The Levante is a spectacular place to visit, but good values for homes are few and far between. Portofino is its most elite port of call, a de rigueur stopover for well-equipped yachts and their passengers. Some not-so-famous people have managed to afford homes in the two cities that flank Portofino, Santa Margherita and Rapallo, but there is scant room or tolerance for new construction on the steep rocky coast, and so prices there, too, are very high. South of Rapallo, you’ll find the Cinque Terre”five small fishing villages hugging their respective inlets. U.S. guidebooks have given the towns a mythical reputation that eludes most Italians, and so tourists come every year to walk the hilly hiking trails and ponder this pristine scenery.
In my opinion, the nicest two towns in the Levante are at its extremes: Camogli in the north and Portovenere in the south. The first is a more down-to-earth Portofino, with the same pastel buildings but more palatable prices. Camogli’s finest hour is when the townspeople put on a giant fish fry, preparing the day’s catch in pans that are at least 10 feet wide. Portovenere is a little more upscale. With some exceptions, the available property on the coastline consists of apartments in three- or four-family villas, or else in a larger apartment building. In Rapallo, a nice three-bedroom apartment geared toward foreigners sells in the â‚¬300,000 range. Alternatively, you might look a little farther inland. Just 20 minutes into the hills from Portofino, around Fivizzano, rustic stone houses sell for as little as â‚¬50,000, though they would need thorough restructuring.