San Fruttuoso: A hidden gem in Liguria, Italy

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San Fruttuoso - abbey and tower
The Abbey with the Tower

When we first saw San Fruttuoso, we thought that this place couldn’t be real. Seriously, a place like this, almost unknown apart from the local tourists and from a few people coming from Portofino? It’s dripping history, and it has an amazing beach with clear, greenish-blue water. It’s one of the most scenic places in Liguria: San Fruttuoso can be easily compared to Cinque Terre for its absolute uniqueness and beauty.

With the words “San Fruttuoso”, people usually mean the Abbey of San Fruttuoso and the upfront bay. The same name is used also for a neighborhood of Genoa. In this post we’ll talk about the Catholic abbey, named after St. Fructuosus, a Catalan bishop and saint whose ashes are still preserved there.

So, are you ready to discover what and where is this place? We’re gonna tell you everything you need to know.

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Where is this place?

The bay of San Fruttuoso is in Liguria, not far from its biggest city, Genoa.This secluded place is between Camogli and Portofino. See the maps below:

Map San Fruttuoso
Source: Google Maps

This place is the perfect one day trip from Genoa. Be sure to check our article about this beautiful city!

What is San Fruttuoso?

It’s a tiny, scenic, romantic bay, where a Benedictine abbey was built in the 10th century. Where in the world you can find a 1100 years old abbey on the shore of a crystal clear sea? The building, together with the medieval tower on the top of the nearby hill, was once the property of the Doria family of Genoa. Nowadays, it’s been restored and administrated by FAI (Fondo per l’Ambiente Italiano), the Italian version of the National Trust.

San Fruttuoso sea
Deep blue water!

A bit of history

Back to the 8th century. In the year 711 Prosper, the bishop of Tarragona, Spain, decided to establish an abbey to protect the ashes of the Christian martyr Saint Fructuosus (San Fruttuoso in Italian). Prosper wanted to save the sacred remains from the fury of the Saracens that were terrifying Spain.

However, we have to wait until 984 to find the first official mention of the abbey. In the meanwhile, Saracen pirates were often assaulting the place, so bishop John II repaired the building and built the near church and its bell tower.

300 years later, Doria family took over the whole complex. We have to thank them for the Abbey being so beautiful: They funded an expansion of it where a new, two-level building was constructed facing the sea. In exchange for their funds, the family was granted the right to bury their dead in the crypt. From that moment, they buried seven members and their tombs can be seen until today.

Nowadays: What to see?

Abbey's windows - sea view
Not a bad view from this Abbey’s window

The lovely bay between Camogli and Portofino it’s surrounded by luxurious vegetation. We said at the beginning that the place is unique: You know why? It’s only reachable by sea or on foot. No roads, no cars, no bikes!

The bay is tiny, yes, but unexpectedly there are many things to see and to do.

  1. The old Abbey: It has a fascinating story of troubled days and damned pirates. Built as a monastery, it soon begun a pirate’s hideout. At that time, the shores of Liguria were attacked by Saracen pirates very often. San Fruttuoso bay looked like the perfect place for them to hide and set an headquarter. Then, with the help of Doria family, it became the beautiful medieval complex still standing in front of the waves. It’s open to the public: For more info, check the official website.
  2. The crystal clear water: In front of the Abbey, is a a small beach. More than half of it is private, means that you have to pay for staying there, and it offer chairs and sun umbrellas for rent. The other part of the beach is free and you can enjoy your sunbathing without worries. Most probably you’ll find yourself bathing into the clear blue and green waters of the bay. Take with you your snorkeling gear, you’re going to have fun!
  3. Christ of the Abyss dive: If you like diving, this is the place to be. There are no sharks (usually…), there is no coral reef. So why should you dive in there? Have you ever heard of the worldwide famous Christ of the Abyss? We bet you have. It’s a submerged bronze statue of Jesus Christ, offering a benediction of peace. It’s the protector of the fishermen and it’s really impressive.
  4. Cultural events and shows: In the Abbey, cultural events and shows take place once in a while. Especially concerts (mostly classical music) are a great way to experience the place: A special ferry operates for these occasions.
Zuzana bathing in San Fruttuoso
Enjoying the fresh water

How to get there

As we saw, the Abbey of San Fruttuoso is in a rather secluded bay. It and can be reached either by boat (from various locations) or walking the trails from either Camogli or Portofino. Both ways are beautiful and scenic!

  • By boat: During the summer months, the bay can be quite crowded. There is regular ferry service from Camogli, just outside Genoa (it takes about 30 minutes), Rapallo (1 hour), Santa Margherita Ligure (45 minutes) and Portofino (30 minutes). The service depends on weather conditions, so if there is a storm, the service may be suspended. Check the details on the timing of boats on these websites: Golfo Paradiso and Traghetti Portofino.
San Fruttuoso – The view from the boat
  • By walking: You can reach San Fruttuoso by hiking the trails of the National Park of Portofino. The trails are easy and enjoyable, with incredible views from various panoramic points. There are two ways: The first is starting from Portofino Vetta, the walk takes about an hour and a half and is the most challenging one. The second option is starting from Portofino Mare: It’s also one hour and a half but is less harder than the first trail.

San Fruttuoso is one of those unique places in the world, that you need to see at least once in a lifetime. Do you know other places like this one? Let us know in the comment and share the post with your friends!

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