CINQUE TERRE — Monterosso al Mare

Monterosso al Mare is a town in the province of La Spezia in northern Italy. It is the most western of the five villages in Cinque Terre and the largest. The village is protected by hills covered with vineyard and olive groves. Monterosso has beautiful beaches, steep rugged cliffs and crystal clear waters. The town is divided into two parts — the old town and the new town that are separated by a single tunnel used by pedestrians and the few cars that are in the town.

The sights found here are:
Monterosso Vecchio
Church of St Francis
Monterosso Beach
The Giant
Church of San Giovanni Battista
The Oratory of the Confraternita dei Neri
The Oratory of the Confraternita dei Bianchi
The Sanctuary of Our Soviore in Monterosso
Boat Trips from Monterosso

Monterosso Vecchio

Monterosso Vecchio
Monterosso has a medieval historical centre which lies on the summit of the hill of San Cristoforo. You find the old town through the tunnel from the train station. The old town is made up of mainly pedestrian cobblestone streets with narrow crooked lanes lined with shops and restaurants and the brightly coloured tower houses that you find in the other towns of the Cinque Terre. The other part of Monterosso is the residential district which spreads along the beach of Fegina. During the 12th and 13th centuries there was an increase in population and families began to move down the hill to be closer to a water supply which was a stream that is no longer there. The part of the village, known as Monterosso Vecchio or Old Monterosso has remained practically intact. In Medieval times many fortifications were built in this village to protect it from pirate attacks. The remains of these can be found today in the old part of Monterosso and three of the 13 defence towers are still standing. Torre Aurora (Dawn Tower) separates the old part of the town from the new part and is found on a headland. The remains of the castle of Monterosso is found on the hill of San Cristoforo. The original castle was built by the Obertenghi family but was extended and widened over time. Today you can see the remains of the walls, three circular towers and a square tower and these are part of the cemetery of the Church of St Francis.

Church of St Francis

Church of St Francis
The abbey and the church of St Francis are found on the hill of San Cristoforo next to the ruins of the Castle of Monterosso. It was built in 1619 and over time it has had other uses than a church such as a hospital and then a warehouse. In 1894 Don Giuseppe Policardi, a clergyman of Monterosso, bought the building and restored it and he donated it to the Cappuccini monks. The interior consists of an aisle and wooden altars and has some beautiful works of art. There is a painting of the Crucifixion attributed to Van Dyck, as well as some works by Luca Cambiaso and Bernardo Castello. The ruins of the castle are found to the right of the church and are now part of its cemetery.

Traveller's Tip

Take some time after visiting the church to admire the stunning panorama that you get from here of the village below and the promontories that enclose the Cinque Terre.
Monterosso Beach

Monterosso Beach
Monterosso is the only one of the five towns that has a proper beach and it is a huge beach. If you want to sunbathe on the beach you can hire one of the many sun lounges and parasols as well as a small changing hut and a shower for a couple of euros. Be aware that this is a popular beach destination for many visitors so if you are visiting in the summer months you will find that the beach gets very crowded.

The Giant

The Giant
This huge sculpture is located at the end of the beach of Fegina built beside the terrace of the Villa Pastine. It was created in 1910 in cement and iron and was the work of the architect and sculptor, Arrigo Minerbi of Ferrara and an engineer, Levacher. The statue represents Neptune, the god of the sea. In 1966 rough sea weakened the giant and today it is missing both arms, the trident and a leg.

Church of San Giovanni Battista

Church of San Giovanni Battista
This church was built between 1244 and 1307 in the Ligurian Gothic style. It has a very striking facade of green and white marble stripes and at the top is a rose window most probably created by Matteo and Pietro da Campiglio. The bell tower was originally a medieval watchtower and it was built in 1276.

The Oratory of the Confraternita dei Neri

The Oratory of the Confraternita dei Neri
The Oratory of the Confraternita dei Neri (Black Men) is next to the Church of San Giovanni Battista. The Oratory dates back to the 16th century and was built in the Baroque style. It was built to house a statue of St Antonio Abate which originated from the former convent of St Antonio located in Punta Mesco.

The Oratory of the Confraternita dei Bianchi

The Oratory of the Confraternita dei Bianchi
The Oratory of the Confraternita dei Bianchi (White Men) is found to the right of the Church of San Giovanni Battista and a short distance away. It is named after the colour of the garments used during processions in the 16th century. Most villages had at least two Confraternita or Brotherhoods during this time of the Counter Reformation. The other one in Monterosso being the Oratory of the Confraternita dei Neri found a short distance from here.

The Sanctuary of Our Soviore in Monterosso

The Sanctuary of Our Soviore in Monterosso
To get to this church you will need to start from Via Roma and climb the hill behind the village which will take around 75 minutes. This is the oldest Marian sanctuary (Shrine to the Virgin Mary) in the Liguria region. It was built in 643 to house refugees from the village of Albareto. Some of the building that you see today dates from that time and the rest is a mixture of various renovations that have taken place resulting in Romanesque, Gothic and Baroque styles. Inside the church is a 15th century wooden statue representing a Pietá. A festival is held here each year on August 15 to celebrate the sanctuary.

Boat Trips from  Monterosso

Boat Trips from Monterosso
One of the best ways to see the towns of the Cinque Terre is to take a ferry trip to the four villages with access to the water. Leaving from Monterosso you can visit Vernazza, Manarola and Riomaggiore. This is a great thing to do when you first get to the Cinque Terre so you can get an overall view of the different villages. The only village that isn’t accessible by water is Corniglia which is located at the top of a hill. You can also board the boat from the other villages. The ferry runs from Easter through October or later if the weather is warm and dry. Schedules are posted at various points around the villages and information can be obtained at the information offices located near the train stations in each of the villages of the Cinque Terre.
For more information about the ferry including fares and a timetable visit the website at: http://www.navigazionegolfodeipoeti.it/home.asp?lang=eng