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Earlier this year, while exploring the Cinque Terre, I had the pleasure of staying with Paula and her family at the Villa Valentina in Levanto, a wonderfully luxurious apartment plus B&B which they own and run.
Paula and her daughter Valentina run the Villa Valentina while her husband Angelo, who sadly passed away in 2020, ran boat tours.
and Paula met 18 years ago while she was vacationing in the Cinque
Terre. Paula is from San Francisco and Angelo was from Monterosso al
Mare. After a romantic year of traveling back and forth, Paula left
her hurried executive lifestyle in California to marry Angelo and
move to Monterosso, a small fishing village in the Cinque Terre.
The family know the area so well and it was thanks to them that I discovered the bike and pedestrian path from Levanto through Bonassola to Framura at the northwest. The path is a covered and restored former railway tunnel measuring about 6 km in total.
Featuring frequent tunnel breaks with fantastic sea views, it is an ideal walk or bike ride for families and people of all ages. The tunnel is also lit at night providing a safe place for a picturesque evening ride.
From Levanto to the Northwest, the first town you will come to is Bonassola. Bring your beach towels as the Beach in Bonassola is always less crowded and features more free, public beach area than the other towns in the Cinque Terre. You’ll definitely have an authentic Italian experience as few tourists have discovered this small town.
Bonassola is known for some of the best focaccia in the area. One of the best can be found at Focacceria da Marisa which has two locations in town. The first location is on the right when you first come down into town from the path. The other location is on Via Risorgimento at the far end of town. Locals from Levanto and surrounding areas travel here just for the focaccia.
While you’re here, be sure to find La Madonna della Punta located on the western part of the Gulf of Bonassola. Any local should be able to direct you to the short coastal path that leads to this seaside chapel. It was commissioned by the Poggi family in the late seventeenth century and its porch offers amazing views of the Ligurian Sea.
After a day on the beach and exploring, stop for a gelato at Gelateria U' Pertusu, also located on Via Risorgimento at the far end of town. This gelateria features all natural ingredients and also makes a great crepe!
To the North of Bonassola lies Framura. Once you go through the first tunnel going north there is a lovely, small public beach on the left, accessible down 20 or so stairs. The rocks which make up this beach are the famous red marble of the area. The inlet here usually provides a great place to swim.
It’s a great stop off during your ride for a refreshing dip in the Mediterranean.
Just a bit further through the last tunnel is the town of Framura. Framura, aka “no town”, is unique and atypical to the region as there is no real town center. It features five hamlets in the hills above and around the train station.
Here there is a marina, accessible by elevator, which provides a calm swimming area protected from waves and rough seas by a rock formation. From here you can walk/bike back to Levanto or catch the train.
For those looking for a little more activity, a high coastal trail leads you from Levanto to Bonnasola and takes about an hour or so. This trail is never crowded and affords you just as beautiful a view as the trails to the south in the Cinque Terre and amazing sunsets too.
After your hike, explore the town and check out the suggestions above. Then walk back through the train tunnel, which remains relatively cool year round.
Whatever you choose, have fun, explore and relax!
La Vita e` Bella!!
Life is Good!!