Finding Sestri Levante’s Hidden Splendor

Ah, Sestri Levante – two beautiful bays, nearby beaches, and stunning hikes. And it’s the perfect location to explore the rest of Liguria. If you’re looking for an intro to the Italian Riviera this is definitely the spot to check out. And it isn’t quite as crowded as Cinque Terre, A place so beautiful legends say sirens settled down here.

My husband and I went to Sestri Levante a few months ago for a beautiful wedding. We would go back in a heartbeat. Lovely people, stunning location, excellent food, and amazing hospitality, all at an affordable price.

Sestri Levante Bay
Beautiful Sestri Levante

Sestri Levante used to be an old fishing village. But, it’s gaining popularity as a charming spot to watch the waves come in and the world go gracefully by.

When you’re there you’ll find Italians day tripping in the town. Yet, it’s not nearly as packed like nearby Portofino and Cinque Terre, making it a quieter affair. And if you do feel crowded there’s plenty of options for utter relaxation.

Hikes and Walks in Sestri Levante

I usually think of a hotel as a place to rest my feet and clean off after running around all day, and little else. But our hostess, Dona, blew our expectations out of the water. We booked her elegant Airbnb in the hills around Sestri Levante above Riva Trigoso.

hills of Sestri
Ah, bliss in a hammock

Perfect.

And in only a 30 – 40 minute walk you can be in the heart of Sestri Levante! But in the hills, you get a more peaceful night with a sweet summer breeze. There’s grapes, cats, a fabulous breakfast, and a very personable host. If you don’t fancy a delightful long walk every morning there’s plenty of options in Sestri itself. Like the manor style Grand Hotel Villa Babi, which had a pleasant garden and pool.

There’s some great hiking in the area with splendid sea views. Our place was less than an hours walk from the Torre di Punta Manara. Go and you’ll be blessed with panoramic views of the peninsula of Sestri with its iconic sliver of land.

Sestri Levante from the Punta Manara
Sestri Levante from the Punta Manara / CC Marcobombe

In only a few leisurely hours you can walk from Riva Trigosa to Sestri Levante. Bring water and decent shoes! (And to make it extra special, some wine and focaccia, yes please.)

walking on a path
Walking down to the Bays

Sestri’s Beautiful Bays

Undoubtedly many people come to Sestri to see the romantic Baia del Silenzio and Baia delle Favole. The Baia delle Favole (the Bay of Fables) is named after Hans Christian Anderson, who had a brief stint in Sestri. Recently, the Bay of Silence came in 7th place in the prettiest beach in Italy. That’s some stiff competition!

But with the charming pastel houses and historic fishing boats, it’s no wonder.

day trippers at the Bay of Silence
Bay of Silence

It can be quite rocky, so bring water shoes or flip flops

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Gorgeous rocky beaches

The Bay of Fables wasn’t as crowded when we were there. Even in the middle of August, it wasn’t a problem to find a place on the beach.

Get into Town

The town is ancient and stems from the time of the Liguri people before the Romans. But today there’s much of what you would expect in an Italian seaside town: food, umbrellas for rent, boutiques, antiques, and cafes.

There are local markets in the morning, like this one on Corso Colombo, where I found a very pretty Ligurian plate.

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Enjoy a wander and take in the interesting architecture.

door
Door down a caruggio

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Every building has character – I especially love the pretty pastels and the street art.

cat fish
Lovely little catfish
train station mural
Even the murals at the train station have character

We were graced with sunny days and spent most of our time outdoors. If you get unlucky with bad weather, why not check out the Galleria Rizzi?

Sestri Levante’s Peninsula and Castles

In 1920 the peninsula was bought by Riccardo Gualino to build a villa between the bays. Most of the buildings on the peninsula were in a state of disrepair.

Ruins of Santa Caterina Oratory
Ruins of Santa Caterina Oratory on the walk up the peninsula.

But he reinvigorated the area, leading to the construction of castles. All three respect ancient architecture.

Grand Hotel Dei Castelli
Grand Hotel Dei Castelli

Explore the peninsula, find some of the ruins, and maybe eat at a fine restaurant. Most of all take in being surrounded by the sea and the bays. Our host even said whale watching tours are gaining prominence nearby.

Food, Delicious Ligurian Food

grapes at the bed and breakfast
Grapes at the bed and breakfast

Ligurian cuisine is fish heavy. Much to my family’s shame, I’m not exactly a fishphile. But if you are – get some! It’s a speciality, especially in this old fishing village.

Find focaccia to die for at Panificio Spiga d’oro. Flaky goodness. Bakeries have even some classic fishermen’s food like focaccia covered in onions. The coffee here is stiff and strong but enthusiasts will love it.

Want to get dressed up and go somewhere nice?

beautiful bay
A rare moment for us to dress up…

Splash some cash at Ristorante ai Castelli. You get views from both bays and a luxurious evening with the elegant menu. Your company may be a plus, but all I need is that fresh pasta.

For dessert make sure to get gelato somewhere. We especially loved Tama Gelati E Molto Di – their mint gelato was simply perfect.

Getting Around and About Sestri

Most of Sestri is walkable, and if you have a little stamina you will be fine – especially if you stay in the town.

If for some reason you need a taxi be aware you can’t count on them late at night. We were out one night at midnight and had to walk. It ended up being fun for us, but if you’re with anyone infirm or otherwise unable to walk think about how you’re going to get around.

As I mentioned, Sestri Levante is a great location to explore nearby locales. You can get a ferry to Portofino and Cinque Terre and a host of other towns. And there’s always the train to connect you to the rest of Italy, like nearby Genoa.

Most of all, relax and enjoy.