Sestri Levante is not a particularly well-known holiday resort outside the borders of Italy, but for many Italians this is a favorite destination. If Portofino and Cinque Terre are overcrowded with American tourists, you will hardly find anyone speaking English in Sestri Levante. If I had to choose, this is the unknown and somewhat secret 6th town of the Cinque Terre. At least as beautiful, but incredibly much more genuine. We stayed here one night between our visit to Portofino and Cinque Terre, in the hotel at the top of kullen in the old town – Hotel Vis à Vis.
It was not simply driving up to the hotel to check in. The slope up to the reception was so steep that it was barely possible to hold the car door open to get out of the car. The hotel had a tiny parking lot at the top kullen (10 euros/night), which we reached by driving past the reception. This was one of those times I was a little extra glad we rented a small car. We got one of the last spots, which luckily was one of the easier ones to park.
We checked in and were given a small tour of the hotel by the receptionist. At the top of the hotel was a lovely rooftop bar, overlooking the two bays of Sestri Levante. There was also an outdoor swimming pool here at the top, which also had views over the whole city. Had it not been stormy that day, I would have liked to lay there with a book in a sun lounger.
The hotel has an elevator that takes you from the top kullen, directly down to the old town's cozy little restaurants and shops. There was only one problem when we were here. The elevator was broken. If you wanted to get down to town, the apostle horses were simply the case. OK for us "youngsters", but it was probably not popular with the hotel's older guests.
We had booked a "triple room", which meant a double room with an extra room with a single bed. When the door to our room opened, I almost wondered if I would need to get wide angle glasses. This was not love at first sight. In fact, I think this was the tiniest little room we've ever had. It was so small that it was not possible to find a place to open the suitcase completely, but you had to put it a little on its side to access the contents. To go past the end of the bed, you had to go across. The decor looked to be from the 50s, but was reasonably fresh even if it felt incredibly outdated. The bed was rock hard (but it seems all beds are in Italy...). However, we had a fantastically lovely little balcony, with miles-long views. Always something 🙂
On the walls were old black and white photos from Sestri Levante and a small TV that was smaller than a computer screen. The door could not be locked (the lock knob had been removed), but in any case it was not possible to open the door from the outside without a key. In the small bedroom there was (apart from a narrow bed) a tiny safe and a wardrobe.
The bathroom felt newly renovated compared to the rest of the room, although the bathroom was also on the smallest side. The bathroom had a shower cubicle, toilet, bidet, sink and hairdryer. There was also a good range of hygiene products. A plus was that the hotel did not have beach slippers, but its own flip-flops.
Regardless of what I thought of the room, however, the common environments and service maintained a really good level. Then there was one more thing that actually pulled the rating up a notch. The view. This view! From both the rooftop bar, the pool and the breakfast restaurant, a downright magical view of the pastel-coloured houses, the beach, the castle and the sunset was offered. During the summer, the bar is an outdoor seating area, but during the cold months they have put on a plastic roof and plastic windows so that you can still sit outside. With such a rooftop bar, it was absolutely impossible to resist an apertif at the hotel before heading out for dinner.
We sat down by one of the few heaters in the rooftop bar, but we still needed to wear our jackets. The cold winds somehow managed to sneak in behind the plastic windows, but what did that do? The drinks were not too expensive and the hotel offered a generous snack tray with everything from chips to anchovies and strawberries. I can really imagine spending my evenings on this rooftop bar many more times, but then it should be a little warmer.
The following morning, breakfast was served in the restaurant, with at least as beautiful a view as the one we were offered at the rooftop bar. White tablecloths and the hotel's own china with a gold edge. Warm croissants, prosecco and a big bowl of strawberries. Wait staff in white shirts. Freshly frothed cappuccino. Here the hotel showed its true side. It felt like being in a bygone era of flair and luxury. It felt like the hotel would like to have this atmosphere everywhere, but that they have not been able to achieve the same feeling in the small rooms.
So what was the overall family rating?
Hotel Vis à Vis had both big pluses and big minuses. The downside was that the room was expensive, outdated and far too small for a family. Plus was the rooftop bar and the breakfast. If I were to go to Sestri Levante again, I would probably stay somewhere else, but definitely visit the rooftop bar again!
We paid approximately SEK 2000 for one night in a triple room with breakfast (April 2019).
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