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Lush with Mediterranean maquis, groves of citrus, and woods of chestnut and olives, and dotted with ancient coastal villages maintaining traditional crafts and activities, the Portofino Promontory is one of Liguria's natural and cultural treasures. In 1935 the Italian government established the Parco Naturale Regional di Portofino, protecting the land mass and its wealth of flora and fauna from development and exploitation. In 1999, the Area Marina Protetta Portofino was declared, forming a marine sanctuary that wraps around the promontory. Together they establish a unique regional park environment, where people are encouraged to explore and deepen their respect for the natural world.
Parco Naturale Regional di Portofino
The regional natural park covers 10,000 acres, including the protected area and its surrounding "frame area." The inland northern section is thickly wooded while the southern slope is covered by pines, oaks, grasses, and Mediterranean maquis composed of heather, strawberry trees, and myrtle. The eastern section of the park is characterized by terraced olive groves, once important to the feudal economy under the agricultural system imposed by the monks of San Fruttuoso. This fragrant environment with its drop-dead gorgeous views is thickly crisscrossed by trails leading to rural settlements and the "urban" coastal villages. It's a hiker's paradise best explored on foot (though mountain bikes and horses are also allowed), with the most popular trail (marked and detailed below) joining the villages of Camogli and Portofino via the isolated seaside abbey of San Fruttuoso.
The paths are well-marked and maintained, sometimes with wire barriers along the hairiest cliff sections. Be sure to wear appropriate footwear and bring sunscreen and plenty of water. A cell phone can come in handy in case of emergency. Regardless of how they're listed here, the starting and ending points of the trails can be reversed, of course. A trail map is recommended--pick one up at the local tourist office (Camogli, Portofino, Santa Margherita Ligure) or at the Park Authority in Santa Margherita Ligure (see below).
Portofino Park Authority: Viale Rainusso, 1, Santa Margherita Ligure, [telephone] 0185.289.479, fax 0185.285.706 (sells trail …