One of Liguria's lovely gems, Sestri Levante has a refined island atmosphere. Sitting on the jagged coastline half-way between Genoa and La Spezia, it is a pastel place with nice beaches. The town was actually an island but is now connected to the shoreline's promontory by a sliver of land. Sestri Levante is in a fairy-tale setting, between the Baia di Silenzio (Bay of Silence) and the Baia delle Favole (Bay of Fables), so-named as a tribute to Hans Christian Anderson, who once lived here. It is sometimes referred to as "the city of the two seas". There is a romantic harbor, a boardwalk and quiet beaches on the Baia di Silenzio side, while the Baia delle Favole boasts a seafront promenade, bigger beaches, more houses and a lively atmosphere.
Sestri Levante has very ancient roots, first inhabited by the Liguri peoples, then the Romans. It was a medieval fortified island to help protect the coastline before being placed under the Republic of Genova until the conquest of Napolean. The Gualino Castle still stands as a monument to the defensive importance of the place.
There are many beautiful buildings here, such as the Palazzo Cambiaso, the ex-Convento dell'Annunziata with an ecclesiastic past and high belfry. It's also called the Palazzo Portobello, and hosts exhibits and meetings. The Galleria Rizzi is an art museum housed in a Liberty style villa right at the beach. It contains excellent works from the 1400s through the 1700s by northern Italian and European painters. The ruins of the Oratory of Santa Caterina are an interesting and mysterious monument to the war that destroyed the church.
The charming chapel of San Nicolo in Isola (St. Nicholas of the island) stands on a promontory among trees overlooking the bay. It's a lovely stone church in a peaceful setting. The old town is pleasant to stroll and soak in the atmosphere, look in the shops and enjoy a gelato or a glass of local wine. Nearby is the fishing hamlet of Riva Trigoso, still a center for boating and fishermen with nice beaches. It is picturesque with pastel-painted houses lining the waterfront.
Sestri Levante is just down the coast from Chiavari and presents a different atmosphere of the same stretch of Liguria.
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