Liguria - Places to Visit - Levanto
To understand the Levanto of today one needs to do as with the people we love: have them tell us its story, give historical depth to the actual landscape and know which vocations and identities have passed in time. We can distinguish at least three:
>>a feudal and farm-pastoral identity in the Bardellone mountains, linked to the control of the passes and land communication and to the lost centers of Ceula and Zolasco;
>>a communal and mercantile-maritime identity, centered in the hamlet of Levanto and existing with absolute devotion to the Genoa Republic, not without strong emphasis on a farming economy: from the attraction of villa-farming to the constellation of the rural centers of the valley;
>>a tourism identity that has developed in two phases and according to two different models: elite tourism (until the 50's) and mass tourism (after the 50's).
The first model offers, above all to foreign tourists, the sought-after image of a Levanto substantially rural, located in the middle of an agrarian landscape that from reading the impressions of its first tourists was experienced as a big garden, as a kind of paradise on earth.
The second model offers instead an image of Levanto that turns its shoulder from its territory, to concentrate urbanistically on the coastal plain and on Ghiararo (where many flower and vegetable gardens have disappeared, on the beaches and sea.
It's this model that has created a fracture not only regarding the past but also concerning its territory: the preceding models were in fact developed without discontinuity and without substantial lack of balance between the coast and inland, between the hamlet and valley, between urbanisation and territory.
Tourism colonisation imposes models and urban styles estranged from the environment and transforms the agrarian landscape and the traditional seats into mere terrain for building purposes.
This is just what happened in the area around the hamlet of Levanto, where pressure from the building industry above all in the 50's and 60's is at its greatest, while the settling system of the valley has managed to conserve its urban configuration.
Today even this phase has been surmounted: let's look at the history and future of Levanto with ideas and principles that recognize the economic value of its landscape, its historical-cultural territory, its historical identity.
Today we can't go without asking ourselves questions like this: what would Levanto be like without the constellation of its "fractions", that have maintained their physiognomy, without woods of olive trees and vineyards, without the Mesco and the Cinque Terre with hard labour have maintained their traditional landscape?
The Levanto community today moves in a direction with ideas that defend environmental and historical compatibility (because the environment is also and above all its history) in any intervention, that defends the endurance and quality of development.
But, in interpreting the levantese identity, we are all called upon, residents and tourists alike who utilize this territory, to return because we love it.
Because, looking closer, a territory's identity is always ambiguous and evolving. Both in the phases of past and present history we can always find at least two different readings and interpretations.
In being clearer we can lead these different readings to the work of two Levantese families of map-makers - Map-makers are the interpreters of the territory: the Scotto family that had worked between the 1500's and 1600's above all in the nautical and maritime cartography fields and the Vinzoni family which worked from the end of the 1600's and all of the 1700's.
The cartographers and engineers from the Scotto family worked on a European and Mediterranean scale: in one scale in which Levanto is a point on the map, it's only a harbour or landing. A scale in which any intervention becomes legitimate if it responds to the general logic of the Mediterranean maritime economy to the logic of the "Genoan century".
It's the logic with which Gioacchino da Passano moved as the tablet posted in the medieval Loggia attests, when with his billion donation thought to re-establish a big port in Levanto (after the silting up caused by agricultural development).
What would have been the development of Levanto and the Cinque Terre if this project had been realized? We could have found today in Levanto with an environmental and industrial context similar to that of Riva Trigoso or something similar to a small La Spezia with its Arsenal.
What was instead the local and territorial spirit that moved the other interpreters of the Levanto space: The Vinzoni's and above all Matteo Vinzoni, the greatest cartographer of the Genoan Republic?
His great lesson, to which we rejoice today, consisted in the capacity to operate at the service of the Republic, without ever sacrificing the rights of the local communities. His sensitivity allowed him to compose maps of an extremely diversified territory and they also managed to represent it better than the more successive abstract cartography.
The map of Levanto which Matteo Vinzoni drew in 1722 or the later one of the dominions, tells us a lot about our future, the possible future of Levanto. One can see its genetic impact very clearly: from the choice of the site leaning against the eastern side of the gulf and on top of the Cantarana, functioning, other than for defence reasons and environmental protection (above all with respect to the Ghiararo and its flooding and swamping), also in its natural tortuousness constituted then from the Pietra rock and from the same beach and previously from the outlet farther back than the Cantarano.
One singles out just as well the urban development in the modern age on the plain of Terraro and Ghiararo, still occupied by vegetable and flower gardens, villas that reflect the phase of Levanto's history in which its fame is not linked to a economical mercantile role, but rather to the refinement of its small administrative and cultural capital of the Riviera of Levanto. The tourist and cultural capital of the most interesting stretch of the "Riviera spezzina", between Deiva and Riomaggiore, without forgetting the inland and the valorisation of its landscape and historical-cultural heritage.