Ultimate European Road Trip, Part Ten: Sestri Levante & Liguria Italy

The road trip continues from the Lake Garda area in the north of Italy to the west coast and the Italian Riviera. Our decision to stay in Sestri Levante, just south of Portofino, came from an inspiration after seeing a photo of an unknown beautiful seaside village several years ago, and researching until we found it… let’s go there!


 Photo Credit: MKB-DESKKART

The mystery village was perfectly situated in the middle of the Italian Riviera and had easy access to the major roadways thus making day trips conveniently easy.  To take advantage of the area we booked an 8 night stay in an apartment in the center of town.

Road Trips Anyone?

Portofino / Santa Margherita is 20 miles (42 minutes);  Cinque Terra (#1 tourist attraction in the Italian Rivera) is 44 miles (1 hr 13 minutes);  Carrara Marble Mines are 44 miles (1 hr 40 minutes);  Pisa (that tilting tower thing) is 72 miles (1 hr 25 minutes);  Parma (Home of Prosciutto) is 98 miles (1 hr 51 minutes);  Maranello (home of the Ferrari and related museum) 140 miles (2 hr 40 minutes)…. just to name a few!

First Things First — Establish the Base Camp

So we booked an 8 night stay through “Homeaway.com” (be aware that they have just implemented a 4% to 10% service fee) that satisfied our must-have check list… a good kitchen, at least two bedrooms and outdoor space with a balcony and in the center of the city… we even scored with a unit in a pedestrian-only zone.  Time to park the car in a secure location, and enjoy the relaxed vibe of this laid back beach town.

We were within easy walking distance to the beach (there are two of them), a great variety of restaurants (ranging from snacks to fine gourmet dining), shopping, street markets, and even a few nights of live music and dancing.  A surprisingly lively town!

 The ApartmentIMG_7501Lots of Space  and LightIMG_8246Second Bedroom Loft AreaIMG_8244Outdoor Space for alfresco dining and sunsets

Mangia…Mangia…Mangia… Che Buono Italian Cuisine

The foodie part of our travel is important to us so we prefer a vacation rental to keep our culinary options open and flexible.  Staying in a hotel limits you to restaurant dining which isn’t the worst thing but, oh, what you are missing!

Exquisite Fine Dining Options

There are at least 120 restaurants in town and we easily sorted them out by using “Yelp”, “TripAdvisor” and “OpenTable” albeit Italian-style.  Wi-Fi is your friend and we used it every day… how did we survive without it!   We selected “Balin Cuisine” for one of our special dining experiences and were well rewarded for our research. sestritablebalin

Neighborhood Restaurants

The simple neighborhood restaurant, “La Osteria Mattana” provided us our first night’s meal as it was a long day and we were very hungry… nothing fancy, low prices and everything exceptional.  Travel hint: keep your eyes open for the local crowds and eat where they eat…be spontaneous and enjoy the experience.

mattantadoorsestriThis is Local


The Daily Menu at a Neighborhood Place


Linguine Sugo Palpo (Octopus Sauce)


Spaghetti alla Brezza


House Wine served in water glasses (true family style)

IMG_7522Genovese Chickpea Flatbread

Purchase Prepared Food and Cook at “Home”

You are in Italy and have the kitchen to cook world-famous delicacies… so we started at the “Pastifico Moderno” pasta shop which is ranked by “TripAdvisor” as the #9 best out of 120 restaurants in Sestri… and it is not even a restaurant!

They make fresh pasta and sauces daily and the townspeople line up to select from dozens of pasta choices and at least 5 different sauces.  We learned to order in the morning and go back in the late afternoon to pick up our selections (a little local secret). This is where we bought the BEST pesto EVER… remember that this region of Italy, Liguria, is the birthplace of the famous basil sauce.

You buy it by weight, take it home, cook and serve… in your own place you can even be wearing baggy, comfy clothing and flip-flops… and enjoy lots of wine too.

IMG_7632Gift wrapped bundles… like a present

IMG_8151Friendly and Patient Staff

IMG_8150The Selection Changes Daily

IMG_7821Liguria is FAMOUS for Pesto… note the fork

Go All In and Do it Yourself

All this requires is a Pasta Shop, a Green Grocer, a Butcher and of course good local wine.  Italians usually shop daily for their ingredients and it becomes part of their everyday activity and we emulated their routines… relished them is more like it.

The Ingredients for a Delicious Meal 

IMG_7815Accompanied with Great Wine  

Immerse Yourself in a Small Italian Village

As if you really need a few more justifications… how about practicing your “Italian” and communicating with the local merchants?  After a repeat visit or two they actually greet you and occasionally add a little taste of something “on the house”.

The warmth of the Italian people and the adventure of “living” in the village makes an indelible, positive imprint on your travel memories.

A Neighborhood BakeryIMG_8159


 A Neighborhood Cheese and Salami Shop

IMG_7758 Late afternoon aperitif

IMG_7785Outdoor Music Venues

 Two Tranquil and Colorful Beach Options

 Baia del Silenzio (Bay of Silence) is a public beachIMG_7536

Popular with the Locals


IMG_7567Houses are right at the water’s edge

There is a peninsula separating the two beach areas which contains a great many historical sites dating back to the middle of the 12th Century and the “The Grand Hotel dei Castelli”.   The area is preserved in a park like setting, with panoramic views and definitely worth the time to explore.

IMG_7589  Private Residence

IMG_7586 Church circa 1151

 Baia delle Favole (Bay of Fables) has public and private beach areas

This is the main beach of Sestri IMG_7710

IMG_7714Water Toys for Rent

IMG_7718Private Beach Accommodations and Services

In Summary

Strategically located on the Mediterranean Sea, in the middle of the Italian Riviera, is this vibrant and beautiful seaside village.  Sestri Levante has much to offer… all it takes is the time to savor the moments.

Please follow us in the next article… Cinque Terre and the Carrara Marble side trips.

After all, what is the hurry… be inspired.


© 2016 Inspired Travel Itineraries with Bob and Janice Kollar

© 2016 Picture Credits Bob & Janice Kollar











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