Fragrance of lemon blossoms, the taste of salt-tainted breezes and the wash of persistent sea greet me when I descended to Monterosso al Mare, the northernmost village on the Cinque Terre.
This is the largest of the five villages and I find that what the local’s refer to as Old Town and New Town are not substantially different. As I walked through the tunnel which now links the two areas of town, the arc of a sandy beach stretches before me from the breakwater to the small peninsula which juts into the sea on the southern end of the village.
Unlike the other towns along this stretch of coastline, Monterosso is easily reached by car. From the A12 autostrada that connects Pisa with Genoa, and beyond, there are well-marked exits that will lead you to the largest of the villages on the coast.
Please read the “IF YOU GO” section below regarding driving to Monterosso as well as parking challenges near the village.
Historically, the story of Monterosso is not dissimilar to those of the other Cinque Terre Village. Genoa subjugated the residents along the stretch of sea for centuries.
Long on the Italian summer holiday list of popular places to get to the sea, the narrow streets and beaches are always busy in the ‘high season’.
It seemed appropriate that my articles about the Cinque Terre would end in town with two huge statues.
In 1910 the sculptor, Arrigo Minerbi of Ferrara created a nearly 45 foot tall statue of Neptune, complete with Trident and Nautilus. As a result of bombings during World War II, the “Gigante” was heavily damaged. Still, it stands at the southern limit of the beach, looking over the sea from whence he came.
In 1962, Silvio Monfrini, a sculptor who was born in Milan, created a large bronze statue of St. Francis petting a dog. The statue occupies a gorgeous terrace high above the village near the Conventi del Cappuccine. While the steep stairs may tax your muscles, the view from the terrace is breathtaking. Well worth the effort!
As I departed the village on my way north to Genoa, those two statues haunted me. Neptune, who no longer holds his Trident nor Nautilus, hunches armless over the cerulean blue Mediterranean. The five villages that cling to the shores of the Cinque Terre were for many decades falling in to disrepair, nearly forgotten save for the thousands of tourists who descended before and after the war.
Monfrini’s 20th Century work stands high above the village, an ever present reminder of the role of faith and church in the lives of the men and women who have, for centuries, survived on the richness of soil and sea.
The villagers have created bountiful lives through the gifts of faith, sea and soil. Statues may suffer, even disappear, yet the beauty of this precipitous coastline remains to be enjoyed and shared by visitors in years to come.
IF YOU GO:
Driving to Monterosso al Mare:
From the A12 Autostrada, heading either north of south, the exits for Monterosso al Mare are well marked. Follow the signs toward Levanto and, from there, to Monterosso. The road between the Autostrada and the village is treacherous and narrow, so I advise extreme caution especially if you are driving a large rental car or van. Parking in the village is challenging. There are a few public garages, most notable above the ‘new town” , where you enter the village.
Some hotels offer temporary parking for registration and/or departure. Do NOT park if you are not sure you are allowed to. The local police do ticket and, believe it or not, the tickets always catch up with you.
My first experience with Angelo and his lovely wife, Paula, a few years ago. Clients I was traveling with were just leaving the port on Angelo’s boat and Paula invited me up to her incredible hillside garden where, from time to time, she leads small group cooking classes. The roses, the oleander, the lemons all conspired to make me want to sit and never leave.
The tours are available through pre-booking on their web site – see below. For information on Paul’s cooking classes, you can contact her directly, via email, on email@example.com.
These are incredible journey’s along the coast and I highly recommend, as part of your visit to the Cinque Terre, to enjoy one of their unforgettable boat tours.
Hotels Monterosso al Mare
A brief word about the Hotel Porta Roca. This would be the splurge of your time on the coast – but the views from the sea-facing rooms, the level of service and the comfort are simply unmatched in any other hotel on the Cinque Terre. This is one gorgeous hotel!
Località Corone, 1 19016 Monterosso Al Mare
Province of La Spezia, Italy
Via Fegina, 4 19016 Monterosso Al Mare Province of La Spezia, Italy
Via Roma, 109 19016 Monterosso Al Mare Province of La Spezia, Italy
Restaurants Monterosso al Mare
Given the size of the village of Monterosso, your options are varied and numerous. These are only a few where the food and fair pricing have brought me back numerous times. Enjoy!
Via Fegina, 104 19016 Monterosso Al Mare Province of La Spezia, Italy
Ristorante L’Alta Marea (no Web Site)
Via Roma, 54 Monterosso al Mare, Province of La Spezia, Italy