Protected since 1935, the promontory of Portofino is the northern most Marine Protected Area in the Mediterranean. The rocky shores host halophytes like samphire, borage, limonium, arbutus berry trees, heather, Saxifraga cochlearis and Ligurian centaurea. There are typical Mediterranean pine forests on higher land with Aleppo and maritime pines.

The seaside area has high limestone cliffs that continue to 50m underwater and host a Mediterranean ecosystem that is very valuable with a wide variety of marine life and types of seabed. You can already get an idea of the habitats and biodiversity by looking at the rocks exposed to the tides: “trottoir” sea worms and crusts of red Lithophyllum byssoides alga make beautiful shapes. In the shallow and sandy seabed on the eastern and western sides of the promontory there are meadows of Posidonia oceanica that provide a rich and nourishing area for many types of marine organisms and help to reduce the erosion of the coastline.  The rocky areas of seabed offer an infinite variety of shapes and colours and host the splendid colonies of red coral (Corallium rubrum) that are one of the main attractions in this Marine Protected Area. There are also sea bream, sponges like Crambe crambe, yellow and red violescent sea-whip (Eunicella cavoliniii and Paramuricea clavata), yellow cluster anemones (Parazoanthus axinellae) and pillow corals like Cladocora caespitosa, the largest pillow coral in the Mediterranean.

As far as fish go, there are many typical species like Mediterranean perch and red snapper and recently groupers have come back to inhabit crags in the underwater rocks. In the waters of the Marine Protected Area it’s not uncommon to spot cetaceans like the bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) and fin whales (Balaenoptera physalus), that gave Portofino its name, derived from the Latin Portus Delphinii.


The rocky seabed of the Marine Protected Area is a real paradise for scuba divers. There are 21 diving sites along the southern part of the promontory some of the most beautiful of which are Punta Torretta, Secca dell’Isuela, l’Altare, Punta Chiappa, Cala degli Inglesi, Punta del Buco and the famous submerged statue Cristo degli Abissi, placed under the waters of the San Fruttuoso bay in the 1950s.

Marine Area Protected

Founded in 1998, the Marine Protected Area covers 346 hectares of water, of which 18 are a zone A integral reserve (Cala dell’Oro) signalled by yellow delimitation buoys with signal lights and by yellow top marks on the shore. The Marine Protected Area is along the Riviera di Levante, about 20km east of Genoa. The reserve includes the famous beach between Punta Cannette in the Golfo Paradiso and Punta Pedale in the Golfo del Tigullio. It continues on to include the waters off the promontory of Portofino. The access canals and the bays of Portofino, S. Fruttuoso and Porto Pidocchio  are not included in the Marine Protected Area.

On land, the Monte di Portofino has been a Regional Natural Park since 1986. A new set of rules and regulations is currently being published.

The zone A integral reserves are signalled by yellow delimitation buoys with signal lights and by yellow top marks on the shore. The zones B and C are signalled by 11 yellow buoys with signal lights and topmarks on the shore. The zone A integral reserve also has a buoy with a copy of the Marine Protected Area’s rules and regulations clearly visible on it. In the area of water to 500m next to the Marine Protected Area boats can only navigate at up to 10 knots. During the United Nation’s Barcelona Convention, this Marine Protected Area was designated a SPAMI (Specially Protected Areas of Mediterranean Importance.)

Useful Contacts

Consorzio di gestione, Sede Legale:
Castello Brown
via alla Penisola, 16034 Portofino (GE)

Sede amministrativa:
Villa Carmagnola
viale Rainusso 14
16038 S. Margherita Ligure (GE)
tel. 0185/289649
Capitaneria di Porto di Genova
tel. 010/27771
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By Boat

To the west the Marine Protected Area is bordered by the charming fishing port of Camogli. Boats with less than 2,5m draft can tied up at the external part of the breakwater where its best to tie up bow to because of some submerged rocks. When the weather is good you can drop anchor (the water is about 15m deep) at about 300m southwest of the head of the breakwater. The sandy seabed holds well. The town itself is practically unchanged and you can go on excursions to the Santuario del Boschetto, built in 1630, or hike up to the Chiesina di S. Rocco, where you’ll get an excellent view over the Golfo del Paradiso.

Navigating towards the south you’ll reach the outer areas of the reserve.  The low and barren Punta della Chiappa has a signal with black and white horizontal stripes. A bit farther out to sea you’ll find the Secca dell’Isuela, a very interesting spot for diving: be careful though if there are strong winds from the III quadrant there will also be a southerly underwater current. Continuing to the east Cala dell’Oro in a zone A integral reserve where you may not navigate.  The bay at San Fruttuoso, is a masterpiece of man and nature with an abbey that gives its name to the area. You can only reach the abbey walking or by sea. The bay is well-protected from northerly winds and has a few docks that are run by the town where you can load and unload passengers. Recreational boats can use the mooring buoys in the eastern part of the bay. Portofino is just 1nm away. Its bay is almost entirely filled with docks and mooring buoys and has about 300 berths of which only about ten are for non-resident’s boats. In the summer it’s practically impossible to find a berth. The bay is well protected but easterly winds create waves. An alternative spot is the Seno di Paraggi just north of Portofino. Also all of the bay is reserved for swimming and is delimitated by buoys. Boats can drop anchor in the area that’s left, about 10-20 metres of water with a seabed that doesn’t always hold well. Another alternative is the smaller bay further south that is about 5-8m deep. In bad weather boaters can go to the port in Santa Margherita, just outside of the Marine Protected Area, where there are about 800 berths will all the necessary services. About 50 of these berths are reserved as temporary tourist moorings.