New destination! We loved exploring Gargano, but we’ve now moved closer to home, to the dream villages of Cinque Terre. Let’s start our exploration with a review of La Francesca, our base to discover the wonderful nature in the area.

The story behind La Francesca

I fell in love with La Francesca even before we got there. I has seen drawings and pictures of the resort; colourful houses built on a mountainside, overlooking the wide, shimmering expanse of the Ligurian sea. I could even smell the Mediterranean maquis; the coconutty scent of ginestre, the pungent aroma of wild herbs, of pines. What a curious name, I thought. Francesca is a woman’s name, it must have been somebody’s wife, or sweetheart.

la francesca coastline

The coast of Cinque Terre

In fact, La Francesca takes its name from the ancient Via Francigena, also known as Francesca, the ancient pilgrim’s path that joined Rome to Canterbury and Santiago de Compostela. Yet, La Francesca is a woman’s dream; it is the dream of Gloria, the current owner’s mother. Gloria was a writer, and like many writers, she wanted a place to call her own. She fell in love with the nature, and in 1961 she bought the land.

Gloria’s first idea was to set up a commercial rose garden, but the area was too remote, the twisty narrow mountain streets too steep for delivery lorries. The idea was abandoned, and she decided instead to build a retreat.

houses la francesca

La Francesca houses

Gloria was a woman ahead of her time. It would have been easier to get some heavy machinery in and level down the mountainside; but she didn’t want to upset the nature, and La Francesca’s 34 houses were built on stilts.

La Francesca today

signs la francesca

Where do you want to go today?

Nowadays, La Francesca is the ideal place to get away for a while. We visited on a warm June night; the sun was setting and the whole resort seemed to be enveloped by nature, like a self-contained village appearing out of the wilderness. There is only one access road to La Francesca; you can’t see it from afar, but suddenly there it is, in front of you. An orange garden, just in front of our apartment, and a little further, the sea.

olive press la francesca

The olive press in front of reception

It was full moon, that night. We saw the moon rise from the sea, painting the mountains silver. We sat on our balcony looking at the moon drawing an arch across the starry sky, while waves crashed, faintly, over the rocks below us.

What to do at La Francesca

La Francesca is a destination in its own rights. There is everything you need to enjoy a holiday; a private cobbled beach, walking paths across the property, bordered by oaks and wildflowers, a swimming pool that was created as an artificial lake, to water the rose gardens. There is a shop to buy food to cook in your apartment, and a restaurant, overlooking the bay, serving local food.

pink house la francesca

Another house at La Francesca

If you want to explore the surrounding area, you’ll be spoilt for choice. Cinque Terre are the star attractions; but there are also three other natural parks in the area, with plenty of walking opportunities. Another great option is Portovenere and Golfo dei Poeti (Poets’ Gulf), an area that is less known that Cinque Terre, but of such beauty that it has inspired many Italian poets.

la francesca Tunnel

The railway tunnels on the way to Levanto

If you’re travelling without a car, you’re in for a treat. The 4 km walking path between La Francesca and Levanto, the closest town, passes through some disused railway tunnels, bordered with moss and glistening with trickles of water.

And wherever you turn, the sea never leaves you.

house and view la francesca

How about waking up to this?

We spent a wonderful weekend at La Francesca, sleeping in, exploring the hills and the nature around Cinque Terre. We loved this place so much, we hope to be back one day.

Our stay at La Francesca was sponsored by the property owners in exchange for this review. All opinions expressed in this article are our own. We enjoyed our stay and recommend the properties highly. 

31 Responses

  1. Lauren

    It looks so wonderful! We will be going to Italy next May and hope to travel to this region – perhaps we will stay here! Thank you for sharing 🙂

  2. Meg @ Mapping Megan

    Fantastic photos – we did the Cinque Terre but just did it in a day walking between the different villages. Hopefully we can get back and actually spend some proper time there – La Francesca looks like a great base!!

    • Margherita

      You should Meg, the area is stunning! I hope they’ll manage to reopen the trails soon, at the moment most of them are closed!

  3. Els

    I must have been very close last year! I was camping in Levanto and walked the tunnel towards Benassola quite a few times! But it looks like it’s well hidden indeed 🙂

    • Margherita

      Hahaha Els, that’s crazy! It is well hidden, and that’s part of the magic!

  4. Hannah

    Wow that looks beautiful! I love that it is close to towns to visit but also a vacation spot in itself. Sounds like an ideal place to relax for a few days

    • Margherita

      It is Hannah, absolutely stunning! Thanks for your comment, glad you liked the post!

  5. antonette - we12travel

    Oh I dream of going to Cinque Terre, totally. The trail through the tunnel seems lovely, we’ve done something similar to that in New Zealand, but then by bike. I am looking forward to more posts about this region!

    • Margherita

      Thanks Anto! The area is so beautiful, and there are many walking opportunities, even though many trails are still closed after the 2011 floods. I have some more posts coming soon – stay tuned!

  6. Em

    Wow looks amazing. Sounds like great place to visit 🙂

  7. Dave Cole

    I’m not sure I would leave La Francesca for the duration of my stay. The ability to cook, swim and walk around the property is ideal for a long weekend. However, I would probably take a night or two off of cooking to try out the restaurant serving the local dishes.

  8. Alli

    I can just hear the sound of the waves rolling in and gently lapping the shore.

  9. Milosz Zak

    I just sent my parents to Cinque Terre two weeks ago – they trekked through the national park on the Walkabout Florence tour, and loved every minute. Love your piece 🙂

  10. Chris Boothman

    We have heard a lot of great things about Cinque Terre and I am hoping we can explore this part of Italy at some point in the future! Whenever we do get the opportunity, I am sure that we would consider staying at La Francesca after reading this great review.

    Waking up to that view that you included pretty much sold it for me. In addition, there is so much to do there that just as Dave indicated, you would be hard pressed to leave that resort even though there is so much to see and explore in the surrounding region.

  11. Elena

    Gorgeous views and nicer area to explore! La Francesca looks like a great place to have as a base.

  12. The Wandering Wanderluster

    Your post has made me even more excited as we will be visiting Cinque sTerre next year and we are also hoping to stay at La Francesca’s! Glad you enjoyed your stay 🙂

  13. clay weir

    i’ve never been to italy and reading this article makes me think i need to bump it up the list of places to go – great work!!

  14. Calli

    I really love this region and have actually found myself daydreaming about it lately. We stayed in Riomaggiore but this looks like a great base to explore from as well.

  15. Bob R

    Looks like a very nice spot. I was on planning to go there the month after the storms caused all the damage a few years ago.

    Golfo dei Poeti sounds very intriguing, never heard of it before. 🙂