Not far from Italy’s Portofino and Cinque Terre lies another town that’s easily just as stunning, but without the crowds. Sestri Levante sits on the Gulf of Tigullio in the Liguria region of the Italian Riviera, referred to by locals as “the city of two seas”. It features fine sand, pastel buildings and a sprawling monastery along the water.
Australian couple, Dave and Emily Berlach, founders of fashion brand Bohemian Traders, holiday in Italy each year, and Siestri Levante is one of their favourite towns — one they’ve visited countless times. They say the spot offers everything good about the Mediterranean and is conveniently located halfway between Rome and Milan.
“It has incredible beauty and millennia’s old history,” they say. “We recommend going anytime June through September, but keep in mind that July is hot and busy, while the end of August through September is a little quieter.”
As for what visitors can expect to leave with, Dave and Emily say great memories, lots of photos and a belly full of gelato, espresso, focaccia and chargrilled polpo. If you want a souvenir of your time, however, or a local gift to give a loved one, they recommend picking up a bottle of local Ligurian wine.
“The Scimiscià is a nice dry white and a real treat if you can find it,” they say.
Ahead, from the best place to stay, to a must-see while you’re there, these taste-makers are sharing all their other tips for how best to experience the hidden gem that is Sestri Levante.
Where to Stay
Firstly, where to base yourself when you’re here? “We love to stay at Hotel Helvetia,” says the Berlachs. “The view is the best in the bay, the pool is magnificent and the restaurant is delightful.”
Best Place to Eat
As for where to eat, the couple says visitors will be spoilt for choice. Personally, they love exploring and finding new places on every visit.
“Liguria is known for its seafood and specific type of focaccia,” they say. “We like to eat as much fresh seafood as possible when staying in Sestri. I’m partial to squid ink tortellini with a prawn crudo. Anything raw is a yes from me.”
They also recommend deli Le Delizie della Baia in Baia del Silenzio, where you can pick up items you can enjoy on a picnic, as well as one-Michelin-starred Orto, set in Moneglia.
What to Do
How to spend your time here? On each visit, the couple hikes from the old town to Punta Manara, which has views of the gulf.
“We also like to take a boat over to Portofino for lunch, stopping on the return for a quick dip in one of the many private, rocky beaches, including Cristo Delhi Abissi at Sam Frutuosso.”
And because, for many, no trip to Europe would be complete without at least looking at the shops, they recommend shopping in Siestre Levanti. “There’s everything from small, independent boutiques dotted through the villages, to large stores in Genoa,” they say. “Perhaps on your day trip to Portofino, drop into one of the boutiques lined up neatly along the cobbled alleys.