Deciding to visit Liguria for your next vacation always proves to be a winning choice, as it is a region that encompasses picturesque ancient and quaint villages as well as bays enclosed in small coves that are a delight to the mind and heart.
Sea, art, and great food, what more could you ask for from the northwest of our country?
If you don’t know me yet, let me introduce myself; I am Andrea from Discovergenoa, a DOC Genovese with an unbridled passion for my land.
In this article, I tell you about the beauties of Sestri Levante, a small seaside town that nevertheless holds a whole range of wonders that deserve a thorough visit to be appreciated as they deserve.
However, if you only have one day at your disposal, you can organize a relaxing itinerary and touch all the local focuses, taking home some postcard-worthy photos but more importantly a series of indelible memories to fix forever in your mind and thoughts.
Follow me on this journey colored in turquoise and the pretty tones of the little houses in the harbor, we will immerse ourselves in the culture of a people who are courteous and hospitable to those who respect the sea and the land, and we will taste some of the most iconic dishes of Italian cultures, such as an excellent Ligurian pesto or fresh fish main courses that are decidedly mouthwatering and flavorful, as the tradition of yesteryear dictates.
Is Sestri Levante worth visiting?
Read on to find out the things to see in and around Sestri Levante, what are the best beaches, the best restaurants, and all the useful info to make the most of your stay.Booking.com
Itinerary for visiting Sestri Levante in one day
We begin immediately with a sightseeing tour inside the city of Sestri Levante and visit the most important attractions, such as churches, ancient monuments, and the old town.
If you have only a few hours to spare and wish to begin a tour of a new place, certainly the first step is to get a feel for its historic center.
In this case, it is evident from a first glance that the medieval mold of the small village, which is characterized by the 15th April street leads right into the heart of the town.
If you stand in the center of Matteotti Square, you will notice a series of typical buildings with colorful facades, mostly red brick, that catch your eye and make you feel immersed in a historic and evocative atmosphere.
As you stroll through the many little streets that branch off around, you will have the chance to encounter several unique craft stores where you can buy a souvenir different from the usual ones and take a piece of this wonderful vacation home with you.
Don’t forget to stop at one of the typical Spartan-looking trattorias you come across as you walk, these are the ones that usually hold the best surprises from a gastronomic standpoint.
Let yourself be won over by the small stores that still produce the typical Genoese focaccia, with its thick thickness and mouthwatering flavor.
Among the churches and palaces that we will see below, you can retrace part of the history of northern Italy and its dominations, admiring important works of art within the country’s best-known cultural hubs, such as the civic museum.
Starting from the main square, a short distance away we find precisely the Basilica of St. Mary of Nazareth, also dating back to the 17th century when the small village decided to expand and take on the conformation we know today.
However, the facade as we see it today dates from 1837-1840 and is made in the neoclassical style, clean and linear as the art of the time wanted.
Only two bell towers remain of the original core, but they were decorated only later and therefore offer a truly interesting mixture of different and intersecting eras.
The history of the building is even older, however, because established records report that a chapel dedicated to the Virgin Mary stood here as early as 1368.
The suggestion is not to limit yourself exclusively to observing the exterior facade, but to cross the threshold and lose yourself in the splendor of the interior, where a well-known and famous wooden Pietà by Anton Maria Maragliano is also preserved.
Church of St. Nicholas of the Island
Finally, on the side of religious buildings, a visit to the Church of St. Nicholas of the Island is certainly not to be missed.
We are talking about the oldest sacred place present in Sestri Levante Liguria, which therefore conquers not only for its beauty but also for the archaic suggestion it arouses in visitors.
The style has been Romanesque since the historical period to which the project dates back to 1151, although over the centuries there have been many Baroque interferences that can be observed to this day, thanks to the Municipality, the restorations that have been carried out make it possible to observe the original conformation for most of the building.
Moving instead toward the Bay of Silence, it is possible to find the Former Convent of the Annunziata.
It is an ancient palace that stands in a decidedly privileged position, right above the cliff, so that it is possible not only to visit the interior of the place of worship but also to admire the breathtaking view after taking a salutary route.
Founded in 1469 by the idea of the Dominican Fathers, it was a religious outpost until the advance of Napoleon, when he removed the friars from their seat in 1797.
During the 1800s the place became a private mansion and was saved from decay, however, it was only recently that the Municipality of Sestri Levante bought it back and restored it to its former glory.
Here we are in front of one of the most well-known structures in the historic center, a noble palace with an ancient and fascinating history.
Built-in the 17th century, its main purpose was to be the main bishop’s seat in the village, a reference point for the faithful right in the nerve center of the city.
Today the town hall has been placed inside, but during opening hours it is possible to visit the grand staircase and majestic atrium, imagining how life once must have unfolded inside.
The style of the visible part is opulent and richly detailed Baroque, which you can observe by sitting on the steps and rolling your eyes all around.
Right in the historic center, precisely at 8 Via dei Cappuccini, stands a lovely museum that contains several really interesting wonders inside, all to be discovered.
This is an average-sized exhibit, but it allows one to admire paintings such as Campi’s La Cuciniera, Ansaldo’s The Marriage of St. Catherine, and Domenico Parodi’s Crucifixion.
It will be a valuable time of sharing for the whole family and then proceed with their itinerary within the historic center after having had their fill of art and culture.
The suggestion is to equip yourself with a guidebook so that you have the details of each work, which deserves to be enjoyed in its historical and cultural context so that you also better understand the artistic history of the village.
Church of St. Peter in Vincoli
Proceeding on the same street in your walk, you will find the Church of San Pietro in Vincoli, founded in 1640 and erected by Capuchin friars who sought a sacred place to take refuge for prayer and to welcome the faithful.
They stayed in this place for only 10 years, deciding to move to a quieter place that they could devote to meditation and their religious mission.
Moving on to the Fascie Rossi Palace, it is impossible not to notice.
It is a distinctive red structure that is striking for its unusual shapes inspired by the Mackenzie Castle in Genoa, which in the early 1900s was a real landmark for those who wanted to construct modern buildings with a recognizable style.
Its interior occupies two rather prestigious foundations, that of the Civic Library, which houses ancient and modern times, and that of the Musel Civic Museum, which tells the story of the town and part of the region with several decidedly interesting pieces.
What is the best Sestri Levante Beach?
Among the most important attractions in Sestri di Levante are undoubtedly its beaches.
The most enchanting are three: the Bay of Silence and Bay of the Fables (located right in the center of the village), and Riva Trigoso (a few kilometers away).
If you plan to have a drink by the sea or take a dip in the water, read on.
Bay of Silence, Sestri Levante
The most famous Bay on the entire coastline is the Bay of Silence, which by its very name instills serenity and tranquility.
It is a small inlet located within the coastline, characterized at first glance by a blue sea and an expanse of white and golden sand.
Imagine a postcard scenery, the typical one of a fishermen’s bay, with small boats swaying on the pier, slightly peeling from the saltiness and wear and tear.
You can take a walk and enjoy the view in every season of the year, appreciating the changes of the sea and its color as the months change.
Behind the tongue of the sandy shore are low, colorful cottages, making the landscape even more striking and colorful in outline.
It is an intimate place ideal for a romantic outing in the company of a loved one, but also for enjoying a day at the beach in a unique natural setting.
Only caution, avoid the busiest days of the year such as the middle of August, it would be a shame not to appreciate the true essence of the place due to excessive crowds.
The bathing space is very small, so there are not many rows of sunbeds and umbrellas that can be placed without risking standing too close together.
If you only have one day, you can observe this wonder at sunset, enjoy a drink on the beach at the end of hours of exploration, and savor the silence of the bay when most people have faded away by now.
According to the study by tourism portal Holidu, the Baia del Silenzio was named the most beautiful beach in Italy in 2021, with more than 13,000 reviews on Google Maps and an average score of 4.6 out of 5.
Bay of the Fables
A second equally popular bay nearby, however, is Bay of the Fables, which is located just on the opposite side of the small beach.
In this case, the area available for bathing is larger, so if you are traveling with a large group or in the presence of children then you can opt for this solution should you decide to enjoy a few hours of sunshine on the Ligurian Riviera.
If you are wondering where such a poetic name comes from, you can find evidence in the assiduous presence of a fairy tale author like Andersen, who spent so much time on these shores and is thought to have gotten the inspiration for the book The Little Mermaid precisely from observing the crystal clear waters.
There is no shortage of beaches equipped with sunbeds, umbrellas, and showers so that you can experience your stay in total comfort, even in the company of your dog, who can enter together with his family.
Small corners of the free area allow you to put your towel down and enjoy the view during less crowded times.
About 10km from Sestri Levante is Riva Trigoso, a wide beach that combines light sand with fine gravel, giving the sea a clear, transparent color that entices you to dive into its waves.
Tourists are always numerous but fewer than in the Bay of Silence and the Bay of the Fables, so it is recommended to take refuge in this magical place in July and August or during overcrowded periods.
You can opt for either the classic, convenient establishment with all the amenities or the free beach without paying anything and experiencing the experience slightly wilder.
You will be captivated by the colors of the surrounding nature in every season of the year, even for a winter walk with your family.
Only caution, always remember to arrive early in the morning if you want to get an advanced spot, as parking spaces are very few and you risk not knowing where to put your car.
To reach the place you can also walk a path through the Mediterranean bush, which gives postcard views and allows you to take incredible selfies all over the bay.
Along the way you can take advantage of rest stops and picnic tables so you can rest and refresh yourself while waiting for a spectacular swim in the crystal clear sea, set among typical local plants and trees.
Walk from Sestri Levante to Punta Manara
Before moving on to use the information for visiting Sestri Levante, I would like to tell you about a lovely scenic walk of about 5 km, which runs along the bay of Sestri and allows you, all along the way, to enjoy views that are nothing short of breathtaking.
I’m talking about Punta Manara.
Starting right from the historic center, it is possible to walk along one of the most characteristic nature trails in the entire region.
Here, then, is the perfect blend of art and nature, beginning at the main square and continuing to the heart of the Mediterranean scrubland that occupies the shoreline.
From Vico del Bottone, a narrow alleyway, it is possible to reach an exceptional vantage point over the Gulf of Tigullio, which allows one to observe the cliffs descending to the blue sea, enhancing colors that change with each season of the year.
Enthusiasts will be able to observe Holm Oaks, Strawberry Trees, and Olive Trees, keeping in mind that the slope barely starts to become substantial right after the start, although the trail is passable even by those who are not too familiar with trekking.
The suggestion is to do the itinerary in spring or fall, when the weather is pleasant and the early or late-season sunshine allows you to savor the experience better, always equipping yourself with all the necessary equipment.
The trip takes about 60 minutes, not including necessary rest stops, especially if you have children in tow who will still appreciate the surrounding nature and the presence of typical animals.
If you wish, you can take your mountain bike with you and choose to climb differently, arriving at the summit in a short time and still being able to be captivated by a view that has few equals in the region.
You can then return directly to the historic center and resume your one-day itinerary in Sestri Levante by going to admire the religious buildings that enliven the small village.
Some useful info:
- Travel time: about 1 hour (one way), about 2 hours (round trip);
- Facilities: there are no refreshment stations along the route, so make sure you have enough water for the entire journey;
- Recommended clothing: sportswear, with comfortable sneakers.
For more info, check out this guide on the Punta Manara boardwalk.
After you have been able to enjoy a full day in Sestri Levante, then all that is left for you to do is to devote yourself to exploring the surrounding area and discover how many other small villages tell the story of the region.
There is no shortage of well-known beaches and other more hidden and lesser-known ones that are enchanting with their colors and fine white sand.
So let’s see how to make the most of our time and discover the surrounding area with its countless nuances.
The Gulf of Tigullio is a decidedly vast area that lies on the Riviera di Levante and includes several characteristic villages such as Portofino, Santa Margherita Ligure, Chiavari, Lavagna, and Sestri Levante.
It is a real pearl of our country, comprising not only picturesque seaports but also decidedly picturesque hills and green valleys, where excellent olive oil and wine are produced and appreciated all over the world, with its aromatic notes reminiscent of the region’s rugged and wild history.
Certainly, Portofino deserves no introduction, as many of our country’s wonderful postcards come from this fairy-tale place.
It is the emblem of the Italian dolce vita, home to many VIPs on summer vacations, featuring a place with small moored boats and elegant craft stores within which to buy unique pieces to take home.
Very interesting is the path leading up to the lighthouse of St. George, from which one can admire the entire landscape from above, passing in front of the Church dedicated to the saint of the same name, which is striking for the gracefulness of its facade.
The suggestion is to choose a sunny spring day and avoid the crowds of the busy August weeks, to enjoy the peace of the place and tasty ice cream to enjoy while strolling.
Want to find out what to visit in a day? Read my guide on tourism in Portofino.
A second quaint town is Santa Margherita Ligure, which differs from the others in that it has a surrounding pathway overlooking the sea, which can be traveled on foot or by bicycle until it reaches the center of the village.
What most strikes the many visitors in attendance is the elegance of its tall, colorful buildings, the fashion boutiques selling unique pieces of jewelry and clothing, and the many high-end accommodations.
It would be a real shame not to indulge in a trip to the Castle or Villa Durazzo-Centurione, which transports one to an atmosphere of other times by containing unique and still beautifully preserved pieces inside.
In summer, it is possible to access one of the coves between the rocks and indulge in swimming in the crystal-clear, warm waters because they are enclosed within the reef.
For more info, check out my guide about the best things to do in Santa Margherita Ligure in a day.
Less well known is Zoagli, which winds past the railway line and has no less than two castles despite its small size, that of Canevaro and that of Sem Benelli.
It is also called the path of the five bell towers because of the variety of such structures present and is known for the production of fine velvets and damasks.
Also within the Gulf of Tigullio, we find one of the most iconic villages of the entire Riviera di Levante.
If you love strolling along the waterfront, you will be captivated by the beauty of the small colorful houses set on the cliffs and the exquisite mansions that recall the magnificence of the region in various eras.
It again features a noteworthy and visitable castle, which leads directly to the small historic center, which, however, is a kind of jewel set in the rock.
You can indulge in elegant and chic shopping along the main street, buying the best brands around and also pieces of local crafts that can tastefully enrich your home.
There are numerous viewpoints from which to take incredible souvenir photos in every season of the year, as each month shows a Mediterranean scrub with varied and always striking colors.
If you want to have a fun and challenging experience with your children, you can take the cable car to the Basilica Sanctuary of Our Lady of Montallegro, which offers a moment of spirituality and meditation and allows you to observe the Gulf from above while casting your gaze over the blue sea.
It is also possible to make the journey on foot, again having all the right equipment for a hiking session that is challenging for some stretches and easier for others.
If you want to learn more, read my guide on what to visit in Rapallo in a day.
As well as Rapallo, Chiavari also deserves special mention for its nineteenth-century harbors and the wide range of pedestrian streets where you can shop or sit at one of the bars there to enjoy a good aperitif or a typical local focaccia Alta.
Very well known is Palazzo Rocca, which recalls the medieval and seafaring style of the town, as well as the antique market that offers unique pieces all to be unearthed for real bargains.
Also of interest are the markets of flavors and traditions that allow visitors to sample many local delicacies, such as pesto or freshly caught fish.
As in all such villages, one cannot miss a shrine such as that of Our Lady of the Vegetable Garden, always located in a quiet elevated position from which there is a splendid view of the entire coastline.
If you want to buy a unique product that will allow you to remember the trip in style, very famous are the Chiavarine, woven straw chairs that are just typical of the place, as well as macramé lace with which you can make wonderful tablecloths or fine textiles for your home.
Are you planning to visit the village? Find out what to visit in Chiavari in one day.
The name will certainly bring you back to the well-known truck stop sandwich, but it is one of the most beautiful towns in Liguria from the point of view of nature and beaches.
It is a small corner of the world that even for a few hours allows you to feel on vacation and in full communion with the surrounding vegetation, full of white expanses that plunge into a blue sea.
The pier is a real treat for the eyes, full of places to drink and eat all to be discovered, savoring traditional flavors at sunset while watching the boats of fishermen returning after a long day’s work.
Splendid throughout the year, Camogli makes it possible to sit on one of its little white walls even in winter and watch the fury of the sea coming almost close to the houses.
The village is a gem of colorful houses and stairways that rise and fall in a continuous dynamism, craft stores with distinctive objects, and simple trattorias that nonetheless offer customers the authenticity of simple, expertly cooked ingredients.
Have you ever wondered why the houses in these seaside resorts were painted in bright colors and one different from the others?
Called precisely wives’ houses, it was the easiest way for sailors to recognize their own and be able to moor the boat close to the doorway after months of sailing the high seas or simply a long day’s work.
So don’t miss the small port full of colorful goiters, proceed along the seafront and arrive at the Basilica of Santa Maria Assunta, a 3-nave building in typical Baroque style, which strikes the visitor with the opulence of its decorations and an imposing and very striking facade.
Not surprisingly, painters such as Barabino and Semino participated in the frescoes during the late 1800s, leaving their indelible mark.
Have I convinced you to see Camogli? Check out my guide on what to do in Camogli Italy in one day.
It has a strong character like all those settlements that are born on the sea and live for it; it smells of saltiness and the work of fishermen.
It does, however, offer its visitors a decidedly quaint old town, which branches off into a series of small streets full of small restaurants and craft stores that allow you to immediately immerse yourself in local life.
The symbol of the city is the lantern, a lighthouse located right near the entrance to the harbor, as high as 77 meters, which for decades has shown ships the way home and is therefore really dear to the Genoese.
For a moment of leisure but also a moment of culture, a visit to the Old Port cannot be missed, which features local but also interesting ancient and modern museums, as well as the well-known aquarium that is world-famous for its size and the variety of fish swimming inside.
It is possible to attend enjoyable shows for adults and children and even sleep in a special facility, having a memorable experience and taking home a lasting memory.
If you want to taste popular typical dishes and some tasty fried food, don’t forget Sottoripa, a neighborhood full of ethnic stores that allow you to discover an even newer and more cosmopolitan face of the Ligurian capital.
Don’t miss the Villa del Principe, with a lush garden and frescoes from the period, and Palazzo San Giorgio, home of the Genoese bank and an old prison also known as Marco Polo.
As a good Genoese, I can’t help but recommend the best attractions to visit in Genoa in one day.
The Cinque Terre is a wonderful place to explore, featuring a varied landscape that combines nature and architecture.
These are precisely 5 world-renowned pearls such as Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, Riomaggiore, and Monterosso, whose bright tones make the skyline fun and unique.
In addition to the crystal-clear sea silhouetted below the rocky cliffs, we find vast expanses of olive groves, which not only produce the area’s best wine exported worldwide as a PDO product but also color the landscape bright green.
Numerous poets have been inspired by these lands, such as Montale, who loved the unspoiled nature combined with small villages.
Unfortunately, most tourists only see the lower part, but in reality, the area stretches for 120 km at a high altitude, where it is possible to discover several small villages that are interesting architecturally and picturesquely.
There are numerous hiking trails you can take, suitable for different types of hikers, from the more to the less practical, with or without children so that everyone can discover the wonders of the surrounding nature according to their possibilities.
There are as many as 48 trails that can be walked without paying a euro, are carefully maintained, and feature rest areas equipped with picnic tables so you can catch your breath before continuing your walk.
One of the most beautiful routes is the one from Levanto to Monterosso, which offers postcard views, or the 12-kilometer Blue Route, which passes through a series of deep green cultivated terraces that give an effect of order in the wonderful chaos of nature.
Remember to equip yourself with all useful gear, especially water supplies and a hat in the warmer season, so you can tackle even the least shady spaces and climb the slope with every comfort at your disposal.
The path from Manarola to Riomaggiore is called the Via dell’Amore and presents no difficulty, being only 1 km long and with no gradient.
Unfortunately, only the first section is currently open due to a landslide, but it is expected to be restored by 2023 so that everyone who wants to enjoy a pleasant walk can access this simple, flat stretch of the Cinque Terre.
Finally, don’t forget to walk the Monesteroli steps, one of the most unique in all of Liguria.
It will seem like an endless path, as it is 2,000 steps that give direct access to the waters, like access to paradise that starts from a series of small houses where grapes were made into excellent wine.
A breathtaking landscape that brings back an ancestral and bucolic reality, about 30 minutes of descent to be performed with great care attached to the side spur.
Some lucky ones will be able to sleep directly at vacation homes that have been set up on-site, in a fairy-tale setting just a stone’s throw from Sestri Levante, enjoying nature and finding a lively and colorful town within walking distance.
Getting to Sestri Levante is quite convenient by driving along the cliff roads, which will provide you with decidedly breathtaking panoramic views of the entire coastline all year round.
However, the problem with these pearls of Liguria is parking, so probably the most convenient solution is certainly the train.
There is a station that goes directly to the city center and allows you to get off and on during the day if you wish to take a quick trip and return home with wonderful views in your eyes.
A whole series of regional trains stop at the site, coming from the other towns of the Riviera di Ponente but also from Genoa, with the possibility of being able to visit several characteristic places by taking the same train line.
Sestri Levante is a strategic point for being able to visit all of the Cinque Terre, as in only 30 minutes you can reach the small villages that line the area admiring one of the wonders that the whole world envies us.
To find out the train schedule, click here.
In addition to the numerous buses, which, however, take a long time since the road is rather winding and full of hairpin bends, the only airport in the vicinity is that of Genoa, from which, however, a whole series of rather continuous connections then depart, enabling them to cover the distance of 60 km that separates them from our charming village.
If you have decided to opt for a car, the nearest highway exit is Sestri Levante, precisely.
Let’s see in detail where you can park to avoid stress and pay a reasonable amount.
There are several free parking lots near the historic center, but unfortunately, it is necessary to go there very early to be able to occupy one, as that stretch of the Riviera is crowded all year round.
Alternatively, there are several pay-as-you-go solutions, but these often come at a rather high cost the closer you get to the historic center.
The suggestion is to make a few rounds and look for the most convenient one, or go slightly outside the perimeter and go right by sea.
A walk of about 20 minutes will be required, which, however, will be stimulating from the viewpoint so it may be worth it both economically and nature-wise.
A full day’s stop could cost as much as 20 euros depending on the area and convenience, so do the math and in case opt for the much cheaper train with the stop right near the main attractions there.
Here is the list of parking lots in Sestri Levante taken from the website lecinqueterre.org
Where to eat: best restaurants in Sestri Levante
Eating in Sestri Levante is a real treat for the palate, as you will find food to suit every taste, from the most refined to the simple and spartan.
Visit the many little places on the harbor and try pesto alla Genovese, or high focaccia to be stuffed as you like with cherry tomatoes and olives.
Visit the typical trattorias located in the center of the village, these are the ones that reserve the most mouth-watering dishes, or the small restaurants on the Sestri Levante waterfront that allow you to take away a carton of fried fish for a few euros.
Most of the fish is caught directly on site by fishermen and brought to the table with a taste following traditional recipes.
No shortage of trendy restaurants that revisit the most typical dishes, allowing interesting views of the cliff and the surrounding sea, suitable for a romantic dinner in the company of one’s sweetheart.
Where to sleep: best hotel in Sestri LevanteBooking.com
Sleeping in Sestri Levante is quite easy, as there are numerous accommodations of all categories that you can find there.
These are mainly B&Bs and vacation homes scattered throughout the area that allow for lower spending figures than the large hotels, which are nonetheless present and show themselves full of luxuries and comforts for the most demanding customers.
If you wish to save slightly on the price, the suggestion is to find a solution that is located just outside the town, so that you can reach it in no time even by bicycle or car and be able to use it as a strategic point for discovering the surrounding area.
Make reservations well in advance, as the risk is not finding a place during the busiest times, such as July and August when the shoreline fills up with people from all over the country.
Sestri Levante things to do: conclusions
These are all the details you need to know if you want to take a trip to Sestri Levante, so all you have to do is immerse yourself in this elegant and multifaceted reality and enjoy a vacation of art, sea, and unspoiled nature.
Need more information about what to do in Sestri Levante? Leave a comment below.
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Sestri Levante tourism: photo credits
- Basilica di Santa Maria di Nazareth: Sestri Levante Tourism
- Chiesa di San Nicolò dell’Isola: Wikipedia
- Convento dell’Annunziata: Wikipedia
- Palazzo Durazzo Pallavicini: Wikipedia
- Chiesa di San Pietro in Vincoli: Wikipedia
- Palazzo Fascie Rossi: Sestri Levante Turismo
- Baia delle Favole: Italy Together
- Riva Trigoso: Messa a Fuoco
- Punta Manara: Elisabetta Frega – Free Soul on the Road
- Cinque Terre: Viaggi Pronti
- Baia del Silenzio: Casamundo