Strong contrasts between the Maritime Alps and the rocky shores that in certain sections descend to the waves. This is Liguria, a thin strip of land stretched out over the sea.
In Liguria, the land suspended on the sea
We have been in that section called Riviera Spezzina, included in that of Levante, which includes the notorious Cinque Terre, so defined to indicate as many unique villages, fascinating beauty and continuous struggle with impenetrable nature, which, as pearls of a single necklaces wind up along five miles of coast between the Promontory of Mesco and Punta San Pietro. We will insert the villages of Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, Riomaggiore, UNESCO heritage since 1997, in the next tour on Ligurian land.
This time we stopped right in the place that is considered the “gate” of the Riviera, Levanto, in the center of a valley protected by Punta Mesco and Punta Levanto. The village has always been a strategic point of great importance. In Roman times it was a small village called Ceula located at the point where the ancient Ligurian street from the inside reached the coast.
In medieval times the country was under the rule of Malaspina and Da Passano until 1229, when it passed to the Republic of Genoa. The Genoese forces strengthened the town and built the castle in the area of the pre-existing medieval manor.
From the Middle Ages and from the early modern age, the beautiful town preserves buildings of great architectural value like the Gothic church of Sant’Andrea, whose belfry with alternating bands with a light and dark effect made of Carrara white marble and serpentine, local gray stone, is seen from afar.
Futher up is the Castello di San Giorgio, headquarters of the Captain at the time of the Republic of Genoa, then transformed into a prison and now private property, formed by a circular tower and high walls quadrilateral maded.
Following the route of the Old Walls you arrive at an impressive and scenic amphitheater, which is what remains of the main “Rosso Levanto” quarry, a dark ruby stone typical of the area and very popular until the 1960s.
Near the Medieval Loggia in Piazza del Popolo, a site where once were taking place customs practices and control of goods arriving and departing from the port and which is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site as one of the few examples in Liguria. Passing the five arches, you are inside the loggia where you can admire a 15th century fresco of the Annunciation.
In the former convent of the Order of the Clares, the town hall is housed, while the zipper between the sea and the old village is the tree-lined Piazza Staglieno, a place to rest in the shade after strolling along via Garibaldi where were restored to former glory the old colors of the facades, red light, brick, ocher yellow and Ligurian green, the noble palaces that are decorated with painted balconies and grotesque caricatures of the early 1500’s.
Today Levanto is an important tourist-seaside resort and in the most modern part lies the historical establishment situated on the sea promenade, built in 1933 and donated to the city by senator Giovanni Agnelli. Once used as a Casino, it has retained its original structure with its porches and pool, around which artists such as Mina and Ornella Vanoni were performing in the 1960s.
And it remains a testament to the elite tourism that used to visit the country, along with the luxurious villas that are along the Stone promenade, including the Agnelli family complex with an immense park, swimming pool and tennis court at the foot of the Promontorio del Mesco.
The sandy coastline is closed by the nautical area “La Pietra”, which takes its name from the rock that emerges from the sea and that tradition considers a meteorite precipitated there in antiquity.
From a wooden walkway you access the pier where the motorboats carrying the tourist service along the Ligurian coast dock. It is surely the most impressive point of the gulf, overlooked by the villa built by Senator Agnelli in 1914, which still forms the visual closure of the long promenade on the sea.
Do not miss the promenade on the “Maremonti” cycle track, an asphalt path from the former railway line that runs in front of the sea and connects in about 5 kilometers Levanto, Bonassola and Framura. Along the track, which is part of the “Cycle Network of Liguria”, alternating illuminated galleries and open-air from which you can access to the beaches that open along the coastal section.
To get refills pwas there is the embarrassment of choice, but absolutely to taste is the “gattafin”, a kind of large ravioli stuffed with herbs, cheese and eggs and fried, typical of the town of Levanto, whose name has at least three origins: delight of the Gatta, in reference to the Gatta’s quarry near which herbs were collected, or to the cat like an animal who occasionally steals choice morsels in the kitchen or at the end of the 14th century word gattafura, a herb cake.
Other specialties to try are the intense “panissa”, a kind of chickpea flour, thin and fried cut, delicate rice pie, lovely white focaccia, delicious pansotti al pesto and, of course, anchovies in “all sauces”: marinated, salted, in bagnun, stuffed with tomato and breadcrumbs.
Where to buy some of these delicacies to bring home like greedy souvenirs?
In the center of Levanto there is Luigina – The Pesto Laboratory (Via Dante, 16 – +39 0187 807441), where in addition to being able to buy the true Pesto genoese prepared with the ancient recipe that is handed down for four generations he can learn to do it with his own hands and with the mortar just as tradition commands.