Diving at the Lighthouse, Portofino, Italy

by   Profile Underwater Tales by Stefano Sibona   When 16th May 2018
The wonderful view of the coast from Rapallo to the lighthouse point in Portofino
Savalia savaglia, gold coral
Violescent sea-whip
On the franata you can meet these guys. Great for Open Water Divers

"The lighthouse point in Portofino is one of the most suggestive sites of the promontory. A unique, spectacular environment and a dive waiting to be discovered..."

I’m often lucky enough to admire the scenic view of the Gulf of Tigullio from a spot on the hill of Sant’Ambrogio, above Rapallo. You can see from Santa Margherita Ligure to the point of the promontory of Portofino from which the white figure of a lighthouse rises.

This little protrusion seems detached from the rest of the coast. A magic place covered with marine pines among which a two-floor building with a tower illuminates itself at night to play the sentinel.

On summer nights, when the wind from the north cleans the air of humidity from the sea, or in the winter, at nightfall, I love to lose myself with a glass of red wine, enchanted by the rhythmically glowing light. Watching the beams of light shining from a lighthouse has always given me a sense of peace and tranquility.

Beneath this stretch of sea, which is often stuck by strong currents, one of the most fascinating dives of the Ligurian Sea awaits, hidden.

In my divelog, which unfortunately for years has only been in my memory, I think I can count at least 100 dives at the lighthouse of Portofino. Here I passed through my first grottos, I did my one-hundredth dive and I won a photography competition. Here I have spent hours admiring the enormous “groupers of the lighthouse”, I have crossed all the narrow openings with my friend Lorenz, I have pushed myself to where the rocky ridge becomes gravel. Here I have spent infinite minutes in decompression, admiring the powerful swimming of snappers in a strong current.

It’s not necessary to follow a defined route; it’s enough to descend along the chain of the signaling buoy at the dive site to find an underwater world characterized by large masses which form passages, grottos and dens.

You can choose to visit the vast plane, heading west, at a depth no greater than 20 meters, and swim in the company of dusky groupers and diplodus, maintaining their gaze into the blue, awaiting predators. During the days in which the current is strong, snappers, great amberjacks and gilt-head breams pass with a menacing air.

You can decide to focus on the area around the base of the buoy. You will find large masses covered in yellow stony corals around which large groupers swim, guarding their dens, and small groups of happy corvina dance elegantly in the water. The nooks in the rock are the ideal hideout for eels and octupuses. From the holes, crayfish, slipper lobsters and spider crabs usually peek out.

You can also choose to go deeper, following the ridge which descends from the point of the lighthouse even as far as -70m. It is the realm of Alcyonacea and red coral. Initially we see single branches of white gorgonian and yellow sea whip, and little by little, as we descend, enormous fans of red gorgonian which are often adorned with basket stars or catshark eggs. There are also sporadic ramifications of Leptogorgia Sarmentosa and, lower down, wonderful colonies of gold coral which, with their yellow polyps, colour the environment which at that bathymetry becomes dark.


  • The lighthouse of Portofino is a versatile dive spot suited to all divers based on their certification and experience.

  • Those who are Open Water Diver certified can descend along the chain of the signaling buoy to a depth of 12/15 meters and continue towards the wall ahead, no further than 15 meters, to reach the rocky sea bed rich in fish.

  • Those who have certification allowing greater depths (Advanced Open Water or second level) can continue the descent to the base of the buoy chain to inspect the two large rocks and look for bigger groupers, lobsters and moray eels.

  • The most expert (Deep Diver) can go down to the ridge and reach the area of soft corals to 40 meters.

  • There’s also space for technical divers. Deeper than 60m the lighthouse holds secrets which I’ll tell you about one day...


The stretch of sea around Punta del Faro is often hit by strong currents which push in a south-easternly direction towards the open sea. I advise you to always asses the level of current as soon as you get in the water. In this case, it is better to descend along the chain of the buoy as a  point of reference. At the bottom, the ridge protects against the current, but in these kinds of situations I prefer not to get too close and would definitely avoid swimming along it or going beyond it.

A last consideration. In days when the wind comes from the south, the sea often forms waves and an undertow which can be dangerous and above all fastidious for those who suffer the sea. In those days you should look for a more sheltered dive site.

Written by
Profile Underwater Tales by Stefano Sibona
When 16th May 2018
Location Faro di Portofino, Portofino, GE, Italia

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monique on Jul 01st 2018
Molto bello Un regno di pace di colori

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