The largest and northernmost village of Italy’s beloved Cinque Terre, Monterosso al Mare is ideal for a relaxing and scenic escape. Plus, if lounging beachside is at the top of your wish list, you’re in luck! With the longest stretch of sand throughout all five villages, spending time at the beach is one of the best things to do in Monterosso al Mare.
Fortunately, a taste of the salty life is just one of the many perks Monterosso has to offer. You’ll also find plenty of additional adventures to add to your Italian bucket list beyond the beach scene. Here’s a look at ten of the best Monterosso activities for your Cinque Terre itinerary!
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Top Things to Do in Monterosso al Mare
1. Relax on the Cinque Terre’s Only True Sand Beach
If you’re seeking sun, surf, and sand, Monterosso al Mare is the best Cinque Terre town for you. That’s because Monterosso has the largest and only true sand beach in the entire Cinque Terre region, Spiaggia Fegina. So it’s no wonder that Spiaggia Feginais also the most popular beach in Monterosso, especially during the peak summer months.
To make the most of your time here, do your best to arrive in the morning and snag a sunbed with an umbrella. In addition, when you’re hungry for a bite, there’s a string of restaurants conveniently located just along the beach.
If you’re arriving via train from any one of the other four towns, you’ll easily find Spiaggia Fegina just across the street from the railway station.
2. Admire the Aurora Tower
Monterosso may not seem like the most historic of the Cinque Terre villages at first glance, but the Aurora Tower begs to differ! Known as Torre Aurora in Italian, this 16th-century fortress was originally created as a defense against pirates.
Today, this medieval monument houses a unique restaurant and lounge bar with spectacular panoramic terraces overlooking the gulf. It also serves as an important landmark, splittingMonterosso into two separate but equally compelling parts, the new section of town and the old village.
3. Discover Hidden Gems in Monterosso’s Old Town
Opposite the impressive expanse of beachfront lies Monterosso’s fascinating old town. As you make your way into this charming section of the village, you’ll first be greeted by a charming old clock tower.
In addition, you’ll also notice the parish church of San Giovanni Battista. This black-and-white-striped church is an icon of Monterosso, built between the 13th and 14th centuries.
Overall, the old town is a colorful labyrinth filled with many picturesque pastel streets, such as Via Zuecca. This is a perfect place to wander, take photos, and browse the various shops containing local treasures.
4. Marvel at Il Gigante
One of the most striking landmarks in town is Il Gigante, the symbol of Monterosso. Located at the end of Spiaggia Fegina, this massive sculpture of Neptune is carved into the surrounding stone and sits atop the sea.
It dates back to 1910 and has withstood the elements, wartime, and bomb destruction over the course of time.5. Enjoy Striking Views on a Hike to Vernazza
Without a doubt, hiking is one of the best ways to experience the Cinque Terre. In fact, there are nearly 50 hiking trails scattered throughout the villages of Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore. In conjunction, the five villages make up Cinque Terre National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Located at the northernmost end of the five, Monterosso al Mare marks the trailway beginning (or the very endpoint), depending on which way you’re coming from. If you’re starting in Monterosso, you can enjoy an absolutely spectacular trek to Vernazza, the next town over. This particular hike is considered to be the most challenging of the five trails that encompass the Blue Path, the most famous hiking path in the Cinque Terre.
In order to make the hike, you’ll first need to purchase the Cinque Terre Trekking Card. You can find these at the village train station or the start of the trail. The card is also available for purchase online if you wish to get one in advance.
While many of the climbs are steep, narrow, and seemingly endless, those willing to make the roughly 90-minute trek will be richly rewarded with unrivaled panoramic views from above. Don’t forget to bring your camera along with you to capture the magic.
6. Eat Your Weight in Pesto
After all the hiking, you deserve to treat yourself to a local favorite, fresh pesto! Made from basil, pine nuts, olive oil, garlic, coarse salt, and parmesan, basil is a popular staple in Northern Italy. This savory sauce gets its rich green color from the fresh basil, which thrives in the local climate. In fact, pesto is native to the Italian Riviera for that very reason!
While you can find pesto in each and every Cinque Terre town, if you’re looking for a place in Monterosso in particular, head to either Gastronomia San Martino or Ristorante Belvedere. Both restaurants are known for having some of the best pesto in the Cinque Terre.
7. Learn the Tricks of the Trade in a Pesto Making Class
If you’d prefer a more hands-on approach to pesto, why not learn how to make it yourself? At the Cinque Terre Cooking School, you’ll discover how to make authentic Ligurian pesto the true old-fashioned way – with a pestle and mortar!
This interactive, educational class typically runs for two to three hours, providing a thorough and immersive experience. It will include a discussion of pesto’s nutritional value as well as how it can be used across a variety of dishes. Plus, you’ll also make pasta or gnocchi by hand to enjoy with all of that delicious pesto. Bon appetit!
This special class is available for 75 EUR per adult and 55 EUR per child, including the convenient bonus of transportation to the school’s stunning hilltop location.
8. Enjoy a Seaside Perspective on a Boat Tour
One of the most striking elements of Monterosso is its spectacular seaside location. To make the most of this aquatic paradise, why not take a fun boat tour?
In addition to uncovering an entirely new perspective of the Cinque Terre, this is also a great way to cover a lot of ground in a short time. In fact, many boat tours will stop at each of the villages, providing a more well-rounded perspective of this popular Italian destination. So if you’re only planning to spend a brief time in the Cinque Terre, this is definitely something to consider.
Whether you’re after the challenge of a kayaking excursion, the simplicity of a traditional gozzo boat, or the luxury of a relaxing sunset cruise, you can choose your own adventure here.
9. Sip & Savor on a Scenic Wine Tasting
If white wine is your vino of choice, then you’ll have to dedicate some time to a wine tasting while in the Cinque Terre. This region specializes in Cinque Terre DOC, a local dry white wine with aromas of wildflower and light, citrusy notes.
During a wine tasting, you’ll learn the secrets to Cinque Terre winemaking, including how the limited terrain and extremely steep cliffs make for a remarkably unique variety of wines.
There are numerous wine venues to choose from, but one of the most popular options is The Cinque Terre Wine School, located in Monterosso. Here, you’ll enjoy a delightful combination of varietals, from whites, to reds, to a sweet dessert wine.
10. Indulge in a Spectacular Sunset Dinner at Ristorante L’Ancora della Tortuga
If you’re looking to go out with a bang and don’t mind splurging a bit, a sunset dinner at Ristorante L’Ancora della Tortuga is one of the absolute best things to do in Monterosso al Mare.
This impressive cliffside restaurant offers breathtaking seaside views and fabulous Ligurian cuisine with an emphasis on seafood. Whether you’re enjoying a romantic dinner for two or soaking up quality time over a family meal, this special sunset spot is the perfect way to end the day.
Just make sure to reserve a table in advance, as spots tend to fill up quickly here.
As you can see, there are plenty of things to do in Monterosso al Mare, no matter what your unique interests are. Whether you’re craving a relaxing beach day, an invigorating hike, or delicious cuisine, you’ll never go hungry for food or adventure in Monterosso!
Guest Author: Elena Pappalardo from The Carry-On Chronicles