Monterosso al Mare ★★

The beach at Monterosso al Mare, Monterosso, Cinque Terre, Italy (Photo by Arek N.)
The beach at Monterosso al Mare

Anchoring the N end of the Cinque Terre with a proper beach, bocce, and some modest sights

Monterosso is northernmost of the Cinque Terre, its largest village and the only town in the Cinque Terre with a proper, sandy beach—and a big parking lot for the commensurate crowds of Italians to take advantage of said beach and its ranks of beach chairs shaded by giant umbrellas (which you can rent for a small hourly fee).

Monterosso al Mare is actually two towns—a bustling, character-filled old town built behind the harbor, plus a more modern resort town that stretches along that beach and is home to the train station and the tiny regional tourist office. (Upon exiting the station, turn left and head through the tunnel for the old town; turn right for the newer town.)

Monterosso also sports a handful of proper sights. The best is the Convento dei Cappuccini, atop a tiny hill in the old town with a Crucifixion by Flemish master Anthony Van Dyck (who worked in nearby Genova for a while), but the aquarium (closed on and off in recent years) and a museum of anchovy salting (no, seriously) get more attention—possibly because they charge admission. Neither of them is terribly interesting, but if you have the spare time, entry is included on the Cinque Terre Card.

Monterosso may be the busiest of the Cinque Terre towns, with the most hotels, restaurants, and bustle, but calling it "busy" is a relative thing. The town remains little more than an oversized fishing village, with all the attendant charms.

Clothes drip dry from washing lines above the tourist office, the narrow streets are clad in stone, and in the evenings, as the sea gentle tumbles the shoreline's boulders, a cadre of the town's sun-raisined, wizened men colonize the bocce court wedged between the train tracks and the trail to pick up where they left off the night before in a game that has been going for generations.

Hang around long enough, and they just might invite you to join in.

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How long should I spend in Monterosso?

Monterosso al Mare is the most developed of the towns, making it another good base for exploring the region.

There's little specifically to do here (modest museums aside), other than lounging on the sandy beach and maybe watching the bocce courts in the evening.

Spend as little time or as long as you'd like.

How to get to the Monterosso al Mare

Monterosso is on the regional Cinque Terre rail line, passing Vernazza (3–6 min), Corniglia (7–14 min), Manarola (11–21 min), and Riomaggiore (14–28 min). 

Monterosso is also 14–39 min. by train from La Spezia, where you can change for trains throughout Italy (sometimes you change at nearby Sarzana), including Pisa (1:15–2:30 hr total), Lucca (1:25–2:35 hr, sometimes change at Viareggio; sometimes change twice), Florence (2:30–4 hr), and Rome (4:30–5:30 hr).

Useful Italian phrases

Useful Italian for sightseeing

English (inglese) Italian (italiano) Pro-nun-cee-YAY-shun
Where is?... Dov'é doh-VAY
...the museum il museo eel moo-ZAY-yo
...the church la chiesa lah key-YAY-zah
...the cathedral il duomo [or] la cattedrale eel DUO-mo [or] lah cah-the-DRAH-leh
When is it open? Quando é aperto? KWAN-doh ay ah-PAIR-toh
When does it close? Quando si chiude? KWAN-doh see key-YOU-day
Closed day giorno di riposo JOR-no dee ree-PO-zo
Weekdays (Mon-Sat) feriali fair-ee-YA-lee
Sunday & holidays festivi fe-STEE-vee
ticket biglietto beel-YET-toh
two adults due adulti DOO-way ah-DOOL-tee
one child un bambino oon bahm-BEE-no
one student uno studente OO-noh stu-DENT-ay
one senior un pensionato oon pen-see-yo-NAH-toh

Basic phrases in Italian

English (inglese) Italian (italiano) pro-nun-see-YAY-shun
thank you grazie GRAT-tzee-yay
please per favore pair fa-VOHR-ray
yes si see
no no no
Do you speak English? Parla Inglese? PAR-la een-GLAY-zay
I don't understand Non capisco non ka-PEESK-koh
I'm sorry Mi dispiace mee dees-pee-YAT-chay
How much is it? Quanto costa? KWAN-toh COST-ah
That's too much É troppo ay TROH-po
Good day Buon giorno bwohn JOUR-noh
Good evening Buona sera BWOH-nah SAIR-rah
Good night Buona notte BWOH-nah NOTE-tay
Goodbye Arrivederci ah-ree-vah-DAIR-chee
Excuse me (to get attention) Scusi SKOO-zee
Excuse me (to get past someone) Permesso pair-MEH-so
Where is? Dov'é doh-VAY
...the bathroom il bagno eel BHAN-yoh
...train station la ferroviaria lah fair-o-vee-YAR-ree-yah
to the right à destra ah DEH-strah
to the left à sinistra ah see-NEEST-trah
straight ahead avanti [or] diritto ah-VAHN-tee [or] dee-REE-toh
information informazione in-for-ma-tzee-OH-nay

Days, months, and other calendar items in Italian

English (inglese) Italian (italiano) Pro-nun-cee-YAY-shun
When is it open? Quando é aperto? KWAN-doh ay ah-PAIR-toh
When does it close? Quando si chiude? KWAN-doh see key-YOU-day
At what time... a che ora a kay O-rah
Yesterday ieri ee-YAIR-ee
Today oggi OH-jee
Tomorrow domani doh-MAHN-nee
Day after tomorrow dopo domani DOH-poh doh-MAHN-nee
a day un giorno oon je-YOR-no
Monday Lunedí loo-nay-DEE
Tuesday Martedí mar-tay-DEE
Wednesday Mercoledí mair-coh-lay-DEE
Thursday Giovedí jo-vay-DEE
Friday Venerdí ven-nair-DEE
Saturday Sabato SAH-baa-toh
Sunday Domenica doh-MEN-nee-ka
Mon-Sat Feriali fair-ee-YAHL-ee
Sun & holidays Festivi feh-STEE-vee
Daily Giornaliere joor-nahl-ee-YAIR-eh
a month una mese oon-ah MAY-zay
January gennaio jen-NAI-yo
February febbraio feh-BRI-yo
March marzo MAR-tzoh
April aprile ah-PREEL-ay
May maggio MAH-jee-oh
June giugno JEW-nyoh
July luglio LOO-lyoh
August agosto ah-GO-sto
September settembre set-TEM-bray
October ottobre oh-TOE-bray
November novembre no-VEM-bray
December dicembre de-CHEM-bray

Numbers in Italian

English (inglese) Italian (italiano) Pro-nun-cee-YAY-shun
1 uno OO-no
2 due DOO-way
3 tre tray
4 quattro KWAH-troh
5 cinque CHEEN-kway
6 sei say
7 sette SET-tay
8 otto OH-toh
9 nove NO-vay
10 dieci dee-YAY-chee
11 undici OON-dee-chee
12 dodici DOH-dee-chee
13 tredici TRAY-dee-chee
14 quattordici kwa-TOR-dee-chee
15 quindici KWEEN-dee-chee
16 sedici SAY-dee-chee
17 diciasette dee-chee-ya-SET-tay
18 diciotto dee-CHO-toh
19 diciannove dee-chee-ya-NO-vay
20 venti VENT-tee
21* vent'uno* vent-OO-no
22* venti due* VENT-tee DOO-way
23* venti tre* VENT-tee TRAY
30 trenta TRAYN-tah
40 quaranta kwa-RAHN-tah
50 cinquanta cheen-KWAN-tah
60 sessanta say-SAHN-tah
70 settanta seh-TAHN-tah
80 ottanta oh-TAHN-tah
90 novanta no-VAHN-tah
100 cento CHEN-toh
1,000 mille MEEL-lay
5,000 cinque milla CHEEN-kway MEEL-lah
10,000 dieci milla dee-YAY-chee MEEL-lah

* You can use this formula for all Italian ten-place numbers—so 31 is trent'uno, 32 is trenta due, 33 is trenta tre, etc. Note that—like uno (one), otto (eight) also starts with a vowel—all "-8" numbers are also abbreviated (vent'otto, trent'otto, etc.).