Escape the Cinque Terre crowds in Levanto

I don’t know why we decided to stay in Levanto, rather than a Cinque Terre town, but I’m so glad we did. I fell in love with this peaceful seaside village quite by mistake. In fact, when we arrived with no map and not a clue of which direction to go in, I questioned why I decided to go to Levanto in the first place.

Levanto is just north of Monterosso Al Mare, the first hamlet of Cinque Terre. We chose to stay there as a base for the first few days of exploring the first few Cinque Terre villages, thinking that it would be cheaper and also easier to access by train from Nice. I wish I had more days there to just enjoy Levanto. We stayed at Villa Clelia, with the most hospitable host of our entire trip. I adored our stay there!

Levanto Italy

Unlike the hamlets of Cinque Terre, Levanto is big enough that you know the village has a strong, tight-knit community. It is first and foremost a home, with the odd awe-struck tourist wandering around it’s streets. Unlike Cinque Terre and Venice, you’re not carried through the town in a wave of tourists. Apart from residents who worked in tourism, such as restaurant staff, our B&B host and the woman selling ferry tickets to Cinque Terre, few people spoke English. It was really refreshing.

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Levanto is peaceful, charming and it is a home. In the same way that some women have the telltale signs that they will be one of the world’s best mothers, I was quick to realise that the village of Levanto is a place that has all the makings of a beautiful, welcoming home.

It was in Levanto that I saw the most stunning sunset of my life, quite by accident. It was in Levanto that I ate the best dessert (panna cotta) that I had while not just in Italy, but the best dessert on my whole trip. It was in Levanto that I saw what I believe to be the most beautiful beachside that I have ever seen.

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On my last morning in Levanto I was determined to make it to the post office to send some stuff home ( a whopping 9 kilograms of stuff). I assumed that the post office would be quiet, but I was wrong. Unlike the eerily quiet post offices in Australia that are full of strangers, the post office in Levanto was noisy. Everyone knew everyone and was talking to everyone. I was dying to know the stories behind the looks they gave each other when certain people entered the room and to understand the conversations they were having. As it turned out, I didn’t have time to send home my stuff and so I ended up racing back to the BnB a few minutes late.

To get to the post office I had to race through a different part of the small town. I would have loved to slow down and observe as Levanto’s residents and businesses woke up. To observe and try to capture the daily rituals that set the village humming each morning. I was struck by how much of a community this little slice of heaven holds.

Cinque Terre is amazing, but I’m not sorry that I didn’t spend more time there instead. I loved every minute of Levanto and while I’m content with how much I saw of Cinque Terre, there is more for me in Levanto to return for. If I was to take a (delicious and slightly indulgent) break in Italy, I’d forgo traditional holiday hotspots such as Capri and Amalfi in favour of Levanto.

Dog swimming in water in Levanto Italy

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One of my favourite things about travelling is discovering places that speak to you. I’ve been a hopeless Paris romantic since I visited for the first time on December 27 2012 and even when it frustrates me, I still love it. Levanto is a stark contrast to Paris but it is one of those special places which I’ll always cherish.

Where is the most special place you’ve visited?