Ah, sunny Bonassola! We are in this seaside paradise to sample the real pesto, the kind pounded out by Italian mothers using Cararra marble mortars with wooden pestles engineered to match the contour of each mortar. Even in April, the sun warms us as we await our trofie al pesto in the main square. (If you think the techniques used to make this pesto are just a quaint attachment to tradition shown with pride to clueless tourists, you are wrong. I’ve sampled pesto using the same ingredients made in a blender…boy are you wrong.)
But here’s the thing: we are sleeping in the next town over, Levanto, 6 kilometers to the left of the Cinque Terre. We haven’t a car. Yet we are not worried about getting “home” after our lunch. We will walk.
“But walking along the sea!” I hear you exclaim. The coast is craggy, the road is full of those “Italian drivers” you always hear about, and the beach sand will suck you to the earth…
But there is a tunnel. Yes a series of historic and abandoned train tunnels have been scraped of their cobwebs and refurbished to take you smoothly from the village of Framura to Levanto, passing by our lovely Bonassola. The path is called the Maremonti Pedestrian and Bike Tunnel. In this little corner of Liguria, bikes are everywhere. Chances are, your hotel can provide you one.
Let’s not romanticize this operation. A tunnel is still a tunnel, even after you’ve painted lanes. There are some interesting architectural components along the line, but this entrance is normal.
The thing about trains is that they don’t like abrupt elevation changes. That makes travel in the tunnels easy for cyclists and walkers. And yes, there is light, and not just at the end of the tunnels.
In fact, there are many places where the tunnel stops tunneling and you get very nice open views, some of which branch off into other beaches and trails.
Imagine, you can procure a bike in Levanto, pedal with kids on skateboards and folks in wheelchairs, and end up in bella Framura where you can chow down at a tremendous restaurant called L’Agave featuring seafood so fresh you think it might walk off your plate. And you can eat on the terraces (or the roof!) which look over Liguria’s “biggest rock” that protects the little harbor with water so clear that it makes the boats look like they are bobbing in thin air.
And from there you can walk off your meal on the brand new walking path that runs along the coast from Torsei beach to the very private Vallà beach.
And if you just have to see the Cinque Terre, do it by boat out of Levanto. You don’t see those “5 little villages spilling into the sea” from inside them.
The Grim History of the Railway Tunnels around Framura
There is an interesting story about the area’s train tunnels. The American wartime operation code-named Ginny II sought to destroy tunnels on the Genoa-La Spezia line just east of Framura where they joined in a vaulted arcade with openings toward the sea. The failed operation resulted in the secret execution of 15 soldiers in Ameglia in direct violation of the Geneva Convention.
The tunnels in use in 1944 between Framura and Levanto were replaced with wider tunnels after the war, and the original tunnels, built in 1874, became the Maremonti Pedestrian and Bike Tunnel.
This short history was drawn from a very interesting and detailed account written by Martha Bates on A Path to Lunch: Liberation Day: The Ameglia Executions
All stories do not have happy endings. Some just offer hope for the future.
Their deaths led to a judgement which was used as a precedent at the Nuremberg war crime trials and which is now part of the bedrock of modern international law: an illegal military order by a superior is not a defense to a war crime.
Map of the Cities along the Maremonti Pedestrian and Bike Tunnel
To the west are the cities mentioned in this article, to the east are the cities of the Cinque Terre starting with Monterosso al Mare.
If You Go
Where to Stay: Country Life
Ca du Ferra Farm and Relax
B&B amidst organic vineyards
Where to Stay: City Life
A Durmì, Levanto
Garden rooms in the heart of Levanto