13 things to do in Monterosso al Mare, Italy

Monterosso al Mare

Monterosso al Mare is one of the five places that make up the famous Cinque Terre Natural Park. It is hardly a city, but Monterosso is extremely popular among tourists. Why?

The main aspects of organizing independent trips to Monterosso al-Mare. The city description provided here contains not only general information about Monterosso-al-Mare, but also practical tips on how to prepare for your trip.

Monterosso al Mare is one of the five places (lands) that make up the famous Cinque Terre Nature Park. It’s an uphill battle to call it a town, but the place is incredibly popular with tourists. What is so beautiful about this corner of Italy, and how to get here by yourself? Well, let’s talk about it.

How to get to Monterosso al Mare

To get to Cinque Terre in general and to Monterosso al Mare in particular, there are different ways. The most obvious options are to go via Genoa or Pisa, where you can even fly directly from Russia if you want, because both cities have their own international airports (read more about air links with Italy here). It is quite reasonable to focus on rail transport (see www.trenitalia.com): the way from Genoa to Monterosso takes about an hour, from Pisa a little further – about an hour and a half. It is also easy to get to Monterosso al Mare from Milan: there are direct Intercity trains that stop directly at Monterosso station and take about three hours.

Where to stay in Monterosso al Mare

Read in detail about the modern arrangement of Monterosso-al-Mare and the best place to stay for a tourist in the corresponding article. Here we will confine ourselves to a few remarks.

First of all, it is worth noting that Monterosso may well be considered not only as a destination for a day trip, but also as a beach resort. From this point of view, the hotels located in the new part of Monterosso (called Fedgina) look preferable: for example, Hotel La Spiaggia (a few steps from both the railway station and the beach) or Hotel Villa Adriana (a little away from the noise and crowds, plus its own parking lot, which is very convenient for those traveling by car). At the same time, there are also beaches in the historic part of Monterosso. In addition, the old town looks much more colorful than Fregina and from here it is more convenient to go to conquer the Azure Trail. Hotels worth considering in this area are the Hotel Porto Roca (a bit away from the noise and at the beginning of the Azure Path) or the Hotel Margherita (in the heart of Monterosso). If the beach component of rest in Monterosso you are not strongly interested, it is worth giving preference to the old town, especially since the railway station is not so far – about 15-20 minutes on foot. There is a paid parking nearby – here is a link on Google Maps.

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How to get around Monterosso al Mare

It is possible and necessary to move around Monterosso on foot. First, there are no other ways to get around the Old Town (the terrain here is difficult, there are many stairs and it’s not easy to climb them). And secondly, this is exactly why it’s worth coming here. Cinque Terre is the place where you have to walk a lot, otherwise you will not see anything. There are many hiking trails around Monterosso. The most popular is the aforementioned Azure Trail (Sentiero Azzuro). But there are others, no less scenic.

What to see in Monterosso al Mare

It would seem that there is almost nothing to see in Monterosso. Apart from all the towns and villages in Liguria the architecture is rather indistinguishable and there are no museums with priceless works of art (apart from the Crucifixion, an unfinished painting attributed to Van Dijk, which can be seen in the Church of St. Francis in the Capuchin monastery). But this does not detract from the virtues of Monterosso, which is its main attraction. The town is small. To go around it up and down is quite realistic for half a day or two. And so one should take Monterosso as a whole – together with beaches, churches, Capuchin monastery, Van Dijk (genuine or not), olive groves, vineyards and everything else, including, of course, sea, sun and mesmerizing views of the surroundings.

Where to go from Monterosso al Mare

In the case of Monterosso, the question to start with is not “Where to go?” but “Where to go?” Cinque Terre is predisposed to long walks and Monterosso is no exception. For example, you can take the Azure Trail to the nearby Vernazza. It takes about two or three hours to get there one way (almost 4 km). The route is not difficult and does not require any special preparation. However, take into account that in some places you will have to overcome fairly steep climbs. In a word, you should not count on an easy walk. In addition, the entrance to the Azure trail is not free of charge. However, all the expenses (both physical and financial) are fully compensated by the incredible views that open on the way. There are other trekking routes in the vicinity of Monterosso. You can find more information about them on the official website of Cinque Terre National Park (see here). After all, Monterosso itself also has plenty of places to walk. At the very least, it’s worth climbing the hill of St. Christopher, where the Capuchin monastery mentioned above is located.

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Musicians at the Monterosso Music Festival

Asians, as it turned out, have a particular weakness for these tourist spots. Vacationers with narrow eyes are numerous here, and not only the Chinese. But the Europeans are also quite a lot of tourists. The Russian speech is heard in Cinque Terre all the time and in the most unexpected places, from which we can conclude with confidence that the Ligurian coast advert works well all over the world. I myself also “bought” that after a week of Internet searches: “where to go on vacation” and “the best beaches in Italy,” I received from a dozen travel portals answer that Monterosso is “the best beaches in Italy Cinque Terre”. And the pictures on the Internet are a sight to behold. Well, let’s go, let’s see, let’s check…

Alex Couture in Monterosso al Mare

As it turns out, the best beach in Monterosso is considered the best not because it is so good, but because the other beaches of the national park are even worse, or rather, almost non-existent. As a reminder, 4 of the 5 villages are located on the cliffs. And what do you think the beaches are like there? If you have small children, the beaches of Cinque Terre is better to forget in general: a decent depth starts with a precipice in a meter from the shore. Those who do not like the company of jellyfish should not visit the beaches in August-September either. If jellyfish and the almost total absence of free beaches do not embarrass you, the water in Monterosso is warm and clear enough, to swim with a snorkel in the depths – a pleasure. If you dive on the shore in front of the local train station, you may be unpleasantly shocked by the train arriving on the platform: the creaking iron wheels, when you are underwater, so clear and strong that disorienting. It’s a very strange feeling, I must admit. You are diving with a mask, you are floating underwater and all of a sudden you distinctly hear: the train brakes under the gnashing of teeth. This grinding of the wheels, must be reminiscent of the mating cry of the Blue whale, which suddenly decided next to you to give his amorous pleasures.

Mysteries hidden in architecture

A street in the old town of Monterosso-al-Mare

You dive out with horror, look around and realize that this is not the train docks, like a ship, on the local pier, and just the sound underwater spreads very far, and the railway station, unfortunately, is too close. If you are not too lazy and go to the south part of Monterosso to the beach, you will not hear squealing brakes under water there. It is unpleasant, of course, that on the southern beach during the day boats of local passenger transportation are constantly snooping, and the water does not become cleaner from them and smells of diesel. But at night in silence you can swim here quite quietly. The best bit of beach you can find is on the northern end of Monterosso where a giant stone bends under the weight of a cobble that imitates a shell or a bridge. It’s the best beach in Chiqué Terre, but it’s a small one. If you are “lucky” to swim at the other “beaches” of this national park, you will understand what I mean.

Statue of a giant on the beach in Monterosso

The traditional dish in the North of Italy is pasta, i.e. pasta. So to find a place that serves just pizza, you will have to run around. Often you can find such “Pizzeria”, where they just heat semi-finished products, which, you must admit, is a mauvais ton, and in Italy even a crime. Once at “La Taverna” they brought me a huge slice of bread very richly covered with olive oil and presented this “dish” as a pizza. The taste of this “culinary masterpiece” of local skilled chefs was the same as the view, that is completely obscene. I’d rather have just bread and butter at home, it would obviously be cheaper, but it tastes the same. And without the 5 € of the ubiquitous northern Italian “coperto”, about which I have already written in an article about the mentality of the northerners.

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Beach with a giant statue in Monterosso

Where pizza is really good in Monterosso, there are so many people that you have to queue for a table a couple of hours before the restaurant opens. I saw such a pizzeria, Pizzeria la Smorfia. The sight, I’ll tell you, is most curious: all around there are empty restaurants offering dozens of different kinds of pasta, and among them there is one pizzeria, and it is the only one that is packed with people. And on the street are benches on which very patient tourists are waiting for a table at the pizzeria. And the prices for pizza served there, I must say, are not the cheapest. In any case, more expensive than pasta in the empty diners nearby. But people are patiently waiting. For many tourists go to Italy to taste delicious pizza. And pour the “spaghetti” sauce “bolognese” and put this culinary “miracle” on the plate, everyone can do it themselves at home. After some searching, I still found a good restaurant in Monterosso called “Mistral”, unattractive in appearance, but with a good chef, where they bake decent pizza on fire and make tiramisu “homemade”. And there are always free tables available. But very hungry people shouldn’t come here, as the service is very slow (as, in principle, everywhere else in Liguria). To wait for your pizza, you need to be patient. Well, and meditate, or …

Monterosso countryside

In general, pizza in the Italian resort of Cinque Terre is a scarce product. It sounds crazy, but it’s true. So if you know how to make a little more or less edible pizza and decided to open a pizzeria, you’re here. Get rid of customers will not be. Yes, and worthy competitors very few. By the way, from Monterosso you can get on the mountain road to Vernazza or even to Corniglia. You know, the kind of mountain goat trail that winds up and down, up and down over the sea shore. Such hiking trails are usually found on any hilly seashore. True, the Ligurians have their own know-how: when you have already moved away quite a bit from the starting point and are sweating from physical exertion, the road blocks the wooden box. It’s a cash register. If you want to continue on your way, you’ll have to pay 7.50 euros per person. (The price is for 2015. It’s probably more expensive now.) What for? Maybe you can get a ride in the car, or the cable cars to ease your way. No, you’ll continue to stomp your own feet along the tedious dizzying route. It’s just that the area has been declared a Chinwe Terre National Park, so you’ll have to pay to get in. True, taking the train from Monterosso to Vernazza, Corniglia, and even Riomaggiore is cheaper, but that’s the beauty of national Italian entrepreneurship.

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View of the train station in Monterosso

Another peculiarity of Monterosso is that on the hilly slopes the locals are very fond of raising all sorts of animals: chickens, for example. It is impossible to express in words and expressions all those feelings that overflow, being daily awakened at 4 a.m. by cockerel’s gushing cry. Such singing songs continue until 7 o’clock, or even later. And you lie in bed and your brain continuously generates new and more sophisticated methods of shutting the roosters’ throats. Mountainous terrain, great echo… I’m sure that with the roosters wake up good half of the village, and dreaming to sleep on vacation tourists included. On that cheerful musical note, I think I will conclude my brief tour of the peculiarities of Monterosso. And another time I will tell you about the village of Riomaggiore, which I affectionately called “the destroyer of menisci”…

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