Levanto – a childhood memory revisited

The smell of wild thyme and oregano….the rat-ta-tating of a scooter….a cool and shady alleyway, unchanged for centuries…endless summer days…the movement of waves invading my sleep…and an all-enveloping feeling of….home.

levanto-2014-9825These were my memories of Levanto, a small town in Liguria with an old embankment on the beach just one step north of the world-renown Cinque Terre, where I spent nearly every summer as a kid, because my aunt lived there and, well, because. But we all have these memories which become even more powerful the longer the events forming them lay in our past. Could it possibly have been that beautiful or was my mind playing tricks on me?

levanto-2014-9462 Over the last 15 years I have maybe spent an entirety of 2,5 days in Levanto, always to pay a short visit to my aunt and cousin when I was close. So I stayed long enough to see that the bar on stilts looks just the same, even though the owner Dino is long dead and gone. In the end of October I finally had the opportunity to spend a week there to put my memories to a test.

levanto-2014-9472Even though the occasion is a sad one – a family burial – the moment we step out of the plane I feel something shift in me that i can’t really explain and that only happens in Italy – a sense of belonging, a lust for life seldom present anywhere else.

levanto-2014-9819After an hour’s drive through the incredible flat floodplane of the Po, the hills begin to get closer, cradling us in, soon turning to veritable mountains, the highway winding along their flanks in curve after curve. Leaving the highway to descend to the sea we dive into a veritable djungle, green and flowering vines everywhere – even at the end of summer. vines everywhere – even at the end of summer.


It’s always a special feeling driving into a valley opening to the sea, first the mountains get closer, hemming you in, until finally you can see the ocean, reminds me a bit about birth. That day we just drive through Levanto proper to take another 10 mins drive up Monte Mesco. Just below the tip we park the car, turn on the water and start our way through steep olive-growing terraces. The wunderful house we’re staying belongs to old friends of my sister, overlooking beach and the sea, but you have to work to get. My sister Katharina uses that moment to inform us of this year’s ferocious breed of wild pigs. Apparently we’re supposed to make a lot of noise while commuting to or from the house. Needless to say, that from now on she is not only urging us to talk louder, she even brings two potlids to the task. In the end we’re all a bit disappointed that these legendary monsters don’t show themselves – with the exception of Katha, maybe.

levanto-2014-9812The house really is all, one could ask for, even the fact, that it’s always a 20 minute hike up and down uncounted somehow adds to the overall perfectness, what could possibly be better than waking up with the mediterrenean right in your face. So the first coffee, next thing in the morning already sets the mood for the next days; yes, it really is that beautiful, although I could’ve done without having to clean the gekko-poo first. Before me stretches the Mediterranean, framed by wild wine and pines and flowering bushes whose names I don’t know, sometimes a clear turquoise, just to loom nearly black shortly after – and going through all the shades of blue in between.

levanto-2014-9776In the next couple of days I dive deep into my childhood, reacquainting myself with cool, shady alleyways almost unchanged for centuries. Of course there aware subtle changes, the old market streets are a bit posher, people suddenly speaking English – even when I unpack my rusty smatterings of Italian; some shops changed and the Casinò has seen better days. What shocks me most though is the fact that the Italians started to sort their trash. For me,Italy always was a country were they just tumbled their old washing machines over the next cliff and now they even have four cute trashcans on the beach. Somehow that is the only thing that really makes me sad, and a bit aggressive – how dare they going all eco-friendly on me and threaten my moral high ground so carelessly? The overall impression though is one of continuity, maybe not too surprising since many of the buildings are 400 years or older. And with every hour I spend here I become calmer, strolling around the mediaeval city walls and the old trading houses at the former harbour. And when you’re finally fed up with staring at sunsets while having the first Campari O of the evening,try the bar of Croce Verde, the equivalent  of the red cross. They’re 3€ each and come with an assortment of Italian tapas.

levanto-2014-9818So childhood memories might not be very reliable in general but this piece of earth will always be one of the most beautiful I can imagine. The best travelling time is spring, early summer and autumn since it usually warm enough for a day on the beach but not too full. I would avoid the place in august, since this is the time all Italians take their summer holiday. Accommodations are not cheap, but airbnb has some reasonable abodes on offer, and if you’re lucky you can even get to live in an 18th century palazzo.levanto-2014-9851

Extra: Don’t miss out on an italian highway restaurant. No matter how shitty they look, you always get a coffee that’s better thant 90% of the st uff self-proclaimed baristas in Berlin put under their damned latte-art, but I gues that’s another story.

One more Extra: I did a little hyperlapse video in the time I’ve been to Levanto. Since it is actually one of my first tries at this, don’t be too harsh with your judgement. Turns out there is a lot to it, and I’ll just keep trying:

Some more photos from the seaside can be found here: A day in the blue

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