The road trip continues from the Lake Garda area in the north of Italy to the west coast and the Italian Riviera. Our decision to stay in Sestri Levante, just south of Portofino, came from an inspiration after seeing a photo of an unknown beautiful seaside village several years ago, and researching until we found it… let’s go there!
The mystery village was perfectly situated in the middle of the Italian Riviera and had easy access to the major roadways thus making day trips conveniently easy. To take advantage of the area we booked an 8 night stay in an apartment in the center of town.
Road Trips Anyone?
Portofino / Santa Margherita is 20 miles (42 minutes); Cinque Terra (#1 tourist attraction in the Italian Rivera) is 44 miles (1 hr 13 minutes); Carrara Marble Mines are 44 miles (1 hr 40 minutes); Pisa (that tilting tower thing) is 72 miles (1 hr 25 minutes); Parma (Home of Prosciutto) is 98 miles (1 hr 51 minutes); Maranello (home of the Ferrari and related museum) 140 miles (2 hr 40 minutes)… just to name a few!
First Things First — Establish the Base Camp
So we booked an 8 night stay through “Homeaway.com” that satisfied our must-have check list… a good kitchen, at least two bedrooms and outdoor space with a balcony and in the center of the city… we even scored with a unit in a pedestrian-only zone. Time to park the car in a secure location, and enjoy the relaxed vibe of this laid back beach town.
We were within easy walking distance to the beach (there are two of them), a great variety of restaurants (ranging from snacks to fine gourmet dining), shopping, street markets, and even a few nights of live music and dancing. A surprisingly lively town!
Mangia… Mangia… Mangia… Che Buono Italian Cuisine
The foodie part of our travel is important to us so we prefer a vacation rental to keep our culinary options open and flexible. Staying in a hotel limits you to restaurant dining which isn’t the worst thing but, oh, what you are missing!
Exquisite Fine Dining Options
There are at least 120 restaurants in town and we easily sorted them out by using “Yelp”, “TripAdvisor” and “OpenTable” albeit Italian-style. WI-Fi is your friend and we used it every day… how did we survive without it! We selected “Balin Cuisine” for one of our special dining experiences and were well rewarded for our research.
The simple neighborhood restaurant, “La Osteria Mattana” provided us our first night’s meal as it was a long day and we were very hungry… nothing fancy, low prices and everything exceptional. Travel hint: keep your eyes open for the local crowds and eat where they eat… be spontaneous and enjoy the experience.
Purchase Prepared Food and Cook at “Home”
You are in Italy and have the kitchen to cook world-famous delicacies… so we started at the “Pastifico Moderno” pasta shop which is ranked by “TripAdvisor” as the #9 best out of 120 restaurants in Sestri… and it is not even a restaurant!
They make fresh pasta and sauces daily and the townspeople line up to select from dozens of pasta choices and at least 5 different sauces. We learned to order in the morning and go back in the late afternoon to pick up our selections (a little local secret).
This is where we bought the BEST pesto EVER… remember that this region of Italy, Liguria, is the birthplace of the famous basil sauce. You buy it by weight, take it home, cook and serve… in your own place you can even be wearing baggy, comfy clothing and flip-flops… and enjoy lots of wine too.
Go All In and Do it Yourself
All this requires is a Pasta Shop, a Green Grocer, a Butcher and of course good local wine. Italians usually shop daily for their ingredients and it becomes part of their everyday activity and we emulated their routines… relished them is more like it.
Immerse Yourself in a Small Italian Village
As if you really need a few more justifications… how about practicing your “Italian” and communicating with the local merchants? After a repeat visit or two they actually greet you and occasionally add a little taste of something “on the house”.
The warmth of the Italian people and the adventure of “living” in the village makes an indelible, positive imprint on your travel memories from the neighborhood bakery, the neighborhood cheese and salami shop, the late afternoon aperitif, and the numerous outdoor music venues to name a few.
There are two tranquil and colorful beach options to choose from… the Baia del Silenzio (Bay of Silence) which is the public beach, and the Baia delle Favole (Bay of Fables) which is the main beach of Sestri and has both private and public areas.
The separation between them is a peninsula which contains a great many historical sites dating back to the middle of the 12th Century and the “The Grand Hotel dei Castelli”. The area is preserved in a park like setting, with panoramic views and definitely worth the time to explore.
Strategically located on the Mediterranean Sea, in the middle of the Italian Riviera, is this vibrant and beautiful seaside village. Sestri Levante has much to offer… all it takes is the time to savor the moments.