San Fruttuoso: a hidden abbey by the sea

July 18, 2013 / Places
San Fruttuoso, Liguria

The ancient abbey of San Fruttuoso lies between the Ligurian villages of Camogli and Portofino, nestled at the foot of the sloping mountains of the Portofino regional park that meet the crystal blue waters of the Ligurian sea. 

Aside from exploring the 10th century abbey and its slightly newer tower (1500’s), you can take seasonal boat trips to see the statue of Christ of the Abyss, an incredible bronze creation with arms outstretched in a gesture of peace that was lowered about 50 feet deep in the clear Mediterranean sea in the 1950’s.¬† If you’re not so keen to dive in the water, boat trips equipped with video show in real time the divers below swimming around the striking Christ in the sea.¬†

The replica of the statue of Christ of the Abiss that lays in the depths of the Ligurian sea
The replica of the statue of Christ of the Abiss that lays in the depths of the Ligurian sea

For those who want to soak up the plentiful Ligurian sun instead, the little beach offers a tranquil afternoon in some of the clearest water you will ever see – and you won’t have too much company, as San Fruttuoso can only be accessed by a challenging hiking trail (more like an old mountain goat path) or by the hourly connections during the high season by boat from the nearby villages of Rapallo, Camogli, Santa Marherita Ligure or Portofino.

The thousand year old abbey
The thousand year old abbey
The bluest water on a secluded beach, in the shadows of the abbey
The bluest water on a secluded beach, in the shadows of the abbey

The ancient abbey of San Fruttuoso meets the stunning sea
The ancient abbey of San Fruttuoso meets the stunning sea

Christine Mitchell

by Christine Mitchell

Christine has a Master’s Degree in Food Studies and Culture from New York University, and spends most of her waking hours cooking food, serving food at La Cantina Di Miky, happily talking about food and writing about food – and wouldn’t have it any other way, except maybe with an Italian craft beer in her hand.

You can follow her adventures on her blog, www.lifeinliguria.blogspot.com and you can follow Monterosso’s continued progress on www.rebuildmonterosso.com.

10 Responses to “San Fruttuoso: a hidden abbey by the sea”

  1. Anne Robichaud

    Thanks for the reminder on all there is to see in this “land of the endless discoveries”
    Sigh – one lifetime? Non basta!

    Reply
  2. Love the turquoise waters of San Fruttuoso! When I went in 2009, there were about 20 people on the beach. Every year it gets more and more crowded. Last year, there was hardly room for our towels on the shore, but my group of women still enjoyed their time there.

    Reply
  3. In March 1956, my husband and I, (both of us in our 20’s) hiked over the mountain from Portofino to San Fruttuoso. It took us 4 hours. I gave prayers of thanks when we finally spotted that stony beach and Gothic Abbey way, WAY below and began our descent. There was nothing on the tiny beach except the fishermen’s nets, hung vertically on high poles, resembling a futuristic set from the Metropolitan Opera! It was stunning. No postcards, no T-shirts, no kitschy souvenirs. Totally authentic. There was a tiny seaside trattoria where we had our lunch after visiting the Abbey, and then were ecstatic to find someone with a boat to take us back to Portofino in 20 minutes….a place that was also still untouched by the hordes of turisti. My legs hurt for a week! That was then….and another story.

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  4. Stef Smulders

    We started the walk form Portofino Vetta, which you may reach from Camogli by road (difficult to find this road, as it starts via a hotel parking lot!). We didn’t quite make it to the abbey as we started off too late in the day, but found a lovely agriturismo just a few 100(?) meters above San Fruttoso with a nice terrace and stunning views!

    Reply
  5. Debbie Connell

    I went to San Fruttuoso by ferry in July a couple of years ago and found it claustrophobically crowded. I know time of year had a lot to do with it, but we couldn’t leave fast enough. We cut short our visit there because we were shoulder to shoulder with people in this “hidden” gem. Not so undiscovered anymore unfortunately. Maybe I would try it again in late fall or early spring, but at high season, it is a place to stay away from. I did love Camogli, and would love to go back there again, and yes, I will give this place another try, but at a less-touristed time of year.

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    • Laura Morrison

      There are many places along the ligurian coast where one can find clear water and a beach.
      My first reaction, seeing people in bikinis in front of the Abbey, was shock at the lack of respect.

      Reply
    • Tony Cogan

      We have been to the Abbey on a number of occasions over the last ten years (as indicated, reached easily form my favourite place in the world, Camogli) and yes, it is becoming more popular. Try visiting in the shoulder season (May-June is much quieter) and you really only have to ‘tolerate’ young kids on school excursions kicking a soccer ball on the stony beach. I can recommend eating at the tiny ‘bar’ immediately in front of the Abbey on the right as you look at it from the sea. The Nonna cooks amazing food, particularly the lasagne – a few randomly thrown sheets on a plate with wonderful sauce; so much better than the tall stacks of boring pasts served up as lasagne back here in Australia!

      Reply
  6. Christine Mitchell

    Sorry you felt like that Debbie! I went July 3rd (the day I took these pictures) which was the big holiday of Rapallo, which is nearby, and as you can see, there were very few people there. I guess it all depends on when you come, and like most things, luck. I found it to be amazing and very tranquil.

    Reply

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