova is the largest town, so most train stops in this area will have a connection here. (Side note: Using the Train Line app was a great experience when coordinating these train logistics).
We loved staying in Santa Margherita Ligure as our base city in the Italian Riviera. It is a lively town with a beautiful waterfront and has numerous restaurants and a few shops. Something to keep in mind, is that the train station is at the top of a hill, so taxis might be necessary to get into town – and taxis can upcharge quite a bit in this little town. Hotels are a little limited and expensive, but the Air B&B options are generally decent! Our Air B&B that we stayed at had a great host and was a convenient location with a great view.
We did a variation of this itinerary. We spaced Cinque Terre into another weekend, because of our personal logistics and energy capacity with our toddler. But I do think my recommended itinerary below is feasible and might make more logistical sense, in general.
Day 1 (Friday evening): Arrive in Santa Margherita
Take a walk by the water, restaurants and shops. Eat dinner at Pizzeria Il Delfino for delicious and affordable pizza. This restaurant did not have high chairs, but we were able to easily park our stroller to feed our little one, while he people-watched. Afterwards, grab some gelato from one of the dozens of options and walk by the waterfront.
Day 2 (Saturday): Day Trip to Cinque Terre
Cinque Terre is is a beautiful coastal area comprised of five towns, each with their unique views and aspects. The logistics of getting there and in between the towns can definitely be done on your own. You can take a train or hike between the towns. For the sake of time and effort, especially if you have a young child with you, I preferred a semi-independent guided tour to lead you the way, using trains and ferries. Depending on your base city, you can check sites like Viator.com for any tour groups near you. We went using a guided tour (from Florence); and saw four of the five towns. Even with a guide, beforehand, it could be beneficial to specifically research what each town is particularly known for. Because we just based on our visits on what the guide said, and how our toddler was feeling in each town, I don’t know if you made the best use of time. Overall, it was absolutely stunning.
If you’re still hungry when you return to Santa Margharetia, try dinner at Osteria N 7.
Day 3 (Sunday): Day Trip to Portofino and Paraggi Beach.
Start your morning in San Margarita and grab a quick coffee and pastry. If possible, sit by the water and absorb the pretty scenery.
Once you’re nourished, make the ~90 minute~ beginner level hike all the way to Portofino. Yes, you can walk it! And yes, it is MOSTLY stroller friendly. There were definitely a few areas that were a little challenging, but mostly were absolutely manageable (especially with two adults splitting the responsibility). The walk is very beautiful. You will get some great views of the water, towns, and small beaches.
Head over to Portofino for lunch (it’s likely going to be pricey, but good!) and enjoy the lovely town. The two main sights to see are the church and tower; where you can get the best views of the town. Getting to these sights with a stroller took some strategising up and down wide steps; but if you’ve come all the way here, it is nice to visit. Disclaimer: The restaurants were definitely on the pricier sides and consisted of a lot of seafood entrees.
On your way back from Portofino to Santa Margherita, you will pass the most popular beach in the area; Paraggi Beach. What makes it so popular is that while most beaches around the area are pebble beaches, this one is sandy. Be weary, this beach gets crowded, and because of COVID, it can feel very overwhelming. We went in the morning, and it was not too bad – so feel free to do this before Portofino. There is a casual restaurant and restrooms available just moments away from the beach. If you time, think about grabbing some fresh fruit from Santa Margherita in the morning to have as snacks during beach time!
Day 4 (Monday): Depart Santa Margherita Ligure
Mentally prepare for overpriced taxes to take you up to the train station.
Key Take Away’s
The Italian Riviera is stunning! It can be mixed of hiking, relaxation, beach time, shopping, and eating. Similar to almost all travel, it would likely be easier without kids, but even if you have them, it can still be truly magical – just like it was for us 🙂 For another idea for another Italy trip on the opposite side of the country, visit my blog post on our trip to Sicily.