- 1. Afternoon Activities
- 2. Sestri Levante: Geography
- 3. Sestri Levante: History
- 4. Sestri Levante: monuments and places of interest
- 5. Music
- 6. Cinema
- 7. Sestri Levante: some of our events
- 8. Sestri Levante: Cuisine
- 9. What you can do in Sestri Levante
- 10. Places to visit near Sestri Levante
- 11. Sestri Levante: Curiosities
The afternoon activities programme
In the afternoons, after Italian lessons in class have finished, the students' day at the ABC Italian language and culture school in Sestri Levante continues with a programme of extracurricular activities which allows them to better get to know Italian culture, Sestri Levante, as well as other towns on the Ligurian coast. Participating in our extracurricular activities also gives you the opportunity to continue to speak Italian after class and to get to know the students from other classes better.
Students can choose to take part in the activities that interest them most: every four weeks the programme changes and can include seminars on the Italian language, seminars on Italian music, walks, excursions to other towns in Liguria (Cinque Terre, Portofino, Santa Margherita Ligure, Porto Venere, Genoa, and others), evenings together in a pizzeria, aperitifs, tasting of quintessential local products, visits to farms, and much more.
All activities are led by ABC school teachers.
Sestri Levante: Geography
Liguria is a region in northern Italy that overlooks the Ligurian Sea. Its capital is Genoa, and the other provinces are La Spezia, Imperia, and Savona.
85% of the territory is mountainous, 35% of which is rolling hills: there are no flat lands, and the coastline is almost always overhanging the sea.
Sestri Levante is located in the Riviera del Levante, in the Gulf of Tigullio, east of Genoa, between Le Cinque Terre and Portofino. It is a municipality of about 18,000 inhabitants in the province of Genoa.
It is called "the City of two Seas" or the "Bi-sea" because its centre overlooks two bays: "the Bay of Fables" and "the Bay of Silence". The Bay of Fables was so called by Hans Christian Andersen who stayed in Sestri Levante in 1833.
A headland, where the Castelli and the Marconi Tower stand, is joined to the mainland by an isthmus that divides the Bay of Fables from the Bay of Silence. In ancient times, this promontory was an island, but over time it has become a peninsula due to the accumulation of debris left over time by the Gromolo River. According to historical documents, the island was an unstable peninsula (i.e. during sea storms it rose into the sea) in the 15th century and a stable peninsula in the second half of the 18th century.
The historic centre of Sestri lies between the two bays and along the isthmus. The more modern part has grown inland.
In addition to the promontory of the Peninsula, there is also the promontory of Punta Manara and Monte Castello that reaches as far as Riva Trigoso, one of the town's thirty-two hamlets.
Sestri Levante: History
In Roman times, it was called Segesta Tigulliorum: it was an important commercial centre, especially for maritime traffic. "Segesta Tigulliorum" was considered the main seaside settlement of the Tigulli, the tribe of the Ligurian family that lived here in pre-Roman times.
The Legend of Segesta and Tigullio
The birth of the Sestri Levante peninsula is rooted in a beautiful legend. In the Ligurian sea, not far from the mainland, there was an unspoilt island full of wonders: Neptune, the god of the sea, decided to dedicate it to the most beautiful of his daughters, the mermaid Segesta. The mermaids protected the island's shores by swimming on the surface, while the mermen were forced to stay on the seabed so as not to disturb them. And so it was that Tigullio fell in love with Segesta's song and, against Neptune's wishes, came out of the water to see her: he approached her and stretched out his arm to touch the tail of the beautiful mermaid sitting on the rocks. Segesta saw him and fell in love with him instantly. But Neptune did not forgive their transgression: his fury was poured out on the two who, as a punishment, were left petrified. Tigullio's arm and Segesta's tail joined forever in an isthmus that bound the island to the mainland. Thus, was born Segesta Tigulliorum, the peninsula of Sestri Levante, a magical place.
If you want to know more legends or the history of Sestri Levante in the following centuries, come to the school and we will gladly tell you!
Sestri Levante: monuments and places of interest
The Church of San Nicolò dellʼIsola, built in 1151 in Romanesque style, is the oldest building of worship in the town and was converted to Baroque style in the 15th century. The external façade dates back to the 15th century and on its sides there are epigraphs and ancient tombstones from the Middle Ages. The bell tower has a pyramidal spire with a mullioned belfry. The interior, in Gothic style, consists of three naves divided by columns with cubic capitals.
The Basilica of St Mary of Nazareth was built in the 17th century. It has a neoclassical pronaos. Inside there are Baroque paintings and a wooden Pietà by Anton Maria Maragliano. In the 18th century, Sestri Levante was often the seat of the Bishop of Brugnato (to whose diocese Sestri Levante belonged until 1959) and the church of Santa Maria di Nazareth was elevated to co-cathedral status, with permission for the bishop to consecrate the holy oils during the Easter rites.
The parish church of Santo Stefano del Ponte dates back to early Christian times, although no remains of the original church remain, at least on the surface. The current building, which has since been enlarged and developed, dates back to the 18th century.
In an elevated position overlooking the Bay of Silence, the Church of the Immaculate Conception was built in 1688 with the adjoining Convent of the Capuchin Friars. The style is medieval with a characteristic black and white striped façade. Inside are paintings by Domenico Fiasella.
In Vico Macelli, in the heart of the old Borgo quarter, the Capuchin Fathers built the Church of San Pietro in Vincoli in 1640, with their convent.
The Church of the Istituto delle Suore Maestre Pie is an ancient monastery of the Monache Turchine and is located on the promontory, near the ancient eastern gate of the island. The foundation dates back to 1658 when this religious order arrived in Sestri Levante. The monastery was abandoned in the 18th century due to the Napoleonic suppression in 1798 and since 1829 it has been home to the Sisters of the Presentation.
The parish church of SantʼAntonio was built on top of other religious buildings in the 1960s by the architect Ceschi. There was first an ancient oratory and then a convent. In 1855 it was declared a branch of the Basilica of St Mary of Nazareth and in 1948 it became a parish church.
The Marian Eucharistic Sanctuary of Christ the King, built between 1929 and 1933, is next to the Opera house of Madonnina del Grappa.
The Convent of the Annunziata dates back to the 15th century (now no longer a convent). It was later the site of a famous seaside settlement and is now used for cultural conferences.
The remains of the Oratory of St Catherine are still visible on the promontory. It was erected in 1578 and almost completely destroyed during the bombings of World War II.
The ruins of Sant'Anna are located near the Rocche di Sant'Anna, along the old path connecting Cavi di Lavagna and Sestri Levante.
Other religious buildings include:
The Santa Margherita parish Church in Fossa Lupara
The Parish Church of Santa Vittoria in the hamlet of Libiola
The Parish Church of St. Paul in the hamlet of Pila
The Parish Church of St. Peter the Apostle in the hamlet of Riva
The Parish Church of Santa Sabina in the hamlet of Trigoso
The Parish Church of San Bartolomeo in the hamlet of San Bartolomeo della Ginestra.
The San Bernardo di Chiaravalle parish Church in the hamlet of San Bernardo delle Cascine.
The town hall is within the Palazzo Durazzo-Pallavicini (17th century) in the Piazza Giacomo Matteotti, the heart of the ancient medieval village of Sestri Levante.
In the historic centre is Palazzo Fascie Rossi, which houses the civic library and, since 2013, the town's archaeological museum.
Palazzo Negrotto-Cambiaso, formerly Durazzo. It is the location of the ABC Italian school for foreigners. The palace is located directly overlooking the Bay of Silence, a stone's throw from the sea. One of its last owners was Lazzaro Negrotto Cambiaso, Senator of the Kingdom of Italy and Mayor of Genoa. The aristocratic residence was later used for a children's community. To this day we do not have documentation on the origin and commissioning of the building, but we do have a notary’s deed from 1869 in which the names of the Ligurian and Milanese aristocracy appear among the owners: the knight Domenico Doria Pamphily of the late Prince Giovani Andrea, born in Rome, resident in Genoa, the Marquis Giacomo Balbi fu Tommaso, resident in Genoa, the Marquis Lazzaro Negrotto Cambiaso, also from Genoa. And then the Milanese Duke Lodovico Melzi d'Heryl, Grandee of Spain, and his wife Duchess Luisa Brignole Sale, from Paris, who lived in Milan. Palazzo Negrotto-Cambiaso was also the location of the public school in Sestri Levante for years.
Villa Brignole-Balbi is an old 17th-century aristocratic residence on the Seaside promenade. Today it is a hotel much like other aristocratic palaces on the same seafront. Inside the property there is a beautiful Italian-style garden.
Villa Durazzo-Solari-Serlupi, now Rimassa, was built at the behest of Cesare Durazzo, doge of the Republic of Genoa in the years 1665-1667. In February 1784, the villa hosted Emperor Joseph II.
Villa Serlupi dʼOngran (or Villa Teca), formerly Spinola, formerly Pallavicino.
The Gualino Castles. Today they are the Hotel dei Castelli, on the Sestri Levante promontory. It is made up of three buildings in neo-medieval style, built between 1925 and 1929 by architects Clemente and Michele Busiri Vici with the advice of art critic Lionello Venturi, commissioned by Piedmontese industrialist Riccardo Gualino. The Castello dei Cipressi was intended as a family residence, the Castello dei Lecci as a guesthouse, and the Castello delle Agavi as a service room and servants' quarters. They were converted into a hotel in 1950. In the Middle Ages, a Castle built by the Republic of Genoa in 1145 stood on this site.
Marconi Tower. The scientist Guglielmo Marconi carried out his most advanced experiments in telecommunications in an ancient watchtower overlooking the sea located on the heights of the promontory of Sestri Levante, in the Parco dei Catelli, later called the Torre Marconi. The Gulf of Tigullio was named Golfo Marconi by the Italian Navy. The circular-shaped tower is about 10 metres high, has three floors and is made entirely of brick. After centuries of neglect, Riccardo Gualino, owner of part of the peninsula since the 1920s, and a friend of Guglielmo Marconi, invited him to the Castelli and gave him the tower, where the scientist conducted his numerous experiments from 1932 to 1934. Since 1971 the tower has been guarded by the amateur radio operators from the A.R.I. (Italian Radio Amateur Association) section in Sestri Levante.
Torre dei Doganieri (Customs Tower). In the 16th century, the Genoese Republic built a defence tower, the Torre dei Doganieri, in the historic centre of Sestri. In 1951, an explosion in an ammunition depot caused some of the houses to collapse and the intact remains of the medieval tower emerged. Now owned by the municipality, it is the venue for cultural events, exhibitions and displays.
Villa Cattaneo della Volta is one of the most beautiful and well-maintained historic villas in Sesto. It is located near the Roman bridge in Via Nazionale. The villa was built by the Doria family in the second half of the 16th century, then passed to the Durazzo family. Villa Durazzo Esedra was built at the end of the 18th century by the ducal aristocratic Durazzo family. Its estate extends across an entire valley cultivated with vegetable gardens, vineyards, and olive trees. The farmhouses, architecturally organised in the form of an exedra and connected to the manor house by a spectacular staircase, are also beautiful. The trees planted by the Durazzo family (who are responsible for these splendid gardens) are exceptionally fine and rare. The perfect interaction between the agricultural and productive aspect, which is still there, with the residential makes Villa Durazzo one of the most interesting examples of property organisation in Liguria. The Villa Durazzo estate is protected by the Soprintendenza ai Beni Architettonici e Ambientali and is a member of the Associazione Dimore Storiche Italiane and the Ville Storiche del Tigullio.
Rizzi Art Gallery Marcello; Rizzi wanted his residence in the Bay of Silence to become a museum when he died, where he could exhibit his large collection of and artistic works and artefacts to the public. The gallery was opened in 1960 and on the three floors of the building various works are kept and exhibited, including paintings by the most famous painters from Genoa, Liguria, and Emilia, sculptures and classically Ligurian ceramics.
The Archaeological Museum: It was opened to the public in 2021 and is located in the Palazzo Fascie Rossi.
The doorways: Famous are the numerous 14th-century slate doorways in the old town centre, especially in Via XXV Aprile, the 'carrugio' for the people of Sestro.
The Mineralogical Collection at Villa Tassani exhibits minerals from the Libiola mines, which were already emptied by the Roman period.
The Sestri Levante Philharmonic Society has been active since 1875 and is among the oldest of its kind.
In the field of music, several music videos have been filmed in Sestri Levante:
"Tu es foutu (tu m'as promis)" by In-Grid, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H5T8uoOzQGc
"Mégu megún" by Fabrizio De André https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IUOZXLK_5Qw
"La nostra storia" by Luca Carboni
"Sestri Levante" is also the title of a song by Roberto Vecchioni and Piero Parodi: (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OJ6GGdql7c4) of an instrumental piece by the Australian group Tame Impala, and the last track on the album "Canzoni contro la natura" by the Tuscan band The Zen Circus.
"Certe donne di Sestri" is also the title of a song by Bruno Lauzi. Also, in Sestri Levante, on the open water of the Bay of Fables, the music video for the song "Foglie al vento", by the Genoese group Ex-Otago, was filmed.
In Sestri Levante there is the Ariston Cinema (indoors) and the Arena Conchiglia (outdoors). The Arena Conchiglia is located behind the Palazzo Negrotto Cambiaso. It has a capacity of about 400 people (seated). It is used for theatre and dance performances, concerts, and film screenings.
Sestri Levante: some of our events
First half of May: "Johann Sebastian Bach" National Piano Competition. Young pianists from all over Italy compete against each other. It has been held in Sestri Levante for over 30 years.
Riviera International Film Festival is an independent film festival dedicated to filmmakers under 35 years old.
End of May/first week of June: Hans Christian Andersen Literary Prize, a literary competition dedicated to literature for children and young adults. Every year, children’s fables are submitted from all over the world, including Japan for the first time in 2009. The Andersen Prize is accompanied by the Andersen Festival. Founded in 1967, it is one of the longest-running literary prizes in Italy.
IT.A.CA Festival. The first Italian festival on Responsible Tourism is making a stop in Sestri Levante. They invite you to discover places and cultures through walking and cycling tours, workshops, seminars, laboratories, exhibitions, concerts, documentaries, and tastings to launch a more ethical tourism that respects the environment and those who live in it. The festival seeks to combine the sustainable tourism with the well-being of locals.
LaFIL - Milan Philharmonic project. Seaside nights are also enlivened by the summer school of the Milan Philharmonic Orchestra. With both emerging and established musicians coming from the Orchestra of the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia, the Orchestra of the Teatro della Scala in Milan, and the Rai Symphonic Orchestra.
Mare e Mosto (Sea & Wine). An event dedicated to wine, oil, and the flavours of Liguria.
Peninsula of Light. This event brings the works of the best and most prestigious names in Italian and international photography to Sestri Levante.
Pane e Olio (Bread and Oil). This event is dedicated to the promotion of Ligurian D.O.P. extra virgin olive oil from local producers.
From May to August: Palio marinaro del Tigulio (the Tigulian Sailing Palio) in which Santa Margherita Ligure, San Michele di Pagana, Rapallo, Zoagli, Chiavari, Lavagna, and Sestri Levante compete every year in rowing races on traditional Ligurian ‘gozzo’ (goitre) boats in the waters of the Tigulian Gulf.
On the last Sunday of July is the "Barcarolata". It is a parade of boats with prizes for the most imaginatively decorated boat, a kind of "carnival on the water" set on the Bay of Silence. This event originated in the 1920s.
Penultimate weekend in July: "Sagra del Bagnun". Taking place on the beach of Riva Ponente, this event involves the making and distribution of the quintessential local seafood dish, called Bagnun.
26 December: St Stephen's Fair.
July: The Madonna del Carmine is accompanied by a centuries-old procession in which large crucifixes are carried, including a gigantic Christ.
6 December: Festival of San Nicolò, patron saint of Sestri Levante
August: Silent Disco in the Bay of Silence
Various ‘sagre’ (festivals) over the summer.
Sestri Levante: Cuisine
Ligurian cuisine is influenced by the geomorphological characteristics of its territory. In terms of history, culture, and the elements that it is made up of, we can say that Ligurian cuisine is one of the best expressions of Mediterranean cuisine.
Since it is a cuisine of both sea and land, two cuisines from the two inspirations that characterise the area: coastal and inland. The cuisine ranges from simple dishes of more common, popular tradition up to more elaborate dishes from the tables of the rich and powerful.
Some ingredients of the typical cuisine of Sestri Levante include:
- wild herbs and produce from home gardens
- seasonal fruits of the fields and forests
- olive oil
- baked goods: focaccia, farinata, savoury vegetable pies
- dried and (especially) fresh pasta
- fresh fish
The most unusual thing is that we still rediscover ancient dishes today, dishes born on board ships and those born in the homes of the wives who stayed at home waiting for their husbands and sons to return fishing.
We look forward to seeing you in front of a nice plate of trofie with pesto or seafood spaghetti!
What you can do in Sestri Levante
Sestri Levante is an ancient settlement in Liguria, overlooking the Tigulian Gulf. The mild climate makes the town beautiful all year round: spring, summer, autumn, and winter. Enjoy the beach, the sea, and nature in the Bay of Silence and the Bay of Fables.
In Sestri Levante there are plenty of free beaches.
Trekking, at Punta Manara, for example. It totals about 190 hectares in size, of which about 50 are entirely occupied by a holm oak wood, while the remainder is divided between high Mediterranean scrub (holly oaks, strawberry trees, heather) and a small strip of cork oak. The most widespread plant here is the maritime pine, which covers the highest part of the promontory. The ruins of both an ancient and a more recent fortress, used by the Territorial Militia and the Germans during the Second World War, are still visible. Punta Manara can only be reached on foot, via the paths that climb up the hill. One path starts in the alleyways of Sestri Levante's historic centre. After a series of steps leading out of the town, an almost flat walk begins, leading into the typical Ligurian vegetation. From the Punta Manara, you can continue along the path to descend to Riva Trigoso, through a much steeper walk that crosses fields of broom trees and vegetable gardens. On the promontory, the ‘Sentiero Natura’ (Nature Trail) is signposted and constitutes a walking route of rare beauty even within the naturalistic Ligurian panorama. A part of the path is also used as a botanical trail with explanatory signs describing the plant species encountered along the way.
Sport in the open air at the Parco Mandela, 5 minutes on foot from the town centre.
Cycling, Sestri Levante has a lot of bike paths.
Places to visit near Sestri Levante
- Cinque Terre
- Santa Margherita
- San Fruttuoso
Sestri Levante: Curiosities
Why “The Bay of Silence”
The name comes from the writer and poet Giovanni Descalzo, who named the small gulf lying to the east of the city's promontory after its serenity: it still seems like a place suspended in time, a source of inspiration for artists, writers, and poets.
Giovanni Descalzo (born in Sestri Levante, 1902 -1951) was a poet, writer, but also a sailor, fisherman, farmer, worker at the Italiana Tubi factory, and municipal employee. He was the author of novels, lyrical prose, articles for newspapers, and magazines.
Why The Bay of Fables?
In honour of Hans Christian Andersen who was inspired by it for his fables.
What are the inhabitants of Sestri Levante called?
Sestrini or Sestresi, as you prefer...