Monterosso al Mare is the northernmost of the 5 Cinque Terre towns and is divided into two parts, the old town and the new town, which are connected by a tunnel in which pedestrians and cars compete for space. The train station is in the old town, but northbound trains pass over a bridge by the main square in the new town before reaching the station, giving a quick glimpse (as the train pops in and out of the tunnels) of train and town (depending whether you are in the town or the train).
Piazza Giuseppe Garibaldi, the main square in the new town, provides a space where residents and tourists dine, relax, swim off the beach, and enjoy the passing of each day. The old town and the new town are both incredible, each beautiful and distinct in its own way.
Behind the piazza is the Chiesa di San Giovanni Battista, built between 1244 and 1307.
On the south side of the piazza, streets wind their way into the city and up the hill (one of entries of the trail to Vernazza begins here behind the city hall).
A few blocks into the city is the Oratorio Santa Croche, another beautiful church dating from the 16th century.
Crossing over the main street in the new town, Via Roma, we walk through more picturesque streets and up a hill to the over-400-year-old Convento dei Frati Cappuccini (convent of the Cappuccini Friars), complete with a beautiful church and a cemetery overlooking the city.
Descending from the cemetery, the path leads to the statue of St. Francis of Assisi, with more great view of the sea and the new town (beach and train overpass).
The walk down from the statue reveals yet more panoramic sights and, when we arrive in Piazza Garibaldi, it is market day, with food stands, food trucks, and household and clothing stalls set up in the piazza and under the train overpass.
Our lunch this day is inspired by ingredients we have just seen in the market, focaccia with anchovies, tomatoes, and mozzarella and frito misto with anchovies, shrimp, and calamari.