To be honest, for me Monterosso is the least exciting of the five villages. It is a bit more like an "average" summer resort with its long beach and several hotels. Of course it doesn't mean it is not absolutely stunning, and it surely has some great advantages over the other towns. First of all, if you are an elderly person, if you have mobility issues or travelling with kids, this will be the most comfortable village for you: there are less stairs, most of the area is flat and it is easier to get to the parking or the railway station. You'll also love Monterosso if you simply don't enjoy uphill walks or long staircases. You can also walk around with a wheelchair or a baby stroller.
This village awaits tourists with a nice long beach, deck-chairs, umbrellas and dressing cabins. The biggest part of the beach is private and of course you have to pay for the services, but there are some free public beaches as well: in front of the railway station, under the statue of the Giant and at the end of the beach towards Vernazza, near the historical center. I personally prefer the small rocky bays in Manarola or Corniglia, but if you are looking for a real beach in the Cinque Terre, this is the place for you. It's also the best location for small children to enjoy the sea, or even for adults who are not confident swimmers. The large rock of Monterosso and the green and orange striped parasols are certainly insta famous. Overall, it's one of the most popular beaches of the Italian Riviera.
The promenade is very nice with oleanders, bougainvilleas, palm trees, aperitivo bars and gelato vendors. Locals bike around, which would be impossible in the other villages. In 2006, Forbes Traveler listed Monterosso among the 25 sexiest beaches of the world, along with Hawaii, Mexico and the Maldives. This award goes not only to the beach of Monterosso but to the entire beauty of the Cinque Terre National Park and the five unique villages.
The history of Monterosso dates back to 643 when the people living in the hills moved down to the sea, hiding from barbarian tribes. The village is named Monterosso because the ruling family used to have red hair. "Monte dei rossi" means "Mountain of the ginger-haired".
The historical center of Monterosso has a really nice atmosphere with narrow medieval streets, pastel-coloured houses and artisan shops. The main square - Piazza Garibaldi - hosts the town hall and the statue of Garibaldi. If you walk a bit further towards Vernazza, you will see old men playing bocce, a traditional game with balls.
The old town and the new, modern area (Fegina) are separated by the San Cristoforo hill and are connected by a pedestrian tunnel. For a nicer experience walk along the sea, avoiding the tunnel. For the best view hike up the San Cristoforo hill, and admire the entire Cinque Terre coastline. Once you are on top, spend some time there, visit the Convent of Cappuccini, the Church of San Francesco and the cemetery. You can also walk down the other side, towards the historical center.
As Monterosso was often under attacks by pirates and other enemies, a strong defense system was built to protect the village. In the 16th century, guards kept an eye on the sea from 13 watchtowers. Luckily you can still see the remains of the castle, the city wall, a watchtower and the Aurora tower.
Monterosso offers a little more nightlife than the other four villages, but do not expect loud party places and bars that are open until next morning. You can enjoy wonderful dinners and sit around drinking wine until late at night, but if you want to go out dancing every night, you'd better stay in Viareggio. The old town is full of cute restaurants and wine bars, but they tend to fill up during dinner time. So arrive early or book a table, especially if you are a bigger group of people.
The town is located in a large bay and it is surrounded by green hills full of vineyards, olive groves and lemon trees. There are several hikes you can do to discover the hills and enjoy amazing views of Monterosso. You can hike to Vernazza on the Blue trail, but please note that you need to buy the Cinque Terre Card to enter this trail. Heading towards the other direction, you can do a beautiful hike to Levanto. It's free and you will meet far less people. An amazing hike is the higher trail to Vernazza, through the two sanctuaries, I highly recommend this one if you are a passionate hiker. This trail is also free.
If you are arriving by train, it's very comfortable, as the train station is located right on the beach, close to many of the hotels. If you are driving to Monterosso, you should know if you are heading to the old town or to the new area (Fegina). At one point there will be an intersection, so please look out for the signs and make sure you take the right road. There is a huge parking area by the sea in Fegina, and you will also find parking at the entrance of the old town. Of course, you can also get to Monterosso by ferry boat.
The statue of the Giant can be found between Fegina beach and the small harbour. The Giant is actually Neptune, the god of the sea and he is holding the terrace of an old villa on his shoulders. The 14-meter tall statue was made in 1910 by sculptor Arrigo Minerbi and an architect named Levacher. The statue was badly damaged by the powerful sea storm in 1966. According to plan, the Argentinian artist Silvio Benedetto will restore the monument.
There is a house not far from the Giant where Eugenio Montale, Nobel-prize winner Italian poet, used to spend his summer holidays. The villages of the Cinque Terre inspired many of his poems. Locals call the house "yellow pagoda".
The convent with the church can be found on top of the San Cristoforo hill. It was built in 1619 and during the centuries it was used as hospital and warehouse as well until it was returned to its rightful owners. Among other artwork, you can also see Van Dyck's Crucifixion inside. Next to the church, you will find the cemetery.
The 13th-century church is located in the historical center of Monterosso, and is another nice example of Ligurian Gothic style. Its beautiful facade is comprised of alternating strips of white marble and green serpentine. Its belltower was originally part of Monterosso's defence system, used as a watch tower. The Baroque altar dates back to 1744.
The 16th-century Baroque oratory can be found in the old town of Monterosso, near the church of San Giovanni Battista.
This oratory is located in the old town of Monterosso as well, behind the church of San Giovanni Battista. So within a few steps you can see three interesting sights. You should spend some time inside the oratory as well, the 19th-century organ is well worth seeing.
The 16th-century Aurora tower is located by the sea, at the foot of the hill of the Cappuccini. This tower is fortunately in good condition.
You can learn everything about anchovies and how they get from the sea to your plate. You can also do some tasting and buy a jar or two. When I visited the center, they had a black and white film on DVD, which showed life in the Cinque Terre in the 1940s. Very interesting, so worth having a look!
I usually recommend staying in apartments or villas and enjoy life like locals, but if you prefer hotels with breakfast and all the services, Monterosso has the largest selection. You will mainly find family-run 3 star hotels here, but there are a couple of 4 star hotels as well. To read more about accommodation in Monterosso and to check out a few apartment options, please click on the link below.
Just relax, take a walk, go to the beach, enjoy the "dolce far niente". Visit the other Cinque Terre towns by boat or train. There are also some great tours you can do starting directly from Monterosso:
Otherwise, starting from other Cinque Terre villages, you can choose from a wide range of sustainable and authentic tours.