The largest town of the Cinque Terre, Monterosso al Mare (often called simply Monterosso), is alternatively called the liveliest and the least charming of the five famous villages. It's the northernmost town in the chain, making it a logical base for visitors arriving from the north and set to explore the Cinque Terre. The town is divided into two parts—the old town and the new town, also called Fegina. These two halves are connected by a tunnel used by pedestrians and the few cars that enter and exit the town.
The oldest parts of Monterosso likely date to the 11th century. The ruins of a medieval fortress, including three former watchtowers built to spot invading pirates, still stand in the old town, or Borgo Antico. The new area, Fegina, dates from the late 19th and into the 20th century when the train line arrived in the Cinque Terre and brought these sleepy villages into the modern world. Today, apart from serving as a gateway to the Cinque Terre, Monterosso al Mare is known for having the only sandy beach in the area.
What to Do in Monterosso al Mare
With 1,500 full-time residents, Monterosso is the largest and busiest of the Cinque Terre towns. From spring to early fall, visitors will find Monterosso crowded with tourists, either day-trippers or those set on a more extended exploration of the Cinque Terre. Monterosso's long stretch of sandy beach is a draw for tourists and locals alike, and the bustling seafront area has more of a beach resort feel than the other CiInque Terre towns.
Here are a few things you shouldn't miss while visiting Monterosso al Mare:
Monterosso Beach: Monterosso's long stretch of beach is also the only sandy beach in the Cinque Terre. It's protected by a natural harbor and an artificial reef, making it safe and calm for swimming and snorkeling. There are free areas (spiaggi liberi) as well as stabilimenti, where you can reserve a beach chair and umbrella for the day.
Monterosso Giant: Near the beach at Fegina, the Monterosso Giant—a 46-foot tall statue of Neptune, looks like it's been there for centuries. But the figure, now partially ruined after World War II bombardments and storm damage, has only been in place since the 1900s.
Capuchin Convent: In a 17th-century building, the Capuchin Convent and Church of San Francesco sit on a bluff overlooking the town and sea. Highlights include a tender statue of St. Francis of Assisi and a dog, and a crucifixion painting attributed to Dutch artist Anthony Van Dyck.
Borgo Antico: Take some time to walk around the Borgo Antico, Monterosso's old town. Highlights include the 13th-14th century Church of St. John the Baptist (Giovanni Battista), a medieval bell tower, and the tiny, ornate interior of the Oratorio dei Neri.
Cemetery and old town walls: If you make the climb up to Monterosso's town cemetery, you'll be rewarded not only with sweeping views, but also the traces of the oldest part of the first settlement in the area—in the form of crumbling walls that date to the 7th century.
What to Eat and Drink in Monterosso al Mare
You'll find fish and seafood are the stars of most menus in Monterosso, as they are in the rest of the Cinque Terre. While dining out in the Cinque Terre is often a pricey option, you'll find more casual, affordable places to eat in Monterosso, especially along Via Fegina. This beachfront lane connects the new town to the Borgo Antico. Here are a few items you'll want to try in Monterosso:
- Anchovies are famous all over the Cinque Terre, but no place more than Monterosso, where they're the local specialty. Served deep fried or salt-cured, they're also celebrated in two annual food festivals—one in June and one in September. Try them on pasta, as an appetizer, or as street food.
- Lemons are everywhere in the Cinque Terre, as you'll notice if you hike past the fragrant, blossoming trees in the springtime. Try them in limoncello and lemon desserts, and, if you're visiting in late May, celebrate them at Monterosso's annual Lemon Festival.
- Cinque Terre DOC white wine comes from the terraced vineyards that cover the coastal uplands behind the Cinque Terre towns. Try these dry whites, or the local dessert wine, Sciacchetrá.
Where to Stay in Monterosso al Mare
Accommodations in Monterosso are divided between the old and new towns. They are a mix of simple hotels, ranging from two- to four-stars, and B&Bs, as well as Airbnb-type rentals—often listed as affitacamere (rooms for rent). There are no real luxury properties in the town, though many hotels and apartments are surprisingly modern. Don't expect amenities like swimming pools or fitness centers—most hotels won't offer much more than a restaurant or bar, and maybe a great view.
If you plan to stay in a vacation rental home or apartment, do your due diligence by looking at all the photos online and making sure of cancellation policies. If you're visiting in the summertime and want to stay cool, confirm that there's air conditioning.
How to Get to Monterosso al Mare
Monterosso has its own train station and can be reached from either La Spezia or Levanto. From La Spezia, take the local train (treno regionale) in the direction of Sestri Levante and get off at the Monterosso stop. From Levanto, take the regional train in the direction of La Spezia Centrale. Trains run every 20 minutes from Levanto, and the ride to Monterosso—the first stop—is just 4 minutes.
If you're planning to hike a train-hop during your stay in the Cinque Terre, purchase the Cinque Terre Card Train (Treno), which includes the use of the ecological park buses, access to all trekking paths and Wi-Fi connection, plus unlimited train travel on the Levanto–Cinque Terre–La Spezia line (regional, second-class trains only).
Monterosso is closed to outside car traffic but does offer more parking areas than most other Cinque Terre villages. But those lots can fill up quickly in high season, and you don't want to spend your precious vacation time circling for a parking space. We recommend leaving your car in Levanto and taking the train to Monterosso al Mare to begin your exploration of the area.
During peak summer season, the Consorzio Marittimo Turistico runs boats from La Spezia to four of the five Cinque Terre towns, including Monterosso.
The nearest airports are Genoa's Cristoforo Colombo (GOA), Pisa's Galileo Galilei (PSA), and Florence's Amerigo Vespucci Airport (FLR). The closest and largest international airport is Malpensa International (MXP), located in Milan.