Written by Rick Zullo
Levanto is the right place for everybody
One of the reasons that people come to Levanto is because it’s a welcomed oasis amid the tourist madness that has overcome the neighboring villages of the Cinque Terre. It allows the visitor to enjoy the charming views of those famous quaint towns during the mornings and evenings, while retreating to the more relaxed environment of Levanto’s uncrowded streets and friendly hotels during peak hours.
Upon arrival, however, the traveler discovers another pleasant surprise: Levanto has plenty to offer on its own, especially if you enjoy nature and fresh air.
Levanto is a well-equipped playground for whatever type of outdoor activities that you prefer, whether it’s biking or surfing or hiking or kayaking. But don’t think that it’s all about high-intensity sports. No, you can do also plenty of nothing and still enjoy Levanto’s charms.
So what I’d like to propose is two different itineraries to enjoy this coastal destination through various activities. Two different “triathlons,” if you will, to experience this natural beauty in the sea, from a bicycle seat, or with the power of your own two feet.
A triathlon starts in the water, so if you’re up for an invigorating way to view the colorful topography of the Ligurian Coast from the sea, considering renting a kayak. You can paddle up and down the beach until your heart is content. Just watch out for passing ferry boats!
If you’re into biking, there are options for both road bikers and mountain bikers. Levanto sits at the foot of the Italian Alps, so you can find as many challenging inclines as you’re able to handle. You can imagine that you’re part of the “Giro d’Italia,” Italy’s most prestigious bike race, which passed through this area in May of 2015.
Finally, strap on a good pair of hiking boots and set off for the trail that connects Levanto to the “Fifth” town of the Cinque Terre, Monterosso al Mare. While visually stunning, the trek is rough and difficult in many spots. Wear layers of clothes, as you’ll need to adjust from full sun to cool forest temperatures during your 2 ½ hour journey.
Then once you arrive in Monterosso, reward yourself with a nice lunch. You can go someplace like Miky Bar along the boardwalk for a casual panino or salad, or go even more causal by buying fritto misto from the street cart under the bridge in front of the main piazza.
When you’re ready to return to Levanto, you can either hike back if you have the ambition, or take the 4-minute train ride.
OK, so maybe the outdoors and fresh air appeal to you, but an Olympic workout isn’t really your idea of a vacation. No problem. In Levanto you can enjoy the same natural elements at a slower pace. In fact, you don’t really have to move much at all if you don’t want to.
Start your water “workout” by wading into the warm waters of the Ligurian Sea. Grab a floating a raft and just shake your head at the Type-A personalities paddling their kayaks in the near distance. Or simply enjoy the sea view from a nice cozy beach chair with cold drink in your hand.
But if you want to move a bit without a breaking a sweat, hop on an eBike for a guided tour of the nearby villages of Bonassola and Framura. You’ll meet Irene, who will take you along flat roads that hug the beach, passing through cool tunnels that were once inhabited by trains, but now are dedicated to walkers and bikers only. No motorized vehicles allowed—except the environmentally friendly eBikes, that is. Just starting pedaling and the generator kicks in, doing 90% of the work for you.
While in Bonassola, you can enjoy a surfside lunch at one of the several beach clubs. Fresh seafood is always on the daily menus, caught within eyesight of the spot where you’re eating it. A local glass of Cinque Terre D.O.C. wine will wash it down nicely.
Then after lunch, it’s time for the third phase of your slow-paced triathlon. Return your eBike, then join the Italian tradition of the passeggiata; the after-meal stroll to stretch your legs and encourage digestion. Don’t rush, and in fact your goal during a passeggiata should be to walk as slowly as possible, stopping for a coffee, or even a gelato if you like (you’re on vacation, after all).
My Pace in Levanto? A Mix of Both
For me, I sort of divide my day in half so that I can enjoy a bit of both experiences. I like to get up around 8:30 and have a light breakfast. After that, I pick one activity for the morning and really get into it, working up a big appetite for lunch.
My afternoons are devoted to relaxing, reading, or snoozing under the shade of big umbrella on the beach. The only energy that I’ll exert at this point is getting up for a drink or a gelato. Then back to my quiet hotel to shower and dress for a quiet evening meal in Levanto, or a 7-minute train ride to Vernazza, where I’ll enjoy an aperitivo in the colorful square next to the marina.
All of these activities are easily reached from any of the hotels in the town center. You do NOT need a car in Levanto. Arrive by train and everything that you’ll want or need is accessible by foot.
This is the right recipe for enjoying all the treasures of the Ligurian coast, no matter what your desired level of activity. You’ll have the postcard-ready photos of the Cinque Terre that you wanted, without the stress of being one of the thousands of sardines packed into the hot, narrow streets at midday.
Planned correctly, your stay on the Ligurian Coast will be everything that you imagined it would be, evoking the peaceful destination that it was before mass tourism arrived.
Some tips for your stay in Levanto
Food & beverage
Bar La Compera, perfect for a drink
Foccieria al Falcone
Beach Clubs : Bagni Nettuno
Kayak rental: Rosa dei Venti