Tuesday, January 31, 2023

Around Monterosso al Mare

Montertosso al Mare, located in a small natural gulf, is the northernmost of the five Cinque Terre towns and is divided into two distinct parts:  old town and new town, connected by a tunnel shared by pedestrians, bicycles, and cars.  Monterosso's beach is the only extensive sand beach in Cinque Terre and is well-used by tourists and locals alike.  The area is famous for its many lemon trees and its white wines, grapes, and olives.

We return every year to Hotel Villa Steno in the new town and hike to the other towns of Cinque Terre and nearby towns of Portovenere and Levanto.

Looking across new town from Villa Steno

Streets of the new town

View across beaches of old town

At the beach in old town

The new town has a public beach that is close to Villa Steno, but is a little more rocky and in its own small bay.

Public beach

The towns of Cinque Terre are connected by trails along the water, some following the ridges just above the sea, some heading further inland and up into higher elevations.  A small piazza near the Monterosso train station (in old town) contains maps showing the towns and the trails.

Cinque Terre towns and trails

The five towns of Cinque Terre are also connected by train service that runs fairly frequently and by ferries that stop at four of the towns and, occasionally, continue on to Portovenere and La Spezia to the south, and Levanto to the north.  Our hikes generally involve several hours of walking and enjoying the sights and the sea, followed by a fabulous lunch in our destination town and either a train or ferry ride back to Monterosso.

Ferry service

The main square in Monterosso's new town is Piazza Garibaldi, including a statue of Giuseppe Garibaldi, the Italian general who contributed to Italian unification and the creation of the Kingdom of Italy in 1861.  The piazza is a central location for celebrations, markets, and just hanging out with friends and family.

Piazza Garibaldi

For our lunch as we wander around Monterosso, we stop for a fried seafood cone at the train station, followed by a gelato (lemon and pistachio).


In the evening (and on a stormy day), the beach umbrellas are closed and the sand is empty.  But, the views of the sky and clouds across the town and the sea are incredible.

Stormy day

As night falls, we get a different view, with the beach lighting up, musicians playing along the water and the streets and restaurants full of happy people having fun.

Night falls

Streets of new town at night

And, as an occasional treat, we have a religious procession passing through the streets of Monterosso and we all stand aside and watch.

Religious procession

After the procession passes, we return to our hotel and think about what we're going to do tomorrow.

Friday, January 27, 2023

Isola Palmaria and Portovenere

Isola Palmaria is an island of 1.6 square km (0.6 sq miles) located in the Liguriuan Sea at the western end of the Gulf of La Spezia, a short boat ride across from Portovenere.  In 1997, the island and its two smaller companions (Tino and Tinetto) were designated as USESCO World Heritage Sites (along with Portovenere and Cinque Terre).

Palmaria has a triangular shape, with the side facing Portovenere slopping gently down to the sea and the west-facing side, toward the open sea, featuring high cliffs and caves overlooking the water.

We catch a ferry from Monterosso to Portovenere, walk through a small outdoor market at the port, then transfer to a smaller ferry across the small channel to Palmaria.

Leaving Monterosso on the ferry

Travelling down the coast

Arriving in Portovenere

Shopping while changing ferries

Crossing the channel, leaving Portovenere

Ferry to Palmaria

We stroll along the beach, across from Portovenere, and then start up the trails along the sea to the rocky top of the island.

Along the beach, Portovenere across the channel

Along the trails

We get great views of Portovenere, the Gulf of La Spezia, and at the far side of the gulf, La Spezia itself.  And, in the other direction, the Mediterranean.

Views of Portovenere and La Spezia in the far distance

Views of the sea

We descend back to the water (on the Portovenere side of Palmaria) and walk along the water through the populated side of the island, walking by harbors, private homes, and bathing establishments, some private, some reserved for members of the Navy and Air Force.

Back along the Palmaria coast

Beaches and harbors

Birds and fish

Soon, it's time to head back and we get back on the ferry to Portovenere, with one stop at the bathing beaches in  a small Palmaria harbor before returning to Portovenere.

Heading out on the ferry

Fishing boats in the harbor

Bathing establishment

Arriving in Portovenere, we walk over to a favorite restaurant, Al Gabbiano, for Pizza Diavola and Pizza Porto Venere, accompanied by a carafe of local white wine.

Al Gabbiano


After lunch, we wander through the harbor, back to the ferry terminal for a ferry back to Monterosso.

Along the wharf in Portovenere

This was a great introduction to Isola Palmaria and we need to come back next year and explore the other side of the island!