My last village spotlight was on Corniglia, the Cinque Terre’s smallest and most remote village. For my second spotlight, I chose the perfect juxtaposition: Monterosso.
Monterosso is the largest and most bustling of the Cinque Terre villages. It is considered either the first or fifth village, depending on what direction you are arriving from (it’s first from the direction of Genoa or fifth from the direction of La Spezia). It’s the only flat village in the Cinque Terre and also offers the Cinque Terre’s best beaches.
This place is paradise for those looking for the “Italian Riviera experience.”
The village is split into two distinct neighborhoods: the more modern (and very beachy) Fegina and the historical center, oftentimes called Monterosso Vecchio. These two sides of the village are connected by a picturesque promenade and a tunnel that cuts through the rock cliff.
When you arrive by train to Monterosso you will come out into the modern Fegina neighborhood. As you exit the train station, make a left and walk along the promenade (and then through the tunnel) and you will connect to Monterosso Vecchio (about a 10 minute walk). If you’re strapped with luggage you can actually take a taxi (which is a luxury offered only in this Cinque Terre village).
If you take a right as you exit the train station you will head towards the heart of modern Fegina where you will find lots of private beaches (and a few small public sections) and a promenade dotted with playground equipment (this is also where you’ll find two of my recommended restaurants).
Monterosso, although not as characteristic and quaint as the other four villages, is ideal for those wanting modern comforts and those looking for a relaxing, beachy holiday. Monterosso is chock-full of shops, restaurants, hotels and beaches.
Italians LOVE Monterosso. In fact, in the summer months you’ll find more Italian vacationers here than in any of the other villages of the Cinque Terre. Italians adore modern comforts and conveniences (and minimal effort), including the use of the stabilimenti balneare (the private beaches where you can rent a lounge chair and a beach umbrella + have access to showers, changing cabins and a snack bar).
My personal recommendations in Monterosso
My absolute favorite local dessert is the torta Monterossina which you can get a slice of at Pasticceria Laura in Monterosso Vecchio. The torte has a pastry crust and layers of sponge cake, apricot preserves, pastry cream and dark chocolate. My favorite is when it’s served warm and gooey. It’s rich and decadent and something I crave. Beware that the bakery is closed on Tuesdays.
The best focaccia I’ve had in Monterosso can be found here:
It’s called Il Frantoio but you won’t see signs saying that anywhere. A local tipped me off about this place a few years back and, as usual, locals know best! To find this hidden gem just walk up the main street in Monterosso Vecchio and keep an eye out for via Gioberti on the right. You’ll see the doorway located just off the main street on the narrow medieval lane. This is one of the few places that still sells focaccia by weight, which I admire (and pocketbooks appreciate).
I also love the pizza by the slice and focaccia at Il Massimo della Foccacia in Monterosso Fegina (on the promenade, directly beneath Monterosso’s train station). Their pizza margherita (cheese pizza) served by the slice is delicious!
Tasty gelato and friendly faces await you at Gelateria Golosone in Monterosso Vecchio. The entrance to the gelateria is just off the main street (blink and you’ll miss it!).
One of my favorite restaurants in Monterosso is La Cantina di Miky, where the fish is fresh and the pasta is handmade each day. Expat Christine (from New Jersey) and her Italian husband (son of the proprietor of Ristorante Miky, see below) run this little place in Fegina. They have outdoor seating on the promenade with sea views but I personally prefer to dine inside as I love the intimate atmosphere they’ve created. Christine is knowledgable not only about their menu items—which she conveys in perfect English—but also about each ingredient used in every dish. Michele (that’s the Italian version of Michael and pronounced Me-kay-lay), one of their wait staff, exudes professionalism and warm Italian hospitality. Ask about their locally-sourced daily specials and don’t shy from trying their acciughe (anchovy) sampler appetizer so you can walk away with a better appreciation of the little fish that made Monterosso famous throughout Italy. Heads up: La Cantina di Miky is closed on Wednesdays.
If you’re a foodie or just looking for a fine dining experience, check out Ristorante Miky in the Fegina neighborhood of Monterosso. It’s a bit pricey but worth every cent. Things here are made to order so don’t expect it to be speedy. This is the type of meal where you sit back, relax and savor the meal. While Cinque Terre is typically casual, you’ll want to dress a little nicer (or risk feeling out of place).
If you’re wanting to eat in Monterosso Vecchio (the historical center) my favorite eatery there is Ristorante CIAK. Some might see this place as cliché but I can’t help but love the owner in his sailor garb and the fact that you can peek into the kitchen from the main street. This is classic Italian seafood, served in generous portions.
Do you have any other recommendations in Monterosso? Do you find my blog helpful? Please do tell!