Levanto – Our Cinque Terre Base

In our last minute scramble to find Cinque Terre accommodation we discovered good places to stay are somewhat scarce. An apartment/self-catering option was our preferred choice, having realised the only places still left were seriously dodgy, we threw in the towel and looked further out. Levanto was where we ended up – actually a perfect base. Just an hour and a half by direct train from Pisa, this little town is just one train hop west from the Cinque Terre (and included in the Cinque Terre pass). It is uncrowded, has some nice little restaurants and the accommodation is considerably cheaper – not to mention available – at this late stage in the game top of our checklist.

05.27.076 - View from our window

On a last minute booking website we finally found an apartment that would suit our needs and snatched it up. Not bargain basement prices, but not needing to take out a second mortgage either it seemed like a reasonable deal for this neck of the woods.  We found on arrival it was not without charm, but basic was the buzzword here and there was not a single extra thing – not even a bar of soap. When you book somewhere to stay, read the small print very carefully would be my advice. The accommodation was reasonable but not without a lot of downsides, I would be a bit more discerning and ask a lot more questions next time. Insult was added to injury when we found this was not actually the place we had booked but something completely different. A very long story, not worth going into details but we ended up staying here figuring we didn’t want to waste precious time in this beautiful location arguing about nitty gritty details.

05.27.072 - Our street in Levanto

First the good bits – the apartment was in a lovely old building on a quaint street. Plenty of bakeries nearby to get breakfast options and some seriously nice little restaurants in the neighbourhood too meant no cooking for us. You could walk to the railway station – just about ten minutes, so no hassle with exploring and getting to the Cinque Terre proper.

05.27.075 - View from our window

Fifty steps to climb inside the building to reach our front door was not a problem (you have to work off that gelato somehow) but Husband did huff and puff a fair bit with our cases. Still, he likes a challenge. The hallway was pretty as a picture and stuffed full of quaint things, Son was mesmerised by an old telephone and other antiques.

05.27.001 - Our apartment

05.27.002 - Our apartment

The apartment was huge, floor space was no issue plus we had a quaint little balcony at the back – the perfect spot to catch the last few rays of the sun with a glass of vino and a good book. Views were good too – rooftops and greenery.

05.27.078 - View from balcony

05.25.42 - Apartment in Levanto

Now the not so good bits. The place was not exactly cheap and for what we did pay I would have expected just a little more. We paid extra for sheets and towels – rip and off were words that sprang to mind with this arrangement. One sheet each was what we got – not a blanket or any other bed covering in sight, shivering at night became a feature. That, plus the most uncomfortable beds in the whole wide world. I am not fussy, but the mattresses here were worn out and should have been dumped a very long time ago. Waking up in the morning and clambering out of the ravine in the middle of the mattress was quite some feat I can tell you. Absorbency was not a feature of the towels. The ktichen/dining/living area was very quaint and rustic – I liked that, but it did suffer from lack of seats. Three chairs seemed a little on the frugal side. We didn’t spend that much time in the apartment, you don’t want to anyway but we were not tempted back here at the end of the day.

05.25.41 - Apartment in Levanto

05.25.45 - Levanto apartment

There was no WiFi, a problem for Husband with work issues, but we got around that by visiting a different bar each evening and using their WiFi – that was definitely not a problem!

Levanto itself is charming and low-key. We arrived on a Sunday evening and found only one restaurant open, other days we had no such problems. Antico Borgo was our favourite restaurant, a great little Ligurian place just a couple of doors up from the apartment – full of character, very traditional we feasted on the most delicious green pasta with lobster. There are lovely shops, piazzas and even a beach – although you have to pay to gain access before 7pm. We went most evenings for free and checked out the surfers riding the waves.

05.27.081 - Levanto

05.27.079 - Levanto

05.27.080 - Surfing in Levanto

Son particularly appreciated the playground right in the centre – we went there most evenings too. Funny how a full day of hiking, up and down a million and one steps and he still has bundles of energy for this!

05.26.093 - Monterosso

So a mixed experience for us in Levanto. As a Cinque Terre base it definitely gets the thumbs up – everything is cheaper (note: not cheap but cheaper), the town is lovely with great eating out options and a friendly vibe and it is easy to get to and from by train. The apartment we picked was not without issues, had we had the luxury of time I may have been a little more discerning and less keen to overlook potential issues. Start looking a long way ahead for accommodation in this region – that would be my big tip. That said, it was clean, provided a roof over our heads and we will not forget it in a hurry.

21 thoughts on “Levanto – Our Cinque Terre Base

  1. The little town really looks nice. Anyways, I latetly had the feeling that visiting Italy is way too expensive in comparism with other destinations in Europe. In my opinion, travelling to Croatia or Spain is pretty much the same (in terms of architecture and the weather, the beaches, …) but way more affordable at the same time.

    • The town was beautiful but totally agree with the cost and expense – certainly in this area everything is way more expensive than we were expecting (especially accommodation which was unbelievable). We went to Croatia (Istria) a few years ago and also thought the architecture etc. was very similar and yes (at that time) way more affordable.

      • Well, Istria is pretty lovely. I only had the chance to go there once so far, but I really liked it. Some decades ago Istria was a part of Italy, so it’s not surprising that it more or less looks the same. For tourists it is a way better choice in my opinion, not only due to the prices but also because the people tend to be nicer 🙂

  2. The appartment really looks nice on the photos but I totally understand your discomfort and dissapointment. Sometimes it seems we can’t be without compromises. But in the end the complete package counts. And I guess that worked… 🙂

    • It was a beautiful building Erika on a lovely street, we didn’t hate it by any means but just felt a bit ripped off. Still we live and learn and it definitely didn’t spoil things in any way for us!

  3. This place is beautiful! Of course, this is coming from a girl who has only been to one other place–a small town in Puerto Rico that makes this apartment look like a million bucks haha–so I’m probably biased. I think the blankets thing is the only thing that would bug me, but the building is just so pretty.

    • Oh it was beautiful Jamie and we did like the apartment – that’s why we decided to overlook our gripes and stay there instead of having it out with the booking company. The building was gorgeous and the apartment itself had lots of lovely features not least the balcony. Our main gripe was the cost though, for what we paid we felt well and truly ripped off. Had it cost half the price then it would have been ok. Also the fact we booked something else entirely – in a different location, completely different looking apartment etc. then were given the keys to this one while they quickly shut the office, disappeared and mentioned no reason for the change just left us with a bad feeling.

      • Oh wow! That’s crazy. Ugh it’s so hard to trust people. I once tried renting an apartment for a trip in Myrtle Beach, and the -night- before the owner still hadn’t sent the keys to the place and then suddenly decided they didn’t want to rent it–after we had already paid in full.

  4. Oh, the Italians! You just never know what you will be getting! Reading the expat websites, life in Italy is a headache, but I still love going there every year! It provides a lot of material for posts on my blog! Ha Ha! When in Rome………..

  5. You’ve done a great job of pointing out some of the things one needs to be aware of when booking something. It’s always interesting when you book something online to see whether it’s really what you thought you were getting or not. It’s quite amazing sometimes how pictures can make things appear better than they are in reality.

  6. We’ve mainly been lucky in the past and things have always been more or less how they looked online. That said I have probably spent more time and effort researching these places, this was more of a spur of a moment thing and we have learned that lesson! Totally agree with pictures making things appear better – even my photos show this place in its best light. Still, we live and learn!!

  7. Thanks for such an honest appraisal Joy! It’s very helpful for anyone planning a visit to the area especially the pitfalls of accommodation! I have wondered about the Cinque Terre and how you would get around (apart from walking!) so at least it’s good to know that there are trains to all the little villages (not that we’ve had great experiences with Trenitalia to be honest – certainly nowhere near as reliable as Swiss rail or the Austrian and German railways). Still I guess that’s part of the Italian charm – very unpredictable! Thanks again and have a great weekend 🙂

  8. Oh the Swiss trains – how I love them! We went to Interlaken when our son was a toddler on a break that involved them looking after our baggage. We checked in our luggage at the airport this side and were told it would arrive in our hotel in Interlaken by 5pm. We didn’t quite believe this, got the train from Zurich airport to our hotel and sure enough at 5pm the cases arrived! So not only timely trains but they can cope with luggage and everything else too. Not sure how Trenitalia would cope to be honest, think I would rather be in control of my own suitcase… That said this trip and these trains all worked really well Rosemary – everything arrived and left when it was supposed to, the trains were clean and comfortable and we were impressed. Maybe we were just lucky?? Enjoy your weekend too.

  9. That’s good to know Joy as we have had some less than favourable experiences with Trenitalia which have left us wary to say the least! The nadir was when we caught a train from southern Switzerland (Bellinzona) which had come up from Milan. We were en route to Zurich airport – I was nearly knocked out by the mirror which fell off the wall in the toilets and Monsieur Le Chic had to walk the length of the train to find a working toilet (and the train was running very late)! On the other hand …. Swiss trains what more can I say! We have stayed a few times at Weggis on Lake Lucerne, at the end of our European trips and checked out of our hotel, got the boat at 11.05 am to Lucerne, stepped off at Lucerne Quay and caught a train from the adjacent railway station to Zurich Airport in plenty of time for our flight back to Australia around 3.30pm! Just works perfectly no stress no hassle! I’ve heard about the SBB luggage service too so good to know that works (not that I thought it wouldn’t!). Maybe Trenitalia have improved their services and I would like to give them the benefit of the doubt but I wouldn’t trust them if I was on a very tight schedule or with my suitcases!

  10. Hi JoyLovesTravel,
    I was in Cinque Terre last May and I found a similar experience in the Old Town of Monterosso al Mare. However I had made reservations months in advance with this guesthouse landlady. Communications with her up until the day of check-in. She forced me (a single traveler) out to accommodate a couple (to get more $) and placed me with a different studio apartment (ran by a friend of hers or something). The mattress was the hardest thing I’ve ever slept on. No wifi, the bidet leaked, but it included a small breakfast at a nearby cafe (which the friend owned/managed). It was difficult for me to obtain internet access. However, the apartment had its charms. I just had to roll with the punches. So I totally feel your pain. 😀

    I stumbled upon Levanto because all the C.T. towns were overflowing. It had rained the night before, so boat service the next day was cancelled; which caused the trains to be jam-packed. I “ran away” to get some air and found Levanto. Found it much more refreshing and relaxing than C.T.

    • Yes we really liked Levanto too – breathing space and refreshing at the end of a day in the Cinque Terre! Your experience sounds a lot worse than ours with the landlady, at least there were 3 of us so the pain gets shared a little more!! Thanks for dropping by.

  11. I’ve found myself living off wi-fi while traveling so I definitely understand your husband’s plight. I thought Levanto was a great alternative to booking in Cinque Terre. I happened to book very late so there weren’t many options in the 5 towns but I’m actually glad I was able to experience yet another town along the beautiful coast. Thanks for following and I’m excited to read more!

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