11-12 May 2022
Learn from yesterday – Live for today – Hope for tomorrow
I depart Vernazza by train destined for my fifth and final official Cinque Terre village of Monterosso al Mare. At over 50 miles per hour, the train covers the 2-3 miles of tunnel in under 3 minutes.
Monterosso, Cinque Terre’s only resort town, comes with hotels rather than affittacamere or small private apartments, rentable beach space and umbrellas, automobiles, and a large and active train station with 3 busy tracks. There is what is referred to as new town where the train station is located and old town. This historic center, old town, is a series of streets, crooked little alleyways, restaurants and hole-in-the-wall shops, an active market day on Thursday, and where my Vernazza trek ended yesterday. And it is mostly flat!
Once my bags are deposited at my hotel and my charming host Gabrielle recommends restaurants, I set out for my morning cappuccino and plan my walk. The cappuccino takes about 40 minutes – the exploratory walk about an hour.
Monterosso consists of a large and long waterfront, an extensive sand beach, lots of beachside cafes, and the large Church of San Giovanni Battista whose wonderful carillon serenades the town. Built during the time of the Genoese maritime republic, the 14th-century church features a Gothic black & white facade and interior arches of black & white marble stripes, a rose window and unadorned interior.
Across the small plaza is the smaller but more ornate 16th century gothic structure of Oratorio Mortis et Orationis – Confraternita dei Neri or the Fraternity of Blacks. This religious group was responsible for the welfare of orphans, widows, victims of shipwrecks, and the burial of the destitute. Not sure what the black-robed spirits represent.
Monterosso is the only town of the Cinque Terre five with a large and developed beach. I walked to the end of the pier and decide I must at least dip my toes into the Ligurian Sea. It is cold. The water is a beautiful blue and aquamarine but not something I want washing over my body. Shoes and socks back on.
Above the port and beach are the ruins of an old Genoese fortification and the medieval tower of Aurora. Just below that is a World War Two cement bunker reached from the other side of the rock.
I missed stairs so I made the climb up to the Convent of the Capuchin Friars where there is a large statue of San Benedetto d’Assissi and his dog. The views across the harbor are worth the easy climb.
I follow the way of the broad Via Fegina toward the train station, which is located in the newer part of town. The beachfront is a long expanse of sand, restaurants, playgrounds and water activities. Though the train station is not located within old town, it’s tracks run directly through town so once again, wherever you stay, you will probably hear the trains wizzing through.
At the end of Via Fegina is the huge statue of the Gigante, built beside the terrace of a local villa. This 20th century statue is a late comer and represents Neptune, the god of the sea. It has supplanted Assisi and the dog as the modern symbol of Monterosso. Continuing the walk north I find several more private and very lush villas tucked back into the gardens and rocks of this area. It is in this direction that tomorrow’s hiking trail begins.
A sign at hotel reception: Learn from yesterday – Live for today – Hope for tomorrow.
Well, I learned yesterday I will need my boots for one more hike – today is beautiful and relaxing with a two Prosecco lunch and a reservation for dinner – and tomorrow I hike to Punta Mesco, hoping my boots hold together for three more miles.
In many ways, Monterosso al Mare is nirvana. The restaurants are wonderful, the crowds are on the beaches, and I can walk all day and never have to climb a stair if I so choose.
Tomorrow, I choose to challenge the stairs of Punta Mesco.