Levanto is a small coastal town of just over 5,000 people located in La Spezia province in the Liguria region of northwest Italy. It’s known for its spectacular scenery consisting of hills, valleys, ridges and headways and its many attractions including beautiful beaches, world-class restaurants, historic buildings and hiking trails. But most importantly it’s also known for being the perfect base from which to explore the nearby Cinque Terre region.
This is to say – if you are planning a trip to the Cinque Terre, you should definitely consider exploring Levanto, or even basing yourself there. Curious to find out more about it? Continue reading!
A Brief History Of Levanto
The history of Levanto goes back to Roman times when it was known as Ceula. For a long time, the town’s location was very important mostly due to its harbor but that importance waned in the 13th century.
Throughout the Middle Ages, Levanto changed hands and changed names and once again became known as an important seaport. Even after the Medieval period, the town continued to prosper with major construction and development projects and this continued into the 20th century and helped Levanto become the beautiful, developed town that it is today.
With many beautiful buildings, a gorgeous beach (one of the best in the Cinque Terre region) and the surrounding landscape, there is plenty to see and do in Levanto. Let’s see how you can pack your days with activities while there!
What To See And Do In Levanto
Levanto may be small, but there’s plenty to see and do around town. Whether you want to spend time outdoors checking out the scenery, hiking, swimming at one of the beautiful beaches, shopping for souvenirs, dining on gourmet food, or admiring the colorful buildings, there’s always something to do!
Bike or walk from Levanto to Bonassola
The trail from Levanto to Bonassola, also known as Ciclopedonale Maremonti, is a trail suitable for both biking and walking that runs along an old railroad. The trail is about 1.8 miles (3 kilometers) and is mostly flat and suitable for all fitness levels. It’s also mostly covered as you walk along a former railway tunnel, so it’s a perfect thing to do on a rainy day – in fact, that’s what my sister did when it was pouring!
Several companies rent bikes in the town, but whether you choose to walk or bike, the views (when you get out from the tunnel) are the same: spectacular!
Hang out at Piscine Casinò
Levanto’s waterfront is perfect for a walk. Along the promenade (La Pietra Promenade is how it’s called), you get to spot the beautiful beach and the gorgeous villas built in the early 1900s. There’s a staircase that leads to the Castle and then leads to the trail that continues to Punta Mesco – it’s right next to a gorgeous 1914 villa at the very end of the La Pietra Promontory. The Promenade also gives access to the Fisherman’s Harbor.
One spot we particularly loved is the Piscine Casinò, a casino complex that was built in 1933, donated to the city of Levanto by Senator Giovanni Agnelli. This gorgeous complex built in Rationalist style is right on the beach and features a beautiful pool, bath house, restaurant and more. Anyone can access it – for a fee of between €50 and €60 for a full day, depending on the season.
If you are traveling in the peak season, make sure to reserve a spot in advance by calling +390187802050.
Enjoy a day at the beach
Levanto is home to one of only a few true beaches in the Cinque Terre area. The Spiaggia di Levanto is a great place to head to if you want to spend a day sunbathing and swimming in the sea, but it’s also known for being a good surf spot when the wind is just right and the weather cooperates. This beach is lined with many great bars and restaurants.
Visit the Church of Sant’Andrea
The Church of Sant’Andrea is a beautiful church that was built in 1222 and is a perfect example of Ligurian Gothic architecture (though the church was originally Romanesque and was only consecrated in 1463). You will spot the church from a distance thanks to the adjoint bell tower, which has seen many restoration works throughout the century – the last one, which gave it its current look, occurred in 1805.
It’s a lovely spot, easy to reach as you walk around Levanto, so make sure to pop in for a few moments! Take care to notice facade, made of white Carrara marble and local green serpentine, and the red Levanto marble quarry that’s found along the fortified walls not far from the church. It was in use until the 1950s!
Hang out near the Piazza del Popolo
Dating back to the 13th century, this piazza is also known as Piazza della Loggia and was once the center of commercial activities in the town. You can still spot the remains of a fresco dating back to the 13th century and featuring the Annunciation. It’s a nice, breezy spot to hang out on a hot day – or to find shelter from the rain.
On the other side of the street, there’s a stunning 14th century building that’s also worth admiring.
Go on a hike from Levanto to Monterosso
It’s about 4.3 miles (7 kilometers) long and takes at least 2.5 hours to complete but the trail that runs from Levanto to Monterosso is a fairly easy one and you’ll get to see some of the best views of the area. Make sure to wear proper hiking gear – hiking boots or shoes – and carry enough water for the hike. If you don’t fancy walking all the way back, simply hop on the train!
If you don’t feel like walking all the way to Monterosso you don’t have to! You can combine exercise with enjoying nature along the trail that runs from Levanto’s seaside up a staircase along the walls of Levanto’s Castle (more about it below) and takes you all the way to Punta Mesco (which marks the border between Levanto and Monterosso), passing the ruins of the 11th hermitage of Sant’Antonio.
Check out Levanto’s Castle
The castle dates back to the 12th century, when the area was ruled by the Malaspina family. The castle saw many changes throughout its history – and it was even used as a prison. Its current shape dates back the the time of the Genoa Republic – the second half of the 16th century.
It’s a private property, so you can’t go inside. Nevertheless, the views are amazing here too!
Walk along the Medieval Walls
Back in the day, Levanto was actually surrounded by protective walls and watchtowers that were built in the 1200s, during the time of the Republic of Genoa, when rivalry with Pisa was thriving. Nowadays, the best preserved tower is the Clock Tower – you can spot it on an easy walk along the walls.
Explore Levanto’s Historic Center
Medieval architecture, shops, restaurants and plenty of opportunities to check out local life in Levanto, are some of the highlights of the historic center of the town. Navigate narrow streets, explore little alleyways and spend time on the main street, Garibaldi Street, where you’ll find many of this district’s attractions and services.
Places of interest in Levanto’s historic center include:
Piazza Cavour – Part of a 17th century convent and where you will find the town hall and tourist office.
City Hall – With its portico running along Piazza Cavour, and once the Convent of the Order of Saint Clare, the building dates back to the early 17th century, but it was never really completed.
San Rocco Oratory – Located next to the convent church of the Order of Saint Clare, it was used by the in-house nuns. Make sure to spot the wooden cross preserved in the church, to which locals are very attached.
San Giacomo Oratory – You will find this 17th century Oratory, home to the oldest confraternity in Levanto, next to the Church of Our Lady of the Coast.
Via Guani – This is where you’ll find the oldest buildings in Levanto. The most noteworthy one is known as “The Sirens” and features bass-relief slate figures in the hallways.
Piazza Staglieno – Home to a lovely park perfect for a short break and people watching. The park is dedicated to Domenico Staglieno, a general who participated in the Crimean War in 1854.
Ospitalia del Mare – Built on top of the ruins of merchant buildings, this was turned into a convent in the late 1500s, and then became a hospital and a school. It is now a youth hostel (with a small museum inside which is actually free to access).
Villa Massola Taliacarne – a villa belonging to the Massola Taliacarne family and built in the mid 17th century. It played an important role in the economic development of the small town. If you go, don’t miss the beautiful Chapel of Saint Catherine of the Tagliacarne.
Make sure to also look up the side of the buildings too, as you will often find beautiful medieval grotesques.
Wine and dine at one of Levanto’s finest restaurants
At Antica Trattoria Centro, you’ll feast on traditional Ligurian dishes and wines. For more than 20 years, this fabulous restaurant has been serving delicious, expertly-prepared food and providing customers with amazing service.
Enjoy a range of seafood, meat and pasta dishes overlooking amazing views of the sea. There’s even a professional sommelier on-site who’ll guide you as you choose the best wine to go with your meal. Make sure to book in advance!
Check out my post The Best Restaurants In Cinque Terre.
Embark on a coastal adventure
Seeing Levanto and Cinque Terre from the land is one thing but seeing the landscape from the sea is another! Head away from the coast and out into those deep, blue, clear waters and see the town from a different perspective. Baciccia Boat 5 Land Tour is one of the companies offering these tours in Levanto. Another one is Sea Breeze Boat Tours.
To book your boat tour from Levanto, click here.
Guided tours of Levanto
Levanto is small enough and really easy to explore, but a guided tour is always a good way to learn more about a place and put things in perspective.
Guided tours of Levanto depart every Saturday at 6:00 pm from Piazza Cavour. To reserve your spot on the tour, enquire about prices and find out what languages the tour runs, you can send an email to the tour organizers at email@example.com.
Where to stay in Levanto
Levanto is a great base to explore the Cinque Terre, and there’s a fair choice of places to stay that are nice and affordable. Here are some excellent picks.
Park Hotel Argento
The best hotel in town is a bit outside of the center and comes with a magnificent pool, a restaurant, and a spa. Rooms are really spacious and they all have a balcony.
Small guest house in the center of Levanto, with small but comfortable rooms. It’s pet friendly and very conveniently priced too.
Another great pick in the center of Levanto, once again very conveniently priced. Rooms are very modern, but the traditional tile work is absolutely stunning!
How to get to Levanto
Getting to Levanto is easy when you have access to such an extensive regional transportation system with a seasonal ferry service and frequent trains traveling from many cities and towns including the five Cinque Terre villages.
If you’re traveling to Levanto from Genoa, the train ride that’ll take you along this route takes about one hour over 37 miles (60 kilometers). The first train leaves Genoa Brignole station at 5:00 am and the last trip of the day is at 11:02 pm and this is the same throughout the week. Trains depart regularly throughout the day.
The trip to Levanto from the Cinque Terre villages is a very short one – especially if you are starting from Monterosso al Mare which is only 2.5 miles (4 kilometers) – the trip only takes a few minutes! Travel time is a bit higher if you are leaving from Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola or Riomaggiore – the farthest village about 8 miles (13 km) away, and from where the train trip takes about 20 minutes.
Trains from the Cinque Terre villages depart regularly throughout the day, with the first train departing Riomaggiore at 4:26 am and crossing the various villages, and the last one going at 1:26 am.
The ride from any of the villages in Cinque Terre costs just €5 and if you plan on using the train a lot, it’s also part of the Cinque Terre Card network.
The voyage from La Spezia to Levanto takes about 15 minutes (depending on the train you get) and trains depart the station every few minutes throughout the day starting at 4:18 am and ending at 1:18 am. The cost of one ticket for this route is €5 and once again it’s part of the Cinque Terre Card network.
Make sure to read my post Is The Cinque Terre Card Worth It?
If you’d like to see beautiful scenery while you travel between Levanto and the other towns in the area, the seasonal ferry is the best way to go! This ferry travels from all of the Cinque Terre villages, except Corniglia as this village has no harbor, and several other nearby towns including La Spezia, Portovenere and Lerici.
While you can buy individual tickets to travel from one port to another, the best way to avail of this ferry service is to purchase an all-day ticket that allows you to travel between all of the ports all day long for one small fee. The trip from La Spezia costs €25; from Riomaggiore or Manarola it is €18; whereas from Vernazza or Monterosso al Mare it costs €12.
Make sure to read these posts to better plan your trip to the Cinque Terre region.
- How To Get To Cinque Terre From Milan
- The Best Day Trip From Florence To Cinque Terre
- A Quick Guide To Manarola
- A Useful Guide To Vernazza
- A Short Guide To Riomaggiore
- What To Wear In Cinque Terre
- A Short Guide To Portovenere