My perfect Italy [riviera di levante]

The Italian Riviera, and specifically the Riviera di Levante which lies east of Genova, was, as everything seems to be here for me, breathtaking. The towns here were essentially built up instead of out so the whole area is composed of narrow winding roads that go left and right and in u-turns and up and up and up into the hills which are dotted with huge colourful houses that look down onto the Golfo di Genova and the Ligurian Sea.

We were invited to visit my cousin’s boyfriend in Lavagna, one of the little towns that lies along this coast, and were generously asked over to their house for lunch the following day. It was my first official homemade Italian meal and it was, as they say, buonissimo: spaghetti con frutti di mare followed by pesce come tonno (but that had no name), accompanied of course by two bottles of vino (the norm), and followed by some dolce, cafe and then sips of grappa (yuck) or, if we preferred, shots of some good ol’ zubruwka vodka. Or whiskey. Or all of the above….for lunch.

And why not? People here apparently start feeding their children wine at the age of three which is why it was completely normal for our ride to polish off half a bottle of wine and a few shots of grappa before driving us back up the winding streets and into Sestri Levante.

Now, some might argue that the tourist fishing town of Portofino, with its pastel-hued buildings and romantic James Bond-esque scenery which oozes old-fashioned glamour and is the port-of-call for the rich and famous is the place to go. But we didn’t go there (as it’s overrated, expensive, and identical to all the other quaint fishing towns dotting the coast) so I can’t concur.

I can say, however, that out of every place I saw, Sestri Levante (pictured above) turned out to be the most beautiful town of them all. The town itself didn’t exactly differ from that of Rapallo, the first port we saw, but the bay here, smaller, quieter, shimmering in the sunset (clearly the best time to sightsee) with its sparsely scattered row boats and its hidden half-moon beachfront lined with rows of colourful, simple shops was like something out of a dream.

The lights along the beach slowly lit up as it got darker and we sat on the seawall and ate gelato until long after the sun had set.

Check out more photos from the Riviera di Levante on my jux!