Cinque Terre is hard to beat for it’s idyllic Italian beauty, but leaves a lot to be desired in affordability. Unless you want to hike a few miles up a mountainside with your luggage to stay in remote hut, finding budget accommodation in one of the 5 towns is almost impossible. Which is why we ended up staying in the town of Levanto, just one stop north from Monterosso on the train. Unlike the tourist-swamped streets of the Cinque Terre towns, Levanto seems to have retained it’s working beach town vibe, with plenty of locals and Italian visitors enjoying it’s charms. It doesn’t have the dramatic cliff-side scenery of it’s southern neighbors, but it makes up for it with an expansive sand beach, an amazing seaside bike path, and cute streets full of shops and crowd-free restaurants. To get to Cinque Terre its just a few minutes by train, but if you are anything like us, you might find yourself wanting to spend most of your time with a spritz on the beach right there in Levanto.
An unused train track connecting Levanto with the towns of Bonassola and Framura was recently converted into a biking/jogging path. Rent a bike in town and spend the afternoon cruising along the cliffs of the coast. The multiple long tunnels you pass through offer a cool break from the heat of the day and there are a few beaches along the way suitable for a swim. Back in Levanto, the wide sandy beach is one of the best in the area. Supposedly they even get some surf on occasion (mostly in winter), and boards can be rented in town at Surflevanto. For you hikers out there, the moderate 5-mile trail to Monterosso is beautiful and offers stunning views of the coast. In Cinque Terre there are lots of other trails to enjoy, although many are frequently closed because of landslides so be sure to check with the local tourist offices to find out which are accessible. We personally loved the Corniglia to Manarola route that takes you through Volastra!
There seemed to be a great selection of restaurants in Levanto to choose from, but we ended up eating at the same place every night, La Picea. Their award-winning pizza was hands down the best we had in all of Italy. They had this burrata, prosciutto, and truffle pie that was out of this world. Even if you visit Cinque Terre and don’t stay in Levanto, make the trip up there one night for dinner. So, so good.
The two-bedroom Airbnb we stayed in was one of the most affordable we could find in the whole region but was still super spacious and nice. It is owned and managed by a father-daughter vacation rental team, who were incredibly friendly and helpful. They picked us up at the train station for free, even though we arrived after midnight, and they were quick to respond to any questions or concerns.