After a sticky-hot summer in front of our computers in Rome, we were ready to get out of the city and breathe some fresh air.
I was tasked with finding an end-of-summer vacation spot for me, my sweetheart and a friend.
My research led me north to Liguria.
After browsing a bit, I found that Levanto, just one stop north of the famous Cinque Terre, had everything we were looking for: beaches, hiking nearby, a bike path, and of course, seafood galore. It was also reachable by train from Rome (key for us, because we can’t drive in Italy), and it’s not as popular with tourists as its five famous neighbors.
I created this travel guide to Levanto, Italy to help you plan your trip there.
Table of Contents
How to get to Levanto from Rome by train
Getting to Levanto from Rome by train is easy.
There’s an Intercity that leaves from Roma Termini (at the time of writing, it also stopped at Roma Ostiense) and brings you all the way to La Spezia. From La Spezia, hop on a regional train that stops in all five of the Cinque Terre, and then in Levanto. There are other options, of course, but this one is the most straightforward. This journey takes about 5 hours, barring any delays.
Note: When booking, make sure you choose “Roma – tutte le stazioni” (Rome – all stations) as the departure option on the Trenitalia website, so that you get the most up-to-date schedule. The stops might change between the time of writing and when you’re booking.
What to do and see in Levanto
Enjoy the local beach(es)
As soon as we arrived, we dropped our bags, changed, and headed down to the water after checking in. The beach in Levanto is a standard Italian beach, i.e. crowded with umbrellas and chairs that you have to pay for, but the verdant hill dotted with villas in the background makes it exceptionally beautiful.
We only wanted to take a quick dip because it was already late afternoon at that point, so we found the ‘spiaggia libera’ (free beach) near the jetty and just went into the water from there. There are other spots where you can swim without paying for a chair at each end of the beach.
Cycle or walk along the Ciclopedonale Maremonti bike and foot path
This was what really sold me on visiting Levanto. The path was laid on old railroad lines that brought trains from Levanto to neighboring Bonassola and Framura.
It runs for about 3km and is flat, which makes it suitable for all ages and levels of fitness. We saw lots of families with kids cycling along.
The path passes under the old railroad galleries that provide both cooling relief from the sun and stunning views of the sea.
It was the highlight of our trip. Check out my complete post on the bike path here for more details.
Explore nearby Bonassola and Framura
Plan to stop in the villages that the Maremonti bike path goes through. We didn’t get the chance to visit the village of Framura, but their tiny port/swimming area was a nice spot for a cold drink and a dip at the end of the path.
We spent some time on the beach in Bonassola, and it was heavenly. It was much quieter than Levanto, and we enjoyed wandering down the narrow streets of the town after swimming and sunbathing for a few hours.
Go on a Medieval Architecture walking tour
The historic center of Levanto has some interesting structures that date back to the Medieval period. A few of them are the Church of Saint Andrew (la Chiesa di Sant’Andrea), the Castle of Saint George (il Castello di San Giorgio) and a loggia that was built probably in the thirteenth century, and then reconstructed in the fifteenth.
A local tour guide wrote this walking tour of Levanto, which takes you to all these sights and more.
Hike from Levanto to Monterosso
The trail between Levanto from Monterosso is 7 km long and takes about 2.5 hours to complete.
We didn’t do this hike on our visit, but I wish we had. For more information, check out this detailed guide.
Visit the Cinque Terre
From south to north, the names of the Cinque Terre are Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza, and then Monterosso al Mare. During our stay in Levanto, we visited three of the five – Cornigilia, Vernazza and Monterosso – and did some hiking in between.
We chose these because the path between Riomaggiore and Manarola was closed, as was the path between Manarola and Corniglia. The two hikes we were left with happened to be the longest and most challenging – that from Corniglia to Vernazza, and then Vernazza to Monterosso.
A note on taking day trips to the Cinque Terre
The Cinque Terre are undeniably beautiful and are worth visiting, but they struggle under the weight of overtourism, particularly in the summer months. You should consider this when planning your visit.
One of the major contributors to overtourism is day trippers. As I mentioned above, we took two day trips to the Cinque Terre while we were staying in Levanto. As day trippers, we were contributing to the problem (although the summer of 2020 wasn’t a typical summer in terms of tourist numbers, due to the pandemic).
I’ve always thought that locals would want to simply reduce the number of visitors in overtouristed cities, but a local I spoke to in Vernazza had a different point-of-view: she thinks it’s better to encourage people to come and stay for at least two weeks. That way, you’d be paying for accommodation and meals, and maybe even connecting with some locals.
Her message was that encouraging slower, more meaningful travel would help overtouristed communities by discouraging day-trip travel. This could reduce the number of people who come for an afternoon and clog up the streets of the villages, only to take a few pictures, maybe buy a bottle of water, and then be on their merry way to do the same in the next village, so that they can tick “visit the Cinque Terre” off their bucket list at the end of the day.
Sooooooo, I realize that it’s totally hypocritical of me to discourage anyone from taking a day trip to the Cinque Terre during the summer after just having done it myself (twice), but I won’t do it again after the very enlightening conversation I had.
Still want to go? You might consider going in the off-season, or perhaps basing yourself in the Cinque Terre for an extended period of time.
Where to eat in Levanto
We had some top-notch food in Levanto. I’m going to list my top three restaurants here, which were all suggested to us by locals.
Pizzeria La Picea
Via della Concia 18 – +39 0187 802063 – Menu
This pizzeria came highly recommended, and rightly so. Its Profumi Liguri pizza won first prize at the Campionato Mondiale della Pizza (the Pizza World Championship) in Parma in 2019.
We went early on our first day in Levanto and snagged seats at the bar. I loved where we sat, because we could watch the pizzaioli as they cranked out one mouthwatering pizza after another.
I had to go for the winner. It only took one bite of the blistered crust topped with cuore di burrata, sweet yellow and red cherry tomatoes, house-made pesto and creamy toasted pine nuts for me to fully understand why they won.
Booking is essential, as La Picea is extremely popular. Can’t get in? They also have a takeaway, La Picea 2.0, at Via Emanuele Zoppi 5.
After one night of pizza, I spent the rest of the vacation roving Levanto like a basking shark with my mouth hanging open, taking in every sea creature that came across my face.
Our first seafood meal was at Osteria Tumelin, another popular joint that was absolutely buzzing when we arrived for our 9pm table.
The fact that it was busy didn’t keep the staff from providing great, attentive service. We went over the menu while peeking at other tables, watching elegantly dressed servers wheel carts around, filleting whole fish in front of hungry, smiling diners.
We saw a fritto misto di pesce go by and decided we had to have one. It was excellent – calamari, langoustines, shrimp, and anchovies fried in a salty, crispy batter.
We were stumped on what to have for our main course. The server recommended one of the specials – baked sole with potatoes, tomatoes and olives. We decided to go for it.
What arrived was a delicate dream of a dinner. The fish was light and tender, and the firm slices of potato balanced it out. Notes of sweet tomato sang through the dish, and the brine of the olives brought my tastebuds back to the sea.
Antica Trattoria Centro
Corso Italia 25 – +39 0187 808157
Our AirBnB host told us that Antica Trattoria Centro was elegant and pricey, but worth it. She was right.
We started off with mussels. They were steamed in a tomatoey broth and served with bread.
Then we went for a grigliata mista di pesce, a mixed seafood grill. It was almost like a seafood charcuterie board, with wedges of lemon and some leafy greens tucked in between bright red shrimp, pinky-orange langoustine, and pearly squid and swordfish, all partially blackened where the meat had met the grill. It was exquisite.
We finished up with a sgroppino, which is a boozy lemon sorbet. It is my firm belief that every summer meal should end with one.
I really can’t recommend Levanto highly enough. Writing this post made me want to do the whole trip over again.
Every sensation was indelible. I can close my eyes and remember the relief brought about by the cool cocoon of salt water after the crazy train ride from Rome on the day we arrived. I can hear the rush of the wind and feel the sun on my shoulders as I pedaled down the bike path. And I can still taste the sweet, salty seafood and the crisp Vermentino.
I hope you found this guide to Levanto useful. As always, feel free to reach out in the comments with questions/thoughts!