Why I left my heart in Turin (Torino)

What was initially planned to be a 1 night stay turned out to be a trip of 4 nights in Turin. And I must say that even though the city centre of Turin is relatively small, but with so many things to see and marvel at, a visitor like me will need at least a month here.

Catch my next article introducing this elegant and green Italian city whose photos of the Mole with the Alps towering majestically behind have stolen my heart as well as many others.

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Rows of trees line along the streets of Turin. This must be the most green city in Italy.

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Experience Italian hospitality at their best

This is a really tough fight because each has their own good points and charm. But to be really frank, there are 3 winners based on the following criteria in no order:

  • location
  • interior design of the house/appartment/rooms
  • hospitality of the host(s)
  • services provided in the price paid for the room
  • price of the room

Before we go into the winners, let us look at some helpful tips that will aid you in choosing the right B&B for your future trips.

Why choose a B&B?

B&B offers a localised experience with a personal touch, whereby one gets to stay with a local host and be engaged in meaningful conversations that will increase one’s understanding of the place and her people, and plentiful of helpful suggestions on what to see, eat and do.

Unlike a hotel or a commercialised lodging, B&Bs usually are the apartments or houses which the host also live in, or live close to, hence they take pride in keeping the place clean and comfortable to allow guests to feel good. Service comes from their heart and it is nice to have someone whom you can approach for any advice or help if needed. It can be a good way to experience how do locals live and see the architectural as well as historical aspects of the buildings.

Also, incidents of theft are definitely much higher in hotels as  all sorts of toms, dicks and harrys can pose off as one of the employees or guests, and it is not alarming that even some of the employees themselves are dishonest. Whereas in a B&B, the host’s reputation is at stake and there are not too many culprits to suspect.

How does one determine which B&B to stay?

The best website that I find is Tripadvisor where the reviews by past clients are more or less credible and there are photos posted by the reviewers of the B&B that are crucial in forming an impression of how the B&B kind of looks like. Once the photos and the reviews seem favorable, the next step will be to search for their website and contact the B&B for room availability and price. However, don’t be fooled by the number of reivews a B&B has. Some real gems simply may not have that many reviews written. In general, going by the tried and tested logic, most people would prefer those with more reviewers in order to feel more assured.

Since the previous article was on Sestri Levante, I would like to introduce to you this wonderful B&B which I fell in love with after seeing photos of it and the great reviews about the place and the host on Tripadvisor.com … B&B PIAZZA ITALIA (http://www.bbpiazzaitalia.it/en/). Not surprising that it is the top B&B in Sestri Levante. The photos here serve as a testimony of my wonderful and unforgettable stay there, and I look forward to be back again, and be pampered.

I asked Alessandro, the amiable owner who has a natural flair for interior design, to share about his experience in setting up and running the B&B, and what motivates him to always keep that smile and energy despite at times, is a tough job, especially when he has to do the house-keeping after guests checked-out.

“I started out as a cook in a hotel for about 20 years.  It was over this period of time there that I ‘breathed the atmosphere of the hotel’. That was where my desire to offer something different and more refine on the land of Sestri Levante developed.

So about 10 years ago, I opened my first B & B “CA ‘DU ALE” (http://www.caduale.it) which is a couple of kilometers from the city center. Though it is a simple place, careful attention is given to every single aspect of hospitality in order to ensure our guests have an enjoyable stay. But, I desired to do more, like something that can combine historical value with genuine hospitality.

And so about 4 years ago, I decided to open the doors of another house that is part of the history of Sestri Levante, to all who love refined beauty and  wish to experience the simple life and spirit of Sestri Levante’s town, nature and people. Here at B&B Piazza Italia, is where elegance blends with the traditions and local flavors of my territory.

Finally, my heart is open to exchanging experiences through meeting and befriending people from different cultures. Hope to see you soon.”
Benvenuti al B&B Piazza Italia

Take time to chilllax in Sestri Levante

One of the most beautiful coastlines in the world has got to be that of Italy, from the Italian Riveria starting from Ventimiglia to all the way down to Sicily. Picturesque coastal villages built on the rocky slopes of the mountains, warm pastel colored buildings and the colorful fishing boats docked on the shores, what a sight to behold!

For some reprive from the loads of tourists that flood Cinque Terre, take a local train westwards to Sestri Levante which is about 30mins ride from Monterosso with fantastic coastal views.

Here the town is built on low lands along the shoreline. Perhaps some might find it lacking the awe inspired as compared to all 4 other villages with the exception of Monterosso al Mare in Cinque Terre and those along Amalfi Coast, Sestri Levante is by no means a destination to be missed.

Here, you will find more Italians than tourists, and this place comes alive during the weekends when young Italians, many as families taking a weekend break from a hectic week. During the weekdays, it is calm and peaceful, and is easy to strike a conversation with the retirees to learn about the town, fishing, and sometimes even more interesting topics like politics or family.

The best period to visit is between May to June, and end September to early November where the weather is pleasant, and accommodations are at a low peak rate. What’s best? You can practically be the one of the only few tourists without being disturbed.

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Restaurants by the beach become alive in the evenings and on the weekends.

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Old town of Sestri Levante which is about 10mins walk south from the train station

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Bathing facilities and beach chairs are available for the tanners. But as it was in spring time and a week day, it probably explains why no one is around.

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Grey clouds in the distant with wind blowing towards my direction. Rain, rain! Go away, come again another day!

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Rows of fishing boats on the beach. Take your pick!

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Old town of Sestri Levante is built on a thin stretch of peninsula like a cresent moon with 2 beautiful bays.

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Pretty flowers and vibrant colors characterise this cafe by the Bay of Fairy Tales (Baia delle favole)

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1+1 = ?

1+1 = Sestri Levante! How can one miss it when the town’s name is spelt in big alphabets on the back of the cute shower huts on the beach of the Bay of Fairy Tales?

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I love the open-air markets where I can get to immerse myself in the local culture and get to see many locally produced products like wines, handicrafts, olive oils, cakes, fruits, etc. I particularly love the spices and herbs stall as the lady was very funny and allowed me to try the spices. You will be amazed you can get curry powder here! Yes, I did bargain and succeeded!

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There is something really cute about these fishing boats, don’t you think so?
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Walking towards heaven?

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Walk along Via Pilade Queirolo, away from the jetty and up the slope and voilà! You will notice there will be a cross facing out to the sea at coastal towns because locals were/are generally Catholics and this is for protection of the seamen and the town from storms.

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There are quite a number of B&Bs in the old town and one can simply just stay in one of these buildings with a balcony overlooking the Silent Bay and have a delicious meal right below!

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Small fishing boats powered by a small engine like these generally do not take up much space and are easy to ‘park’ on the shore.

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Sneak peak at SIlent Bay.

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During low peak season, you could just have almost the whole bay to yourself and a few others! Is not difficult to leave your footsteps in the sand now, isn’t it?

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Silent Bay or Baia del Silenzio, a very narrow strip of sandy beach where the buildings are practically next to the shoreline. Not much space left for sun-tanning especially with the fishing boats there.

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This German woman, who is a mother of 2 has such fab body that will drive most women green with envy. She must have known about my admiration and hence that bright smile!

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Silent Bay indeed living up to her name.

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Silent Bay, in a semi-circle form, walking along the shoreline will bring you to the upper part of the mountain where one can find a hotel and a church, and fantastic views of Silent Bay.

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More boats on waters of Silent Bay, but they are more for leisure sailing.

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Cute fish painted on the wall above a ristorante that typically sells fresh seafood in this area of Italy

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Part of the charm of Italian coastal towns are their narrow alleys in between pastel colored buildings. You will never know what to expect!

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As you ascent up the slope of Via Penisola di Levante, breath-taking views of the town below and opposite greenery await you.

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Hidden surprises along the steep walk, where there are some hotels tucked up in a hidden santuary.

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This is what is left of baroque-styled Ruderi Oratorio Santa Caterina after a bombardment in WWII in 1944 and this statue was erected in memory of those who lost their lives during the war.

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Sneak peak from the woods above Church of St Nicolò dell’isola. Romanesque style characterised by unpolished stones that set the church and the pointed arches.

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Looking at the architecture in detail, notice the bell tower has belfry windows where the church bells would ring.

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This church was built in the 12th century, altered during Baroque period and later been renovated back to its original look.

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View of the Silent Bay on the other side while walking towards the chic hôtel Helvetia.

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Beautiful view of the villas, bell tower of Church of St Nicolò dell’isola, and the medieval castle on higher grounds.

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See the shape of the Silent Bay? On beautiful weather like this, the colors of the buildings and the sea certainly bring a smile to everyone’s face.

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A little close-up of the castles above the town. In those days, the village was part of the Republic of Genoa. And like all other villages along the coast, it was subjected to brutal raids by bullying ennemies and pirates. Hence, fortications were built to secure the people living in there.

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A breakwater that is popular amongst the people who need to let off some sort of pent-up frustrations.

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With majestic nature unfolding before your eyes, is hard not to resist being at the forefront to feel its powerful force.

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Go ahead, shout out loud and let the sounds of the waves carry it away from you.

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Come on, honey, let’s turn back. Let me go ahead of you, don’t be afraid.

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Be careful, is very slippery. The waves are hitting over the breakwater.

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I am coming! Wait for me!

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Take a photo of me, please? This breakwater is certainly very popular with the people!

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Isn’t it lovely? The sunset beyond the horizon and the waves that hit the shore. 

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Silent Bay view … with the boats out in force

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There is a pathway that leads past Hotel Helvetia and up the hill where some villas are located. From a higher altitude, this is the view of Silent Bay. Picturesque, isn’t it?

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Certainly from a higher ground, the view does get farther and better.

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Beautiful flowers growing on the slopes of the hill.

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Here is the whole view of Sestri Levante and Silent Bay. The pathway is very easy to walk, that is not too steep, and there are benches at the sides for you to stop, sit and enjoy the scenary or even have a picnic there like I did!

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The eternal icon of Sestri Levante, Il Leudo, the last sailing leudo in the Liguria région. It was built to transport cargos, and be towed and be ‘parked’ on the beach of Bay of the Fables.

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Walking away from the old town of Sestri Levante along the Bay of Fables westwards and enjoy the rushing waves as they hit the shore and the rocks.

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Sky so blue with clouds like cotton wool, water so green and the rocks so brownish grey … so close your eyes and feel the nature. Is so therapeutic.

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Hit me baby one more time, as Britney Spears sang in one of her hit songs. I was taken aback by the forcefulness as the waves crashed onto the rocks.

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No one is out surfing though. Perhaps the waves are not big enough? Or is simply because it is a weekday lazy afternoon and everyone is having their siesta? :p

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Sestri Levante has many good trattorias that will whip up your appetite! This trattoria which is along the Bay of Fables, which was the only one which was still open at 3pm . Who would have thought that it serves one of the most spécial and delicious spaghetti alla marinara in a sauce that tasted like curry! HEAVENLY! Good news? I finished them all!

Sunsets is one of the prettiest on the coast of the Mediterreanean and here at the Silent Bay and Bay of Fables, the moment is simply magical.

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Back again to the Silent Bay as I was told by my host that it is the most magical during sunset hours. And I could not agree more.

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Such a difference between morning when the sun is out and high as compared to the near setting of the sun. Yes, I prefer in the evening. There is some sort of magic with the sun behind, creating a glowing effect on the colored buildings and the glimmering waters.

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See Helvetia on the walls that lead upwards the hill? Yes, that is the path that you should take to go upwards to catch a bird’s eye view of Sestri Levante old town.

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So many ways to keep the fishing boats on the shore.

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“The path to our destination is not always a straight one. We go down the wrong road, we get lost, we turn back. Maybe it doesn’t matter which road we embark on. Maybe what matters is that we embark.”
― Barbara Hall

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The beach over at the Bay of Fables is definitely more spacious, hence alot of fishing boats are parked here, and where fishermen mend their nets.

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One night I dreamed I was walking along the beach with the Lord. Many scenes from my life flashed across the sky.
In each scene I noticed footprints in the sand. Sometimes there were two sets of footprints, other times there were one set of footprint.

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The beautiful ancient castle now hotel dei Castelli above offering unobstructed views of the Meditereannean sea and the towns westwards.

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I could not resist not taking this moment. So carefree and the man was like trying to catch a crab perhaps?

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Baia celle Favole or in english as Bay of Fables was named in honor of a Danish writer, Hans Christian Andersen, who is known for his fairytales such as ‘The New Emperor’ and ‘The Little Match Girl’. He lived in Sestri Levante briefly in 1833. What an apt name! The view before me does seem like a perfect setting for a fairytale or a painting. A pity I did not bring along my painting materials.

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Sestri Levante residential area from Bay of Fables. Behind them is lush green vegetation on the mountains. How nice to be living here, surrounded by nature!

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If you are in for some fun at the sea, can give canoeing a try.

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As the sun gets lower and nearer to the horizon…

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Doesn’t this feel like heaven is opening up? Could there be an angel hiding behind the clouds?

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Such beautiful sunset moment. This is when I see more couples walking along the beach, enjoying the scenary before their eyes and each other’s company. Romantic!

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The setting sun illuminating the mountains beyond and the waters glimmer like they are dancing under the last of sun’s rays.

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I thought I was able to get a cocktail or 2 and have my dinner here, but it was unfortunately closed.

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“In silence the three of them looked at the sunset and thought about God.”
― Maud Hart Lovelace, Betsy-Tacy and Tib

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“One day,’ you said, ‘I watched the sunset forty-three times!’
And a little later you added:
‘You know, when one is that sad, one can get to love the sunset.’
‘Were you that sad, then, on the day of the forty-three sunset?’
But the prince made no answer.”
― Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince

Yes, I was sad to leave Sestri Levante. But I will be heading to another town that offers a different flavor, which is just about another 40mins train ride away.