Monterosso al Mare is the northernmost village of the Cinque Terre. With almost 2000 inhabitants, it is the largest village in the Cinque Terre. The place consists of two parts. There is the village center on a natural small gulf. And from there you reach the other part of the village through a tunnel. It is called the district of Fegina. It offers a wide sandy beach and boulevard. The Monterosso train station is on the seafront.
The atmosphere is typical of a coastal town, there is always hustle and bustle on the beach promenade. There are restaurants, bars, and hotels lined up. Ice cream shops and specialty shops invite you to stroll and consume. In the late afternoon, when the shadows are long and most of the daytime tourists are heading back to the train station, the village calms down. And after a few blinks of an eye, the place fills up with long term vacationers and locals looking for a place to take an aperitif.
The defense castle was built by the Obertenghi family, the feudal Lombards that ruled over all of the Cinque Terre. The castle was built to defend the village from the Saracens and was, over the centuries, remodeled by the Doria, Fieschi and Saporiti, all Genoese ruling families. Today very little remains of the original structure, only the tombs of ancestors built inside the bastions or underground. These are the sentinels of the burying ground protected by the apse of the church of Saint Christopher that acts today as the cemetery’s chapel. The area enclosed by ancient walls is used today as an urban cemetery. The Torre Aurora tower from the 16th century was also part of the defense ring.
Church San Giovanni Battista
The Church of San Giovanni Battista was built from 1282 to 1307. The layout of the church consists of three naves. The black and white marble striped façade is of a Ligurian/Pisan gothic style and is quite charming. The main portal is surmounted by a fresco portraying Saint John baptizing Christ. Worth mentioning is the elegant rose window, attributed to Matteo and Pietro Campiglio. Of great interest inside the church is a triptych portraying the Virgin and Child between two saints. This painting is unsigned but attributed to the school of Giotto. The square medieval bell tower is crowned with battlements and double Gothic style arches on each of the four sides. The bell tower was originally built in the Middle Ages as a watchtower.
Convent of the Cappucins
The convent of the Capuchin friars dates back to the 15th century. It is standing on the demarcation that separates the medieval hamlet from the modern Fegina village. To climb up to the convent, you need to find the staircase in front of Torre Aurora. Inside the convent’s chapel, which is dedicated to Saint Francis, you can see various wooden altars and the important painting of the crucifixion. It is attributed to the Flemish painter Anthony Van Dyck (1599-1641), who was a guest of the Spinola family in Genoa for several years.
Statue of the Giant
On a rock above the sea, you can see a bizarre cement sculpture of Neptun. It was envisioned in 1910 by French architect Francesco Levacher and created by sculptor Arrigo Minerbi in 1910. The giant Neptune is 14 m high and was meant to decorate Villa Pastine sitting on a shell-shaped terrace. Parts of the property were destroyed in the Second World War and Neptun was placed to sit where he is now. A bit out of place.
Sanctuary of Nostra Signora di Soviore
The pilgrimage church Nostra Signora di Soviore is located above Monterosso at 420 m above sea level. It is of Romanesque origin and dates back to the 7th to 13th centuries. The small church dates from 1300. The Sanctuary offers overnight accommodation, for larger groups. There is also a large restaurant as well as a bar for snacks and a convenience shop. In the sanctuary, you can get a good meal for a fair price.
History of Monterosso al Mare
The first settlement of Monterosso was probably founded by the Albareto on the hill and destroyed by the Longobards in the 7th century. The oldest district was founded in the 9th century below the Castello of Monterosso, in the valley of the Buranco stream. As a protection against the Saracens, watchtowers were erected along the coast in order to recognize the risk of pirate attacks in ample time. The remains of some towers can still be seen today. Monterosso al Mare was first mentioned in 1056.
Traditionally, the main source of income was fishing. In the 12th century, agricultural use began with the cultivation of wheat and wine and the cultivation of lemons. In addition to the Cinque Terre wine, the longer matured and therefore sweet dessert wine Sciacchetrà was produced. It is a specialty of the Cinque Terre.
Vacation in Monterosso
Thanks to the beautiful beach with crystal clear water, tourism began to develop early in Monterosso al Mare. Monterosso al Mare is not only a tourist magnet in the summer months. With its mild climate and clean fresh air Monterosso attracts visitors from near and far year-round. There are beautiful hikes starting from Monterosso and a well-developed infrastructure. It is easy to catch a train or ferry back if you went on a one-way hike or got caught by the weather. Off-season, the accommodations with a window or balcony to the sea are available while owners are back in Milan to make money. What a relaxing moment to sit there with a good glass of wine watching the sunset. The best restaurants offer a varied Mediterranean cuisine with fresh seafood. Enjoy!
Cinque Terre Hikes
The best hiking trails from Monterosso al Mare are
- from Monterosso to Vernazza (on the Cinque Terre hiking trail)
- from Monterosso al Mare to the chapel of San Antonio, Punta Mesco
- from Monterosso to the Sanctuary of Santuario Nostra Signora di Soviore
- the stepped path to the Cappuccins Convent
We are preparing now a few hiking tours for you to explore and book with us. We can provide licensed hiking guides that speak your language, organize picnics and meals along the route, accommodation, guided tastings for gourmets, cooking classes, and local transfers. Please contact us if you are interested.