Sestri Levante – a beautiful seaside town on the Riviera


Sestri Levante is a small seaside town on Italy’s Ligurian coast that sits about half way between the beautiful and unique Cinque Terre fishing villages and the affluent and well loved Portofino.  I recently visited this rustic and tranquil little fishing village and to my surprise I noticed the town was mainly full of locals holidaying with their families with a much smaller portion of international visitors.  Strolling along the beachside promenade the outlook is remarkably calm with lots of pint size boats bopping up and down on the waters in the crystal light that reflects the gradually ascending mountains surrounding the village. The main beach is lined with members clubs like most of the beaches in Italy all offering their own individually unique club attributes, the sand is not yellow or white or wonderfully rocky like some of the beaches in Italy, yet more a dusty grey colour. Even so, don’t be deterred by this as the panoramic views and the inviting and relaxed attitude of locals here all contribute to the wonderfully relaxed atmosphere that Sestri Levante has to offer.

Taking a walk through the centre of town I was surprised at how low key this place is, you can forget the need or want to spend big dollars here on anything designer clad, those types of shops just don’t exist here and are left to the likes of Portofino.  Sestri Levante is truly a place to rest, relax and soak up the sun.  There are lots of little restaurants in town, there is always a queue at Bar Gelateria Baciollo and I definitely discovered the best beauty salon in town which is on Via Edoardo Riboli right in the centre where they offer relaxing facials and great pedicures.

Saturday is market day with many locals setting up stalls on the outskirts of the wider perimeter on the beautiful Via 25 Aprile. To direct you start your walk from Piazza Giocomo in front of the Santa Maria di Nazareth church and head down the long and narrow winding street (Via 25 Aprile) until you reach the market stalls. There is certainly no need to rush for the need to fight the crowds, even the local stall holders are often not at their stalls yet enjoying expresso at a nearby cafe or socialising at a fellow neighbouring stand occasionally glimpsing over at their stall to see if there are any bites of interest from passes by.  Stalls are mainly full of brick-a-brack, hand made jewellery, its always a good spot to pick up a reduced stove top for making your morning expresso and there are even some nice little pieces or art and children’s clothing all with reasonable price tags.

There are some well priced hotels and Bed and Breakfasts in Sestri Levante yet I chose to stay this time in a real life medieval castle that sits right on the point with water views all the way to the Portofino mountains.  Grand Hotel Dei Castelli is a four star hotel set on a hill top at the southern point of the main beach.  The castle is surrounded by wonderful luscious gardens and overlooks the village from the rear and the Mediterranean sea from the front of the castle with views from either side.
Town view from the rear of the Castle which is a newly built section of the hotel.
Walk down through the gardens to the hotels private swimming pool.
All entrances and escape paths from the castle are medieval 
pathways through rocky sandstone to the outside world.

There are many wonderful romantic staircases throughout the Castle.


After checking in and discovering every inch of the castle go and sit on the outside balcony like I did and devour a gourmet antipasto plate for lunch with a refreshing glass of chilled Pinot Noir whilst overlooking the turquoise water.
Now for my hidden gem of a spot in Sestri Levante which is where I chose to hibernate under a sun umbrella during the sunny days that followed for the remainder of my stay.  On the southern side of the point there is another much smaller beach called Portobello, this beach is something special, like out of a post card the sandy bay is lined with locals that have set themselves up there for the day.  There are a few restaurants with one that has a reasonably good reputation and looked nice even though I didn’t get to eat there, it’s located at the Hotel Miramare on the waters edge.  My preference when I travel in Italy is to immerse myself amongst locals and try to avoid the tourists as much as possible, this helps me to not only practice my Italian yet to also blend in a little more, I prefer the smaller local bars or as we call them cafes, all are fully licenced and offer mouthwatering seafood salad’s, crusty bread with a crisp glass of white local wine followed by a shot of expresso, perfecto!
This little treasured spot is truly one of the loveliest little beaches that I have ever 
had the pleasure of idling away my time.
Sestri Levante is a lovely little town worth visiting if you are looking for a really restful and peaceful getaway on Italy’s Ligurian coast.  To travel by rail to or from either the famous Cinque Terre or Santa Margherita Ligure – Portofino to Sestri Levante it only takes a short 20-30 minutes.  Take it from me this is a lovely little town with no pretension or grand expectations and is definitely worth a visit.  I thoroughly enjoyed my stay in Sestri Levante and I vow to return again one day very soon.