Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Monterosso al Mare, Liguria, Cinque Terre

Monterosso al Mare has become one of our favorite places.  The people, the ambiance, the culture, the food, the activities available -- all contribute to a great visit each time.  When we visit London, Paris, Rome, New York, Shanghai, Tokyo, Hong Kong, or any other large city, we walk for miles and visit the sites and sometimes it takes days to slow down.  In Monterosso, as soon as we get off the train, we start to relax and unwind.

Monterosso is divided by a hill into old town and new town, connected by a tunnel.  For the past few years, a landslide has closed the tunnel to cars and only pedestrians could get through, making the trip between old town and new town a few minutes by foot or 20 minutes by car.  But the tunnel is now again open to all traffic and cars and pedestrians compete for the space inside.

The Monterosso train station is in the new town and we pass through the tunnel on our way to Hotel Villa Steno in the heart of the old town.  In the middle of the tunnel is a window with an artistic display of anchovies, which are caught locally and served in all the restaurants in many styles: grilled, fried, stuffed; with garlic, lemon, or tomato; on bruschetta, pizza, or by themselves.  They are wonderful and we have anchovies with every dinner (and sometimes for lunch on bruschetta or pizza).

Anchovy display in tunnel

As we come out of the tunnel into old town, we see the beach and a sundial that uses the shadow of a tree to show the time.

Monterosso beach in old town

Sundial using the shadow of the tree in old town

This beach in old town is free.  Or, if you prefer, you can rent an umbrella and chair for a more comfortable day at the beach.

Beach in new town, old town around the hill in the distance

And, at night, the rock offshore (in the background above) is lit, providing a great view as we come out of the tunnel and stroll down sidewalk into new town.

Beach at night

But, enough beach (did I mention that we swam almost every afternoon after our hike), let's head up to Hotel Villa Steno and admire the view across the old town.

View across old town from Hotel Villa Steno

Descending into the old town from the hotel, we look down the main street at restaurants, shops, tourists, and locals.  Everything is right there - convenient and accessible.

Looking down the street in Monterosso old town

In the devastating mudslides in October 2011, the mud came down this street and covered the houses to the second floor.  In prior years, we could still see lines on the houses where the top of the mud stopped, but they have since been painted over.

After the mudslides in October 2011

The city has recovered and rebuilt and is once again full of people, life, and fun.

Although is has been 1-1/2 years since we were last here, we are remembered by the staff in several restaurants.  These people see so many tourists, but remember us - what a great honor!  The shops have local crafts (pottery, jewelry, and textiles), local wine and food, and, of course, T-shirts.  We get some of each and make sure that we stop for more Monterosso pots to add to our collection.  Great artistic talent is evident everywhere - from the jewelry and pottery to the chefs in the kitchens.

 Two new pots to add to our collection

Thursday is market day in Monterosso and, as we head out on our hike, we admire the selection in the stalls set up under the train tracks in old town.

 Market day in Monterosso

On our return, as we end this stay in Monterosso, we sit our our balcony, sip a glass of local limoncello, and admire the relaxing view across the top of Monterosso.  Laura has made several batches of limoncello at home and, while it's getting closer, this limoncello is the real deal and a perfect way to close the day and our visit.

 Night view of Monterosso old town from Hotel Villa Steno

One thing is for sure.  We'll be back next year!

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