The picturesque town of Leivi, on Italy’s Liguria coast, lies in the Rupinaro valley – itself wedged between the coastal town of Chiavari and the Fontanabuona Valley.
From a distance Leivi appears carpeted in olive groves and it is little surprise the area is famed for its olive oil production.
The town lies barely a kilometre from the coast and boasts a beautiful, panoramic view, the lush, green hillsides gently sloping towards the sea.
The road that links Leivi to surrounding villages such as San Terenziano, Bocco, San Rufino and San Bartolomeo also offers a fantastic view of the mountains that overlook the Fontanabuona Valley –Ramaceto, Aiona, Penna, Zatta and Porcile.
It is also possible to explore this inviting part of the Italian Riviera coast on foot, thanks to the Path of the Five Towers, so called because it runs past five towers – one medieval, the other four bell towers.
The route is a scenic trek of some 3½ hours, running along an old pathway, and the first tower one encounters – which, incidentally, is not one of the famous five – is that of the Ri Alto church, still in Chiavari.
Shortly after it comes the first of the five towers, which is part of the Church of St Thomas of Curlo. Its oldest sections are not thought to predate the 12th century while the entire building was substantially restored in the 17th century.
The path then gives you two options. First, to continue on the northern side, crossing a chestnut wood overlooking Graveglia Valley and the town of Sestri Levante. Alternatively, to continue on the southern side, which offers a view over the Tigullo Gulf.
Either option brings you to the second bell tower, belonging to St Bartholomew’s Church (formerly St Michael’s), which features a characteristic cobbled churchyard.
Continuing west, you eventually encounter Tower No3 – its ancient design military in nature and also boasting the symbol of the area; alongside it stand four bell towers of the San Rufino Church.
It sits in a dominant position, on the ridge of a hill, one of the centrepoints of the economic and social life of Leivi. Despite renovation in the 17th and 18th centuries, the church’s impressive structure thankfully remains unaltered.
After a short, tarred stretch of the path that runs to Bocco, the route crosses the ancient hamlet of Leivi, which is characterised by a nucleus of well-restored buildings.
It then arrives at the final bell tower along the path, that of St Lawrence’s church. The structure is the oldest of Leivi’s churches.
From here starts the road to return along the path immersed in woods and runs towards Maxena. After a brief step one arrives in San Pier di Canne, with Chiavari another half an hour further on.
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