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 makes up one of the five villages of Cinque Terre, 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. For a more relaxed, authentic experience, opt to spend more time in the old town.
Here’s your travel guide for what to do with a few days in Monterosso al Mare, Cinque Terre, Italy.
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.
For some of the best seafood pasta in town, take a seat on the patio of Ristorante Il Moretto, located in the piazza near the beach. The tagliatelle with swordfish is light and flavorful; the homemade pasta is topped with olive oil, basil and olives (also specialties of the region), and make the perfect compliment for the freshly caught fish.
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.
Finally, with lemons as a local staple, sipping on some limoncello is a must. Limoncello is an Italian liqueur that is sweet in flavor, but still packs a punch. As a digestif, it’s a perfect way to end a meal.
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. If you’re planning to spend the whole day at the beach, it’s probably better to head over to the new town, which has areas of private beach and lounge chairs visitors can use for a fee.
Other sights in town include a sculpture of Neptune carved into a rock at the far end of the new town and the Church of St John Baptist, among others. The town is also full of quaint shops to peruse.
And, of course, there are the four other villages of the Cinque Terre to explore.
Hike the Trail Connecting Cinque Terre’s Towns
While visiting Monterosso, take a hike along the trail that connects the five villages of Cinque Terre, beginning in Riomaggiore. It’s an easy boat trip from Monterosso, and once in Riomaggiore, a single ticket can be purchased for both the hike and the train, making it easy to skip sections of the hike if desired.
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. The hike is a great way to see all five villages of Cinque Terre—and burn off some of that pesto and limoncello.
Stay at a Homey B and B
For a healthy dose of Italian hospitality, stay at Il Giardino Incantato. The bed and breakfast, which is run by hosts Fausto and Mariapia, features four comfortable rooms and an immaculate hidden garden. The traditional Liguarian building has been in Mariapia’s 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.
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 and shopkeepers would tell you 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, I’m not sure whether this welcoming mood has persisted.
Nonetheless, the kindness of the locals, along with the beautiful scenery and delicious food make Monterosso a wonderful destination. Cin cin!
Read more travel guides for Italy here.
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