For a Cinque Terre getaway, we recommend you stay in Monterosso – the north western most of the 5 lands, Cinque Terre, in the Italian Riviera -which is more rustic but every bit as beautiful as the French Riviera of St Tropez, Nice and Monte Carlo ~ Monaco. We visited during the may Lemon Fest, the entire town turned out to celebrate their prized fruit, food displays by day and dancing by the foutnain till late were a zesty tribute to their bright yellow citrus.
Beachfront hotels and apartments in Monterosso are convenient to everything, but they vary greatly given the age and history of this village. The old town of Monterosso is more charming than the new beach town, but they are connected by a pedestrian tunnel or a longer but scenic oceanfront path.
In Monterosso, walk the boulevard that links the beaches in the “new town” all the way to the Gigante stone structure. Rent a beach chair at the Spiaggia (and get free wifi) if you want a relaxing day sunning and looking out to sea, after hiking up to the scenic cemetery and Friars Church.
Best places to dine in Monterosso
Enoteca Eliseo is the place for a cocktail or vino and people watching before dinner. A tasty plate of peanuts, olives and huge capers accompany your drinks.
Ciak in the old town has three dining spots – all serving deliciously fresh seafood from open kitchens. Our clam and mussels spaghetti to share was served in a heaping clay crock – fantastic with the local wine!
L’Ancora della Tortuga is picture perfect, perched on a cliff between the old and new Monterosso with beautiful beach and sea views. It’s incredibly romantic. They even light candles in the World War pill box on the cliff below. Italians – that’s amore!
Ristorante Il Pozzo in Monterosso serves the best Gnocchi con Gamberini – a pink pasta sauce with shrimp, and delicious seafood risotto.
For lunch on the beach, Bar Gio has oceanfront tables and great pesto trophie (a potato based pasta) dish.
Fast Bar is great late. Two amiable bartenders pump music and mix drinks in this little club in Monterosso village.
From Monterosso, you can hike to the other four Cinque Terre villages, Vernazza, Corneglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore, ride the train, or take a ferry boat that stops at each. The hiking in Cinque Terre is surprisingly aggressive – through the high hillsides and terraced olive groves. We opted for the scenic relaxing boat – $20 Euro (more on weekends) for all the on-and-off stops you can manage in a day.
In Riomaggiore, stroll the Via Colombo to see the shops, sample local squid and sardines/anchovies lightly battered and served in paper cones. Then walk the Via dell’Amore – a path connecting Riomaggiore to the next town Manarola, this oceanfront walkway has a romantic history linking the two towns, lovers’ locks line the boardwalk. This Lovers Lane was closed during our visit, Cinque Terre is plagued with flooding and erosion due to the rough hilly terrain, so check ahead with Cinque Terre Park Service.
In Manarola climb up to the cemetery, fascinating to see how these humble hardworking Italians pay homage to their dearly departed – with ocean views. In town, see how the industrious fisherman hoist their boats out of the water. Sample the local DOC vino bianco and the Sciacchetrà Manarola – a strong dessert wine best enjoyed with biscotti.
Vernazza is the next seaside town heading north west with a beautiful protected harbor. Here you can stroll the cobblestone streets, visit the castle and church, and just imagine this picturesque village flooded in mud in 2011. They have recovered thanks too much hard work, Savor a super scenic lunch at the castle – Ristorante Belforte high above Vernazza’s bay. Order the antipasti di mare – a seafood plate picked fresh from the sea, before getting on the boat back to Monterosso.
Cinque Terre is easily reached by car or Italian trains from Pisa, Bologne, Florence, La Spezia and Genoa. We recommend three days to explore the five towns with a full itinerary, a great addition to your itinerary with visits to Italian cities like nearby Siena, Florence, Milano, Rome or Venice.
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