> SlowTrav > Stories > Pauline's Pages > 2002, Switzerland, Italy

One Night in Levanto, Liguria

I love Levanto! We arrived after a long and exhausting drive from Switzerland. It was a delight to pull into this beautiful Italian seaside town.

Friday, September 6 - Into Italy

The weather was not great. Rain as we were driving along the Riviera to Levanto.

I was dreading going into Italy after our two and a half perfect weeks in Switzerland. As soon as you cross the border you know you are in a different kind of place. The drivers are faster and more aggressive. There were no lines drawn to designate parking spaces on the parking lot at the first Autogrill. No seats on the toilets and the bathrooms were chaotic and somewhat dirty. But, you get used to it pretty quick. I know you must be thinking - how can she dread going into Italy? Italy is fabulous! Yes it is, but it takes a bit of energy to deal with it. Switzerland always feels very easy to me - easy driving, easy shopping, not that crowded. Italy is all crowds and chaos - or so it seems to me in the first few days there, until I get used to it.

We stopped at the first Autogrill and I went up to the cashier and ordered two coffees and two pastries - in Italian!! (I don't speak any Italian - Steve does all the speaking in Italy - but I have worked on my ordering skills.) The coffee was the best we had on the trip so far.

The traffic on the ring road around Milan was bad - moved at a crawl. It was after 5pm when we broke free of the Milan traffic. Then it was fast and good driving to Levanto. Arrived at 7:30pm.

Autostrada Tolls

From the Switzerland border to Levanto then on to Cetona, we paid tolls as follows:

1.50 euro - toll north of Milan
1.90 euro - toll north of Milan
11.50 euro - from south of Milan to Levanto
10.80 euro - from Levanto to Chiusi
TOTAL 25.70 euro from border to Levanto

One Night in Levanto

We found our hotel, Villa Margherita, easily - drove through Levanto until we saw a sign. It is just outside the main area, on a road going up the hill. You can walk to the main street on lanes and staircases in five minutes. Villa Margherita is lovely - a grand old villa turned into a 7 room B&B (and a two bedroom vacation rental apartment). I am working on the web site for Federico whose family owns the villa, but I had not met him before (we met through email). We changed our trip plan at the last minute to have a night here so we could meet and talk about his web sites.

Federico could not go out for dinner with us because he was waiting for late arriving vacation rental guests (he also runs a vacation rental agency with a partner - Cinque Terre Properties), but he walked us into town and got us a table at Taverna Garibaldi - where we had the best pizza since we were last in Rome. Thin crust, perfect amount of toppings. It was a Friday night and the place was full. No bill came - Federico had taken care of it. What a treat for us - to know someone in Italy and not feel like such strangers.

This is the best by-product of running SlowTrav. On our last trip, I asked Zak from TuscanHouse to go out for dinner with us to some place where they know him. I wanted to see what it felt like to walk into a place in Italy and be greeted by the owner. It felt great!

Saturday, September 7 - day in Levanto

Woke up to a warm, sunny day.

We had breakfast at the hotel (good breakfast room), then I spent an hour working with Federico, then we went out to explore Levanto. We were scheduled to arrive at our vacation rental in Cetona around 6pm, so we could spend the morning in Levanto. Levanto is a perfect beach town. It combines all the good points of the Amalfi area, Porto Santo Stefano (southern Tuscany), Lerici (Bay of Poets in Liguria), and the Cinque Terre - and leaves out all the bad points. The town is lively and fun, the drive into the town was easy, parking is easy, lots of restaurants and stores, a beautiful long beach with a large public area (and an area of private beach where you pay), a boardwalk along the beach, hiking trails to the Cinque Terre (Levanto is the first town north of the Cinque Terre and is a two hour walk to the first town - or you can take the train). The central piazza is beautiful and was full of kids playing and adults hanging around watching.

We went to an Enoteca recommended by Federico and bought jars of pesto and olive oil, then walked along the water, visited the Duomo, started the trail to the Cinque Terre (just for a bit).

We went to another restaurant that Federico recommended, Le Palme, and had a lovely lunch - pasta with pesto for me (Trofie al Pesto) and swordfish for Steve. After lunch, we went back to Villa Margherita, said goodbye to Federico and loaded up the car and headed for Tuscany.

We plan to go back to Levanto and rent Federico's apartment for a week or two next year. (Note from June 2003 - we are booked into his apartment for 10 nights in September.)

Levanto Driving Times

Levanto to Autostrada - 18 mins
Levanto to Carrara exit - 38 mins
Levanto to Lucca exit - 1 hour, 5 mins
Levanto to Florence exit - 2 hours, 10 mins
Levanto to Cetona - 3.5 hours

Levanto Restaurant Reviews

Levanto: Taverna Garibaldi, Via Garibaldi 57, tel:0187-808098
Pizza and local dishes. Nice casual restaurant in the historic center of Levanto. Fabulous pizza.

Levanto: Le Palme
We went to another restaurant that Federico recommended and had a lovely lunch - pasta with pesto for me (Trofie al Pesto) and swordfish for Steve. Including salad and french fries, a bottle of water and coffee, lunch was 26.50Euro for the two of us.

Levanto Shops List

Levanto: Enoteca le Tumeline, Via Don Emanuele Toso 1, tel: 0187-807001
Wine, Olive Oil and other products of Liguria. We bought locally made pesto and olive oil.

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