For Cinque Terre, stayed in Levanto

By Stephen O. Addison, Jr.
This item appears on page 14 of the May 2013 issue.
13th-century loggia, Piazza della Loggio, in Levanto. Photos: Addison

Good luck sometimes comes wrapped in what appears to be misfortune. 

When planning, on short notice, for a September ’12 trip to Italy, my wife, Paula, and I were unable to find, in any of the Cinque Terre towns, accommodations that both fit our schedule and met our list of desired features. Looking farther afield, we found excellent lodgings in Levanto, an adjacent town to the northwest. After only two days in the region, our initial disappointment changed into thankfulness.

The Cinque Terre towns were too crowded with tourists (mostly Americans), for our taste. Apparently, tourism there has fully recovered from the terrible floods of October ’11. 

Trains are the best way to travel among these towns, and Levanto is only a 5-minute ride from Monterosso al Mare, the nearest Cinque Terre town. The costs of our train rides were covered by the Cinque Terre Treno Park Card, available at any tourist information office (Levanto’s is at the town’s beach). A 2-day card cost €19 (near $25) and a one-day card, €10. 

In addition, boats ferry passengers between Levanto’s harbor and several other towns along the Ligurian coast.

Scene near Piazza del Popolo in Levanto.

Levanto is more of a “real” town rather than a town that exists primarily for tourism. There’s a substantial local population in addition to the (primarily Italian) vacationers. We found a variety of lodgings, a surprisingly large number of restaurants and many small shops. 

Levanto has both a New Town and Old Town that blend together in its downtown. The atmospheric Old Town, with its narrow, mostly pedestrian-only streets, dates to the 13th century. It was a pleasure to stroll through it in the evening with local families. We found the city to be pleasantly quiet at night, except in the vicinity of a few nightspots near the popular beach and around the Piazza Cavour.

From Levanto, there also are several challenging trails leading up into the hills and to the Cinque Terre. For a more relaxing stroll or bike ride, there’s a paved trail on an old rail bed that runs through several tunnels along the coast. The trail begins near Levanto’s tourist information center and proceeds to the pleasant town of Bonassola 2.4 kilometers (1½ miles) away and onward a further 2.6 kilometers to the Framura train station.

We would definitely stay in Levanto again. You’ll find more info about the town at (in Italian) and in Rick Steves’ Italy guidebook (but not in the current Lonely Planet guide on Italy).