Monterosso is the largest of the five villages of the beautiful Cinque Terre section of coast in Liguria, and has the most accessible beach in the region. It is the first of the villages you reach when approaching from Levanto and the north-west.
Exploring Monterosso al Mare
Rather different in character from the other villages of the Cinque Terre, Monterosso is the principal town for visitors.
The town divides into two separate parts: the beach and seafront to the west; and the old town to the east reached through a tunnel or around a small promontory.
Although the scenery is perhaps less dramatic and the village less 'picture-postcard' pretty than the others along this coast, Monteresso al Mare is still very pleasant to explore and you will also find a wider selection of facilities including hotels and restaurants than in the smaller villages.
The beach itself is in the town centre and quite long. It is a mix of sand and small stone and in a very scenic setting with rocky outcrops to either side and is one of very few beaches here in the Cinque Terre, so it is very popular.
Italy This Way comment: in our opinion the combination of the beach and old village centre, the restaurants and ice cream shops, combined with the presence of the railway station giving quick and easy access to the other Cinque Terre villages, make Monterosso al Mare a good choice to stay when you are visiting even if it is slightly overlooked by tourists rushing to admire Vernazza and Manarola...
After strolling along the beach front promenade you can explore the oldest part of Monterosso. This is on a small hill and has an interesting centre consisting of ancient alleys (known in Italy as carruggi) and old houses as well as the 13th century Church of Saint John the Baptist, with its characteristic striped facade. Higher up above the town (between Monterosso and Fegina) you can see another important religious monument, the 17th century Convent of the Cappuccini, which includes a painting of the Crucifixion by Anthony van Dyck.
Among other historic monuments you will see several other churches as well as various Genoese fortications that were built in the 16th century to defend the town from attack by Saracen pirates.
The coast is given extra interest here by the statues that overlook the beach and coast. The most important statue here is called The Giant and represents Neptune, God of the Sea. This massive statue, 14 metres high, appears at first glance to be part of the rock it is supporting but was actually built of concrete in 1910.
Note that the more modern part of Monterosso, to the west of the old town, is known by the name of Fegina and is where you will find more extensive tourist facilities and larger beaches.
Of course, it is the coast and other villages of the Cinque Terre that are of most interest when you visit Monterosso: see the Cinque Terre guide. The first village you reach when travelling along the coast from here is Vernazza.
Walk from Monterosso to Vernazza
We highly recommend you complete the section of coast path between Monterosso and Vernazza even if you don't have time to complete the whole Cinque Terre walk to Riomaggiore: it is exceptionally lovely with great views, even if the first kilometre or so when you first leave Monterosso is a never-ending climb up steep stairs!
You might like to take the approach of two muscle bound young American men we were following when we did this walk: every time they could hear someone coming towards them they started jogging confidently up the hill, to be met with lots of oohs and ahhs and "well done lads" comments - then as soon as they were alone again they would sit down puffing and panting and gulping water...
...Or you can just do like the rest of us, and plod along slowly, dreaming of an end to the hill!
Although most visitors focus their visit on the path and route between these five villages, there is also a very pleasant path that leads to an exceptional viewpoint if you follow the coast northwards towards Levanto.
You can find more local travel ideas in the Liguria guide.