levanto

Discovering Levanto – touring the old town

 

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The gorgeous facade of La Chiesa di Sant’Andrea in Levanto

While everyone has heard of Cinque Terre and its numerous reasons to visit [besides being drop-dead gorgeous] – not everyone has heard of nearby Levanto, a charming town that’s close proximity makes it a great place to base from to visit Cinque Terre and other charming towns such as Bonassola.

Levanto was once called Ceula during its settlement in the Roman times, and was a place of economic importance during the Medieval times, especially for the famous pilgrim’s route – via francigena, keep an eye out for a “caruggi”(small ligurian street) .

My first time in Liguria, one aspect that really stuck with me about this place was just how nice everyone was there – genuine smiles, buongiorno’s and helpful advice, surely it must be due to  all of that glorious sun and close proximity to the beach ( I will touch on some cool activities to do in my next post so stay tuned!)

Where to stay?

What brought me there was a culture/digital meetup #invasionidigitali #levanto4u #welevantowith various other awesome Italian bloggers and instagrammers all looking to explore this pretty town in order to share with the wider world why its worth visiting places like this. We roomed at a little B&B La Gerbere, perfect for exploring the town with a pretty couryard/garden, plus how can you not love bathroom lights  that change colors, an interesting touch, I felt like being in a disco while taking a shower.

Ps* There are many so many small B&B’s and hotels that are really affordable, especially compared to Cinque Terre and I personally enjoyed that the town was a little bigger, especially during nighttime – rather than staying in Cinque Terre itself. Unless you are looking for a really quiet evening, staying in a nearby village like this is usually a great idea.

Exploring the town: Main sights

After dropping our stuff off and fueling up with a plate of my favorite spaghetti alle vongole veraci (a lovely pasta dish with sautéed clams – it will change your life) together with some lovely white local vermentino wine we met the other #invasionidigitali members in piazza cavour, home to the comune and formerly the Monastero delle Ordine di Santa Chiara (Monastery of the Order of St Claire) for a guided tour of town. This village was a center of commercial activity during the Medieval times, especially for routes such as the famous via francigena. 

Our guide Aldo Viviani was passionate about the history of this town and thanks to him, I now consider myself a semi-Levanto expert ready to carry on its maritime traditions ;-). We visited an artisan studio located in the same old monastery featuring a dozen life-sized wooden figures depicted traditional Levantesi arts & crafts by the talented Emanuele Luzzati.

After getting a much-needed coffee, I spotted some interesting murals underneath one of the main throughways running through the center of town. I am not sure the story behind them, but each seemed to depict scenes that were USA-centric, even one depicting the idea of the ‘American Dream’. I’d love to find out why they were there and who painting them.. If anyone has any ideas – let me know!

I also recommend heading to the old casino hall on the waterfront for a spritz or a morning cappuccino, I love that they have retained this historical building that once hosted the most important Italian singers in the 1960′s. Also UNESCO has made their mark even here, by declaring the 13th century Medieval Loggia as a monument being evidence of peace and culture – located in the piazza del Popolo.

During our trek around this small town, one of the coolest sights we got to see was most definitely the Goblet of Henry VIII {in the Church of San’Andrea}, nothing short of glorious and not often shown to the public. Legend has it that it was won by Gioacchino Da Passano during a game of chess with Henry VIII.

Obviously after all of that history and walking, I was granted a certification of completion for  my very first #invasionidigitali [digital invasion] – yes I am very proud of anything printed, stamped and including a hashtag ;-). If you ever get the chance to check out these meetups, do so! It’s fun and you actually learn something, plus make it an excuse to deserve that aperitivo afterwards.

 

Aperitivo like a king

Of course what trip would it be without food? Naturally we all needed an aperitivo after this tour so we headed to the awesome Salty Dog bar [yep that's the name] for some great local white wine, a lovely vermentino from the colline di levanto and local snacks. This place was really cool, quotes from famous books covered the walls, bookshelves stuffed with books and photos everywhere — definitely a place I could call home for an evening with its relaxed vibe and nice people.

levantofood

At the Salty Dog, we tried a variety of food, herbed-stuffed pastries called Gattafin - literally my new favorite food on earth (well close). So delicate, the pastry reminding me very much of a samosa with it’s deep fried texture. I can understand why Italian women packed these for their menfolk as they worked away for the day in the nearby hills. Tasty, simple, savoury – everything you want in a snack.

Salty Dog Cafe, Via Jacopo da Levanto, 33, 19015 Levanto La Spezia, Italy

One thing I noticed when touring earlier in the day at the comune was a certificate hung in the major’s office citing that Levanto is part of the “Città Slow”,  which is an award given by the “Slow Food” association that recognises the quality of local wines, traditional cuisine and the general quality of life.

Also we mustn’t forget about the famous pesto, a beautiful rich green, ours was made with trofie pasta [short, thin & twisty] with a few potatoes mixed in. Absolutely delicious (and easy) dish to make at home.

To see our tour via video - check out this awesome video showcasing the highlights with Aldo!

What monuments not to miss

  • The 13th century castle and the remains of the old city walls
  • Villa Agnelli and its gardens
  • The Church of S.Andrea ( constructed in 1226 by the Malipensa
  • Bell tower of the Chiesa di San Siro.
  • The medieval Loggia (13th c.) in Piazza del Popolo which is actually a UNESCO heritage site
  • The Da Passano Villia (17tK -C.).

When to Go?

Obviously it’s probably most beautiful during the warmer months, but I would even consider visiting during September or the beginning of October when it’s less full of people. If you are looking for a truly special experience, come on the 25th of July: during the feast of S. Giacomo, patron of Levanto. More than 10,000 people head to Levanto during this time and its festa all around!

** My next post will cover what to do while in Levanto (besides touring the old town) so stay tuned! If you’ve been and you recommend something to do/see/eat let me know by commenting!!! 

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  1. bobblesse

    Thanks for this post, Georgette, you do such a wonderful job of describing so many different aspects of this lovely town. The text and great photos make me want to leave for Levanto immediately (though we live in Reno, NV). It struck me that the streets there look so empty, not many tourists yet? I really enjoyed the video, too!

    • GirlinFlorence

      Thank you Blob for taking the time to read it, I spometimes wonder if I write too much ;-). We came right before tourism really sets in and Levanto doesn’t get as infiltrated as Cinque Terre, but that’s why we loved it!

      • bobblesse

        Definitely not too much—just right! Your post is so interesting because it covers many different subjects, history, architecture, food, wine, lodging, and aspects of the town that make it unique. Your photos punctuate it perfectly.

  2. Maxine

    Incredible post! I enjoy your posts so much. I get excited when I see it pop up. Thank you so much. Your information is alway so interesting to read!

    Thank you

  3. Atomic Hostess

    Thank you so much for your posts! My husband and I are planning a trip in the fall and plan to go to Cinque Terre, and now I’m pretty sure we will be including Levanto as one of our stops too!

    Keep up the great work. I love reading your blog!

    • GirlinFlorence

      You guys will love it! It’s a beautiful area of Italy and there is so so mch to discover, but really. Levanto was a surprise to me too – like the 6th ‘cinque terre’ :)

  4. Charlotte

    Cannot wait to read the next post. I am visiting Levanto next week so would love to hear your reccomendations of things to do in the town/places to explore.

  5. Simon Baxter

    Hi really pleased you loved Levanto! My wife and I are emigrating to Levanto the end of May, we’ve been going for almost 11 years and were married in the Cheisa San Giacomo two years ago now, Levanto is a beautiful place and the locals are one of the friendliest around, have you been to Sestri Levante? It’s a little more built up but just as nice, the dialect in levanto is a little different but not too bad to grasp, I hope you’ll make more than you one visit. Simon an Englishman moving to Italy.

    • GirlinFlorence

      Ciao Simon, I really enjoyed it – its absolutely a place I can see myself going back to year after year for a nice weekend explorign Liguria. I have not yet been to Sestri but it sounds like I need to check it out!!! I will be back, that’s for sure!


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