I pini dovevano un tempo aver regnato su tutta la plaga, perché ancora s’infiltravano in lame e ciuffi di bosco giù per i versanti fino sulla spiaggia del mare. (Italo Calvino)
The village of Bonassola is located in a small and sheltered gulf between the village of Levanto and Framura, and is part of the municipality of La Spezia, in Liguria.
In this priviledged place, on a five kilometre alluvial plane, at the foot of the hills that lead to Passo del Bracco, there are seven historic hamlets: Montaretto, Reggimonti, San Giorgio, Costella, Serra, and going towards Levanto, near mount Rossola, we find the clusters of Poggio and Scernio.
All the areas are surrounded by the usual cultivated terraces, among spontaneous vine yards and olive groves, which help in part the economy of Bonassola.
The extraordinary climate comes from the eastern coast and inherits an ideal vicinity, for those who want to plunge into the evocative landscape of the Cinque Terre.
Unlike other villages of the Riviera, the beach in Bonassola is one of the biggest of Liguria and is almost all sandy. There are three big beach resorts and two free areas where you can lay comfortably under the sun.
Bonassola borders on the north west with the municipality of Framura, to the east with Levanto, to the south with the Ligurian Sea.
How to get here
If you land at the airport Cristoforo Colombo in Genoa, at 90 km from Bonassola or at Galileo Galilei airport in Pisa, the motorway A12 will take you straight to the village.
Off hand but at the same time of easy access, is the international airport Malpensa in Milan and the other airport in Orio al Serio, Bergamo.
If you are coming from Milan, take the east orbital road, direction Piacenza, A1 then A15 direction Parma/La Spezia, and then towards Genoa, the right exit is Carrodano-Levanto.
If you are travelling by train, Bonassola is on the railway line Genoa-Pisa. If you take an intercity train from Milan, you have to change at Sestri Levante train station, or if you are coming from Rome, change at La Spezia central station, then take a regional train that stops in all the Cinque Terrestations, Levanto and Bonassola which has its own train station, it takes about twenty minutes.
Consorzio Marittimo Turistico “Cinque Terre – Golfo dei Poeti” connects the villages from Portofino to the Cinque terre and Portovenere, we suggest to check the timetables, Spring is in general the mosta appreciated season, the service starts in March and runs till late September.
The dock is in a small inlet, there isn’t a proper mooring for pleasure boats, you must pay attention to bathers and check all the necessary regulations.
Even in Porto Pidocchio, Framura, there is a sandy bay well appreciated for mooring, it is very popular thanks to the opened tunnels, that have made the access easy.
Here you will have to leave the boat at the buoy and pay attention to the bathers.
How to move about
Bonassola is also an ideal place to explore the Cinque Terre, to reach the characteristic Monterosso, you only need a few minutes, as it is just two train stops away, the visitor may then return here, late in the afternoon to this small and quiet alcove, far from the bustling tourist places.
To visit Bonassola you don’t need a car, it is easy to reach the village by train, the station is right in the centre of the village, from here you can move on foot or by bike.
Trains and buses connect Bonassola to the rest of the Gulf of Poets, and the Gulf of Tigullio, including Portofino, Santa Margherita up to Genoa, at low prices and without the stress of parking.
There is a cycle path that connects Levanto to Bonassola and Framura for five kilometres (Ciclo Pedonale Mare Monti), it was built on an old railway line (1874), which was abandoned in the 1970s after the construction of the new railway, that was placed inland.
You will be able to cycle in a priviledged position, overlooking the sea with its romantic views.
Along the cycle path, which is part of “Rete ciclabile della Liguria” the Ligurian Cycle net, we come across some lit tunnels, some parts are in the open air, where it is possible to reach on foot, the many coves and free beaches, of the coast.
In all the stations of the nearby Cinque Terre, there are Info Points at your disposal, a Cinque Terre CARD, will allow you to obtain a price discount for the Civic Museums of La Spezia and the access to the Park and its naturalistic paths.
In Spring and in Summer you may enjoy a trip by boat or ferry, consider the fact that the best landscapes can be seen from the sea.
Each village of the eastern riviera, including Bonassola, is connected by pedestrian paths, quite easy to cross, and there are also train stations in all the villages.
A bit of history...
The birth of the toponym Bonassola, comes from the name Vallis Bonazolae, referring to the strech of coast, with Framura on the west and Levanto on the east side, here the first historic clusters were built between the fifteenth and sixteenth century.
Important archelogical finds and studies, evidence the presence of people well before the Roman colonies in Liguria, they were probably in the west side of the valley, in Reggimonti and Montaretto.
The history of Bonassola was also marked by an important document, dated 1569, called “Instrumento della Compagnia di Bonassolla”, this document can be compared to a sort of civil social welfare, the first in Italy. It was used to free the inhabitants of Bonassola attacked frequently by the pirates.
Thanks to its location, Bonassola used its fishing experience, for trading other produtcs such as wine, olive oil, mulberry and chestnuts.
The village, in feudal times belonged to the Da Passano family, then to the Republic of Genoa, while in the fifteenth century, the village was part of the jurisdiction of Framura.
It was in this period that the village started growing, the coast was full of people, fishing nets and scents, despite the frequent raids of the Saracen pirates.
Of the same period is the construction of the Oratory of Saint Rocco built in Mortaretto, and the church of Saint Giorgio completed in 1552.
There was a subsequent and constant growth of the population thanks to the increase of the maritime trades.
Under the new rule of Neapoleon, on 2 December 1797, the village became part of the Department of Vara, with Levanto as municipality of the Ligurian Republic.
In 1803 the village was part of the District of Montaretto.
During the nineteenth century there were some positive news for Bonassola: the construction of the railway, and a new carriage road in Baracca in 1832, it was when a marble vein, was discovered the exploitation of the marble meant an unexpected welfare for the village.
The marine trades slowly lost importance, because of new systems of navigation and trades.
This meant the end of hundreds years of isolation and a quick economic growth..
In the twentieth century the tourism became the new soul of the village, thanks to the quick urban development and the valleys of Vara and Aveto with their breathtaking landscapes at the back, that climb up towards the Appenines.
Let’s not foget the wonderful environment of Levanto, the Promontory of Mesco, located inside the National Park of the Cinque Terre, and the unique beauty of the sea floor of the protected Marine area of the Cinque terre, at a very short distance.
The nature in Bonassola takes care of the sea and the mountains without distinction; for centuries the paths along the Cinque Terre have been the only way of reaching these villages, nowadays many of them are still intact and are among a network that spreads for over 120 kilometres; the paths have different difficulties, some overlook the coast, others are among the thick woods, vegetable gardens, olive groves and vineyards, but they are all linked to the neirbouring villages, that can also be reached by car.
Iconic and panoramic is the leap of the hare “Salto della Lepre”, at about thirty minutes from the centre of Bonassola, there’s a breathtaking view of the Mediterranean, from Punta Mesco to Portofino.
The name of this area, comes from an old legend, one day a hare was chased by some hunters, the poor animal rather than be killed and cooked, preferred to sacrify its life and jumped over the cliff.
This place is more like an alcove surrounded by vegetation than a path, but there are two concrete areas that struggle against the growth of Mediterranean maquis and the endless blue sky.
When it’s windy you can see the islands of Corsica and Capraia, which is part of the Tuscan archipelago, to reach this place from Bonassola you have to climb up a path, some parts are very steep so pay attention if you have children with you, and wear suitable shoes, there are indications that will help you to reach your destination.
A promenade has been recently opened along the former railway that connected the villages of Levanto, Bonassola and Framura, it is a strech of coast that will let you discover an evocative itinerary in total relax, the refurbished road with a new a cycle-foot path, it has some areas in the open air, some under the tunnel, others overlook the beautiful sea and its wild glimps.
Diving into the clean sea of Bonassola is something that cannot be missed.
Inside the bay, closed by two promontories, you can easily reach its pebble beach, part of it is equipped with beach beds and sun umbrellas, but the rest of it, is completly free.
Along the paths you will come across some small deserted beaches, an ideal place for those who love adventure and an exclusive area to relax.
The floristic species, the wide pine groves and the Mediterranean maquis are part of the National Park of the Cinque Terre.
A Unesco Heritage that takes care of the dry walls that run for kilometres among the vegetation, they were built especially to grow grapes on the steep slopes overlooking the beautiful sea, with the sanctuaries on the top of the hills and the villages as true evidence of its inhabitants.
The Park was established in 1999 with the aim of protecting and saveguarding its huge valuable environment, here you will find wild orchids, maritime pine woods, Aleppo pine trees, cork trees, chestnut trees and scrubs of heather.
On the coast where the waves crash against the rocks, the myrtle and the juniper let all the other plants grow, wild fennel, crithmum, sage, rosemary, cinerary and agaves.
The fauna of the area includes also poisonous rectiles such as vipers and other animals like the western whip snake and the salamander, this is a sign of wellness of its environment.
A place worth to mention is the hamlet of Montaretto, that you can reach from the exit of the motorway Carrodano-Levanto and Deiva Marina.
It’s a small village, a real example of how were the original Ligurian villages; it is located on the hill facing the sea, on a stretch of coast between Framura and Bonassola, here you will enjoy its heathly weather and the diffent types of vegetation, with the sea at its feet to welcome you.
Places of interest
Attractions of all kinds are waiting for diligent tourists, respectful of the great historic heritage of Bonassola.
The wonderful Grotta Azzurra is an incredible destination, it is not well known and is far from the classic beaten tourist tracks, as it can only be reached by boat, it is situated in Scà, between Bonassola and Framura.
When the tide is low, if you are lucky enough, you might be able to go inside and discover its hidden beach, it is all blue thanks to the unsual game of lights.
Reborn to new life, is the Castle of Bonassola, itrepresents a symbol of the ancient marine spirit of the village and reminds us of the raids made by the pirats.
It was built in 1560 as a pillbox to protect the village in case of danger, here the inhabitats could find a shelter.
You will find it at the centre of the historic village of Bonassola, in a dominant position on top of the hill, this is what is left after the demolitions, when the railway moved inland; it has a quadrilateral shape, with two circular towers on the corners, partly opened, the public clock is however relativily recent.
Madonnina della Punta, built by the Poggi family, around the seventeenth century, is perhaps the most well known tourist place in Bonassola. A unique, pure and unrefined church, facing the sea; it was built on the promontory that closes the gulf on the west; and is considered by many the symbol of Bonassola, it is an ideal destination for walking during the day, but especially at sunset, when the charm of nature dies the sky with warm and tempting colours.
Inland of Bonassola, we find the valley of the river Vara that hosts small Medioeval villages perched on luxurian hills that surround the village. Val di Vara, especially Alta Val di Vara can offer quiet places where to stay and relax, here agriculture and farming have a biological mark and are part of the slow food circuit, it’s not a coincidence that this place is called the “valley of biologic”.
The church of Santa Caterina d’Alessandria is a place of catholic worship, in Bonassola.
It was probably built in the first half of the sixteenth century and then transformed completely during the Baroque period, evidences can still be found in the many decorations of its gate; there are three important historiated glass windows, on the left Saint Francesco receives the stigmata, Madonna del Rosario in the central window and Saint Caterina from Siena on the glass window on the right.
It has a wide rectangular hall with a barrel vaulted ceiling, its facade like many other Ligurian churches, is very essential and simple compared to the richness decorations that can be found inside.
In the eighteenth century, when the major altar, the balustrade, the Altar of Madonna del Rosario, the pulpit and the stoups were built, the use of marble in many colours, was quite common inside churches.
Honorable mention to the Oratory of Saint Erasmo, a building that dominates the residential area, it has a small square in front and six steps that lead inside.
It was built according to simple classic style standards, the facade has the peculiarity of being divided, thanks to the paintings, into two horizontal parts and four vertical axis, with a lunette above the painted trabeation.
If you go to the village centre, pay a visit to the gallery of modern art “Antonio Discovolo”, looked after by the Municipality.
Among the many works of art there are also paintings of the above mentioned painter. The collection of works has increased in recent years, thanks to the donations of occasional exibitors that had their works on display inside the building.
Near Framura, in the hamlet of Costa, you’ll find the church of Saint Martin, where it is possible to admire a painting of the well known Genoese painter Bernardo. There is also a Carolingian tower of the ninth century, worth to see.
Accommodation, tourism and events
Bonassola has a rich calendar, full of events that won’t leave anyone empty handed: in June the procession of Corpus Christi along the streets of the village; unlike past years, in 2017 the celebration will take place on thursday 15th, while the procession the following sunday. On 16th July there are other celebrations, Madonna del Carmine, organized inside the curch of Saint George, with a dedicated mass, music and local delicatessen stalls.
Every year in July and August, organ recitals at the music festival “Il Suono del tempo – Antichi Organi” and further concerts take place at “Festival Paganiniano” in Carro, a picturesque hamlet located on the hills “where the air is good and the food is even better”. During the summer, the event “Arte al Castello di Bonassola”, an art exhibition of known and emerging artists with paintings, photographs, sculptures on show. On the first week of August don’t miss “Festival Mare Mosso”, five days, from morning till evening, especially dedicated to children, there are many creative activities, markets, book readings, shows, the kids will have the opportunity to satisfy their curiosities and learn, under the supervision of adults. All the events are free of charge, the activities are for 5– 10 year olds.
On 10th August, there is a feast dedicated to the falling stars, called “Festa delle stelle cadenti”, those who are interested, gather in the church yard of Saint George, there will be also music and a local food stall.
On 15th and 16th August, the celebrations of “Festa dell’Assunta” and the following day “Festa di San Rocco”, in the hamlet of Montaretto, there will be a religious procession and music. On the first sunday of October, there is the celebration of Madonna del Rosario, a three days celebration, with markets, food stalls, music and fireworks by the sea. The statue of the virgin is taken along the main streets of the village.
On 25th November, the celebration of the Patron saint of the village, Caterina di Alessandria, food tasting, markets enrich the event. Every year in Levanto, in May you must take part to Mangialonga, a wine and food tasting promenade along the paths on the hills of Levanto, you will stop in the villages to eat and drink true delicatessen. Bonassola offers also many opportunities to practice outdoor activities, above all fishing, beach volley, kayak and surf. Recently wave watching has gained great importance, people gather on the coast when there are sea storms, to take unforgettable pictures.
It’s fresh, genuine and as per tradition seasoned with the scents of the kitchen garden, a cure all for tastes and a glutton discovery for those who come here from the town, looking for fresh fish, cooked in a thousand different ways.
It has been influenced by the tradition of La Spezia, where they prefer simple and a lot of olive oil, the food is served with local white wine, so let’s discover it together!
Among the starters cod fritters make a good impression as well as anchovies with fennel, olive oil, or artichokes with olive oil, garlic and parsley, cooked in a pan; of great importance is “cappon magro”, a dish made with fish and vegetales, served on crackers and aspic.
A must to taste is focacccia made in Bonassola, it is thinner than the Genoese one and with more olive oil on top, than the one made in La Spezia, it can also be eaten with cakes.
The main courses are the “undisputed protagonists” of the menus, handmade pasta with legumes, order for example minestrone, a Genoese vegetable soup with the addition of borlotti beans, pesto sauce and courgettes; or panissa a typical Ligurian dish made of chickpea flour, salt and water; taglierini or trofie with pesto sauce; another tasty dish is testaroli served in the restaurants located on the hills, you can eat them with pesto sauce or just olive oil and parmigiano cheese; try pansotti served with walnut sauce or with sage and butter.
Burrida with fish and rice, shellfish, onions and tomatoes; rice with chestnuts and milk; mussels soup with tomato paste complete the list, this will be the joy for those who love creamy dishes.
Fish is always a suggested as a second dish.
Rockfish and stone bass, tuna, sea breams and snappers catched in the open sea, even if in this part of the coast people prefer cod, mussels and anchovies.
Whitebait fritters- frittelle di “gianchetti are a must, and can be a fanciful starter .
Among the meat dishes: rabbit and stewed tripe; rabbit cooked “alla Ligure”, according to a Ligurian recipe that uses pine nuts and olives; chicken “alla cacciatora”; kidney cooked in olive oil, garlic and parsley; stuffed veal, a sort of meat pocket baked in the oven.
The traditional cakes look similar but vary from village to village, as the methods used and some of the ingredients are different.
You will always find “castagnaccio”on the menus, it’s made of chestnut flour with a topping of pine nuts, raisin and rosemary; Spongata from Sarzana, rich in candied fruit, jam and dried fruit; Bucellato made of citrus fruit extract, flour, eggs, butter and sugar; or sweet rice cake, savoury rice cakes and vegetable pies.
Chestnut honey, homemade jam, cheese and fresh ricotta cheese are waiting for you inside family run cooperatives.
If you want to choose wine, then go to Cantine di Levanto, or ask the experts of Cooperativa Agricoltori Vallata di Levanto and the local producers, to help you, as they all respect IGP and DOP rules and regulations.
Colline di Levanto D.O.C. wines include white and red wines, all produced in the province of La Spezia, they can be easily purchased inside shops.
Vermentino di Bonassola wine, is a niche product, it has the scent of vineyards that grow overlooking the wonderful sea.
Real Estate market
Bonassola is a wonderful little village of the Eastern Ligurian Riviera, nestled between Tigullio to the west and the Cinque Terre to the east.
It’s a magical place where time slips away calmly, listen to the rhythm of the waves crashing on the shore, surrounded by a lush deep green vegetation.
Bonassola is an ideal starting place for excursions, there are many paths that wind along a pristine nature, its breathtaking views, are a natural link to those of the Cinque Terre. Furthermore the mild climate allows you to enjoy a holiday even in winter, it is not a surprise that the slogan that best represents Bonassola and its life philosophy is “barefoot all year”.
The real estate properties in Bonassola are well kept, the purpose of the renovations is to maintain the typical historic features, therefore it still means a sure investment for those who decide to treat themselves to a luxury second home by the sea.
The Municipality tries to limit the number of new constructions, rewarding the renovations of old buildings, such as the one just finished and represented in the photo.
The result of all this means higher quality estates and a stop to the number of offers, ensuring investments stability and a good reason to be tempted….
In recent years, many garages have been built, well hidden behind the viaduct of the former railway, a consideral numer of them are part of the estates for sale.
Prices vary according to the location and the general conditions of the buildings, the price of a property with sea view may increase up to 20%.
Here are some examples of property prices:
Central area/ sqm
Residential houses – from € 4000,00/smq to € 5000,00/smq
Economic houses -from € 2800,00/smq to € 3500,00/smq
Villas and small villas -from € 5000,00/smq to € 6500,00/smq
Facing the sea prices/ smq
Residential houses -from € 4000,00/smq to € 6000,00/smq
Villas and small villas – from € 6000,00/smq to € 8000,00/smq
Hamlets prices / smq
Residential houses -from € 3000,00/smq to € 4000,00/smq
Economic houses -from € 2300,00/smq to € 2800,00/smq
Villas and small villas -from € 4000,00/smq to € 5000,00/smq
La Spezia, a wonderful town rich in history and the five “sisters”, five little villages perched firmly to the rocks overlooking the sea.They are a great place where to arrive and leave; then the villages of Moneglia, Levanto, Deiva Marina, with their lively coloured houses and the never forgotten traditions, its carugggi, the small alleys full of typical shops, or the terraced hills behind with their dry walls, will enrich the experience of your stay, often people prefer a sort of experimental tourism, identifying themselves in the eastern Ligurian environment.
The uniqueness of Portovenere, inside the Gulf of Poets, was the home of important poets such as Byron; the town of Lerici is an exclusive holiday destination, it is guarded by an impressive castle, if we continue towards east, the crown our stay are the fertile territories of Tuscany; going west in the opposite direction we find the Gulf of Tigullio and the Gulf of Paradise with their villages rich in history and events, the gems of Portofino and Camoglio, finally Genoa and its movida, the ancient buildings and the cathedrals, its old Port, the Aquarium and the prestigiuos universities conclude our trip inside a Region that still has a lot to give and much more to discover.