Walking through Monterosso al Mare, Italy it’s hard not to feel like a local. Between the heavenly food, pleasing sights and genuine townspeople, the Ligurian way of life is easy to settle into.
Monterosso is one of the five villages of Cinque Terre, or “five lands,” a series of towns along the Italian Riviera in the region of Liguria. The other villages include Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore. Each colorful town has a charm of its own, and it’s easy to visit them all by train or boat.
The village of Monterosso is split into two sections, the old town and the new town, which are connected by a pedestrian tunnel. The old town is the historic center, while the new section is more of a resort area. Plus, with a population of only around 1,400 people, Monterosso is a small town that’s easy to get around.
Here’s your travel guide for what to do in Monterosso al Mare, Italy.
Explore the Village
For a relaxing daytime activity, just hit the beach. The beach in the old town area is rocky and can get crowded, but it’s suitable for an afternoon visit and is free to use.
If you’re planning to spend the whole day at the beach and want to splurge a bit, it’s probably better to head over to the new town. The new town has several resorts and areas of private beach with lounge chairs and umbrellas. These areas do have fees if you want to use them, and prices will vary. (This may not be the case if you’re staying at one of these resorts, though.)
Statua del Gigante
Other sights in town include a sculpture of Neptune, or the Statua del Gigante, upon the rocks at the far end of Fegina beach in the new town.
The statue was originally created in 1910 by sculptor Arrigo Minerbi and decorated the Villa Pastine. However, the statue suffered extensive damage as a result of bombings during World War II and weathering from the ocean. Today, the concrete sculpture of Neptune is a local landmark perched at the edge of town.
Church of St John Baptist
Another local sight is the Church of St John Baptist, or Chiesa di San Giovanni Battista, located in the old town near Piazza Don Giovanni Minzoni.
This unique church was built in the 14th century and features a black and white striped marble facade. The inside is impressive as well, where the black and white marble theme carries through.
The church is located at Via Roma, 19016 Monterosso al Mare SP, Italy.
Shop and Explore
The town of Monterosso is also full of quaint shops to peruse. Spend some time wandering on foot and checking out the offerings. Make sure to stock up on some local goods, like jars of pesto and bottles of limoncello!
Perhaps, most important of all, simply meander through the town. Take your time roaming the streets and seeing what you find. Pop into a shop, stop at a sidewalk cafe for a glass of wine, and enjoy the atmosphere.
And finally, there are the four other villages of the Cinque Terre to explore as well!
Hike the Trail Connecting the Towns of Cinque Terre
While visiting Monterosso, take a hike along the trail that connects the five villages of Cinque Terre. Begin the hike in Riomaggiore.
Transportation from Monterosso to Riomaggiore
It’s easy to get from Monterosso to Riomaggiore either by boat or by train.
You can catch a boat from the pier in the old town in Monterosso and you can purchase tickets at the docks the day you will use them. A boat ticket from Monterosso to Riomaggiore currently costs 13 euros (for one way without stops), while children up to six years old can ride for free. There are also unlimited tickets for the day, which are 27 euros for Cinque Terre only, or 35 euros for Cinque Terre, Portovenere, and La Spezia. (Prices may vary.)
The train station is located between the old and new town (more on that below) and connects all five villages, so you can easily skip some sections of the hike if you’d like.
Ticket for the Hike
You’ll also need a ticket for the hike. You can purchase a Cinque Terre Card, which includes your train ticket and ticket for the hike, as well as bus services and entry to some museums.
Ticket prices vary depending on age and if any of the trail is closed, but it’s usually around 5 to 8 euros per day. You can buy the Cinque Terre Card at any of the train stations in the five villages or online. (Prices may change.)
The hike from Riomaggiore to Manarola is an easy, 30-minute walk along a paved trail known as the Via dell’Amore.
The other sections are more difficult, but worth the experience for those up to the challenge. Additionally, some sections of the trail may be closed, depending on recent weather.
The hike is a great way to see some of the other villages of Cinque Terre—and burn off some of that pesto and limoncello.
Where to Eat in Monterosso al Mare
While delicious food can be found throughout all of Italy, Monterosso boasts some incredible local dishes.
The Liguria region of northern Italy is known for a variety of culinary delights, combining a blend of elements such as lemons, pesto, and seafood. Many restaurants in Monterosso feature dishes spotlighting the local flavors, particularly fresh fish.
Take a seat on the patio of Ristorante Moretto, or Moretto Lady, for some great seafood pasta. The eatery is located in Piazza Cristoforo Colombo not far from the beach in old town. The tagliatelle with swordfish is light and flavorful. This homemade pasta dish is topped with olive oil, basil and olives (also specialties of the region), and make the perfect compliment for the freshly caught fish.
Ristorante Moretto is located at Piazza Cristoforo Colombo, 3, 19016 Monterosso al Mare SP, Italy.
Ristorante Al Pozzo
For a taste of the local pesto, visit Ristorante Al Pozzo, located along the main road in old town. The regional sauce is prepared with a mortar and pestle, and uses locally grown basil, olive oil and pine nuts. The result is a sauce that’s surprisingly light, yet loaded with taste. Try Al Pozzo’s trofie with pesto paired with a glass of local wine.
Ristorante Al Pozzo is located at Via Roma, 26, 19016 Monterosso al Mare SP, Italy.
…Don’t Forget the Limoncello!
Finally, sampling some limoncello is a must. Limoncello is an Italian lemon liqueur that is sweet in flavor, but still packs a punch. Limoncello is a digestif, making it the perfect way to end a meal.
Where to Stay in Monterosso
When choosing where to stay in Monterosso, you’ll first have to decide between the old town or the new town.
The new town is more tourist-focused and the area is primarily filled with hotels and restaurants. The old town has its share of hotels and restaurants as well, but it’s also home to churches, libraries, supermarkets, and the everyday necessities of local life.
Choose to stay in the old town for a more relaxed, authentic experience in Monterosso. Stay at a homey bed and breakfast to really get a more local feel.
Say at Il Giardino Incantato for a healthy dose of Italian hospitality.
The bed and breakfast features four comfortable rooms and an immaculate hidden garden. The traditional Liguarian building has been in the hosts’ family for hundreds of years. It was constructed in the 16th century and has been recently restored.
A generous breakfast is served every morning in the garden, and each room has a complimentary mini bar. No matter where you’ve traveled from, the hosts make this quintessential Italian abode feel like home.
How to Get to Monterosso al Mare
To get to Monterosso al Mare, you can drive, take the train, or hop on a boat.
There is a train station in Monterosso is located at right off the beach between the old town and the new town, but a bit closer to the new town. The station is served by Trenitalia trains. The address is 19016 Monterosso al Mare, SP, Italy.
The most frequent direct trains to Monterosso are from La Spezia Centrale station in La Spezia. There are also some direct trans from Pisa Centrale in Pisa. Depending on where you’re coming from, you will likely have to first get to one of these stations and then switch trains.
Tickets from La Spezia to Monterosso are around 4 euros and the trip is only about 20 minutes. Tickets from Pisa to Monterosso are around 12 euros and the journey takes about an hour. (Though prices may vary.) You can buy tickets online or at the station.
Keep in mind that the smaller stations can get crowded, so it’s probably best to buy your ticket online ahead of time.
I visited Monterosso during a road trip through Italy, so I reached the town by car. Driving to Monterosso requires navigating small, winding, often rough stretches of road.
The road that leads to Monterosso is Strada Provinciale 38. The highway comes to an end at the top of the old town, where there’s a parking lot next to the tourist information center (Cinque Terre Tourist Consortium).
You can’t drive in Monterosso, so you’ll leave your car in this parking lot for the duration of your stay. You won’t need it anyway — Monterosso is small enough to walk everywhere, and you can just hop on a train to get to the other towns in Cinque Terre.
If you’re an experienced road tripper and want to visit Monterosso as part of a longer trip, then you’ll be fine driving. If not, though, it’s better to take the train.
Finally, you could also take a boat to Monterosso.
The same public ferry service that connects the five villages of Cinque Terre also runs from La Spezia. The ferry from La Spezia to Monterosso currently costs between 20 and 30 euros one way, depending on how many stops the boat will make.
There are also private boat rentals and tours as well. However, boat service is generally only available during the warmer months, the ferries get very crowded, and services may be suspended due to weather.
Traveling by boat is a wonderful way to see the coastline, but it might not be the most convenient way to get to town.
When I visited Monterosso, the town had recently experienced a devastating landslide. After the disaster, the townspeople came together to rebuild their home. Pictures and signs of the destruction hung everywhere. Shopkeepers stopped you to tell their stories of what they’d been through.
The small community’s hospitality and gratitude toward tourists who came to visit their city and support their businesses was palpable, making it a particularly unique place. In more recent years as Cinque Terre has become a more popular destination and increasingly crowded with tourists, the town’s mood may have changed.
Nonetheless, the kindness of the locals, along with the beautiful scenery and delicious food make Monterosso a wonderful destination. Plus, visiting this town is a great way to explore all the charming villages of Cinque Terre. Cin cin!
A version of this article has appeared in The Malibu Times newspaper: http://www.malibutimes.com/malibu_life/article_6387849a-7eb4-54f4-b24e-08141fa5dccd.html