The beach at Levanto
We have just arrived in Levanto which is to be our base for a days walking in the Cinque Terre, five small coastal villages connected by a network of paths both along the steep, rocky coast and through the mountains above. There is just time to explore the town before we think about showers and dinner.
We start at the seafront which displays the typical Italian layout of massed ranks of deck chairs and sun loungers, with only a minimal strip of sand between them and the sea. Walking along the path at the back of the beach we come to a sort of pier sticking out into the sea and can look back towards the inland mountains. The yellow and orange house to the right is of the art nouveau period, but the beautiful flowery decorations I have seen in photographs are now in a sad state.
We double back to climb a steep path to the old fortress. This is also the start of the coast path to Monterosso, the first of the five villages. There has been a fortress on the top of the cliff here since the 12th century, but this building dates only from the 16th.
We follow a descending track along the line of the town walls to soon see the lovely tower of the church of San Andrea.
The church, in the Genoese Gothic style, was consecrated in 1463. The alternate bands of marble and greenish-black local stone are quite dramatic. The facade was restored at the end of the 19th century and the lovely rose window was added at that point. Inside there is a nave with two aisles on each side.
We spied an interesting tower with a clock on one side on the hillside beyond (the Torre horologico) and walked down the hill behind the church and along a road to find a track leading up to it. The way up was alongside an especially well preserved section of wall. The clock struck as we approached, so it still works, but there was no access to see it more closely.
We retraced our steps and headed down into the town to find the rather lovely medieval loggia where a band was setting up for a gig that evening.
We walked through Piazza Staglieno to via Italia, along which we had walked to our hotel earlier in the afternoon to photograph this fine mansion, with its lovely floral decoration. We noticed many other houses with painted exteriors, but we thought this was easily the best.
Finally, we had a look at Piazza Cavour, a very quiet square which houses the municipal offices. It was once a convent.
Conditions: warm and sunny.
Distance: a couple of miles.
Rating: four stars. A very nice introduction to the area. We spotted some promising resturants too.