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Levanto

Thursday - Wednesday
20-26 October

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Little Mediterranean beach pebbles... Whenever I think about anywhere along the coast of Liguria, there is a surprising emotional yearning. The edges of this coastal region touch the Mediterranean from near Pisa to the southeast, then stretch north west past cliffs and pebble beaches towards the border of France. With smiles inside, I look forward to an entire week here in late April, home-based in a very classic Italian apartment, which is located in exactly the village where the waitress photograph

here was taken. Levanto is several towns north of that colorful parade of five interesting villages which form the Cinque Terre national park. Near but out of traffic: accordingly way fewer tourists.

 

You adventurers would like it very much. Adventurers I mean not in the sense of extreme water sports or bungee jumping above knife-edged rocks, but of ordering food whose description your vocabulary is not able to translate. Rather to suggest that if your notion of leisure includes tuxedos and gowns at posh restaurants, then maybe Monaco or Cannes up the coast is

  for you. These little assemblages of houses seem designed for people-watching next to the seaside. Enjoying the expressive face of a patient server in Levanto, as here, explaining with animated fingers what it is that un bicchiere d'acqua may be. Afterwards perhaps enjoying the sea air while not minding very much that a sticky torrent of gelato is dripping over your fingers faster than you can lick it.

A ways north of the Levanto rental is the town of Sestri Levante, whose seaside city area touches two memorable inlets: the Bay of Fable, which Hans Christian Andersen fell in love with in 1833, and the Bay of Silence, shown here. There is a coastal trail to scuff along, here, that I must revisit this Autumn. Last time visited, it was a sweet, sunny Sunday afternoon, and said trail was alive with remarkably fit and chatty senior citizens in clusters, hiking to brisk picnics among the boulders and pines and cork-oaks.

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The Gulf of Poets (e.g. Byron and Shelley) at Porto Venere offers an old fortress, shown here, and a quite-old church ruin to explore, along with the town's tony shops—it is a prosperous suburb of La Spezia. One may take the coastal ferry here because I'm hoping this visit will coincide with the busier tourist-months when these gutsy and throaty floating buses ply ligurian waters. Loud, choppy, marvelous.

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The five or so local coast-edge villages do resemble one another, yet aren't remotely duplicates. They differ in size and personality, and arrangement along the steep shoreline (from the water those pastel-hued structures appear super-glued to the rocky hillsides). Each is interesting, each a delight to explore. This one, Vernazza, has arguably the most genteel evening mood of the bunch.

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And yet Levanto has a gentle personality of its own. One thing I have been struck by in this town, is the relative absence of English speaking people on the streets, in the shops, on the beaches. There are mansions and grand gardens, indeed, but mostly one just notices vacationing Italians. Enjoying.

I love this little cafe right across from a park where locals watch their kids play. Last visit, it was run by a brother/sister pair. She did the work of the moment, while he played with my Go Pro camera. An uneven distribution of effort, sure, but some playful footage resulted (see below).

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Westerly almost into France to pause in

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une fois encore