After a long day of travelling we had finally arrived in Italy!
It took most of the day, and stopping at Genoa and Ventimiglia train stations to change trains, but eventually we made it to the tiny picturesque town of Monterosso Al Mare. We instantly fell in love with it. This is exactly what we had travelled all this way for. Tiny villages, filled with locals and tourists enjoying the sunshine and simple life. We were officially in heaven.
Unfortunately we only had a very short stay here in the Cinque Terre, which meant we were very pushed for time to visit all 5 of the fishing villages.
We had met some Australians on the train, and they suggested that we should try and walk at least to one village that afternoon and catch the train back to Monterosso that evening… instead, we checked in to our hotel and set off to explore the tiny village itself.
First stop though, a beautiful seaside bar and restaurant where we were introduced to our soon to be favourite part of the day on our holiday – Aperitivo Hour.
This is quite a common occurrence in Italy, and one we grew to love, and now miss that we are back home in Australia!
An apéritif is an alcoholic beverage usually served before a meal to stimulate the appetite. In Italy, this also includes a snack that precedes a meal. Generally this happens from 4 or 5pm, through till dinner which is usually eaten around 9pm.
Here in Monterosso, the selection of food provided was quite extensive (so a good introduction really!) We enjoyed a glass of Prosecco and a beer for Ryan, relaxing as the sun set on a gorgeous afternoon. We looked out over the deck chairs lining the beach and watched the old men and women pack up and leave after a day on the beach.
As we were so comfortable and had a lot of food we needed to get through, we ended up ordering a whole bottle of Prosecco to share – and I am very glad we decided on this option instead of trying to hike to one of the towns of the Cinque Terre!
The town is divided into two distinct parts: the old town and the new town. The two areas are divided by a single tunnel that caters to pedestrians and the very few cars in the town.
The beach at Monterosso runs along most of the coast line and is well used by tourists and locals. The beach is the only extensive sand beach in the Cinque Terre. The area is famous for its many lemon trees that can be seen throughout Monterosso. It is also renowned for its white wines, grapes, and olives.
As the sun started to set, we wandered in to the old town, which was as breathtaking as the views over the ocean.
It was here we bought some amazing Limoncello from a crazy old man in his store. An ex musician who now clearly had a lot of fun talking to all of the tourists from many parts of the globe. He convinced us to basically try everything he had for sale, enjoying speaking to everyone, laughing and asking where they were from all while getting them to try his Limoncello.
Night time in Monterosso is very peaceful, as most of the tourists leave from their day trips. The town quietens down for the evening and a gentle calm takes over. Walking the cobbled streets and seeing the lights ripple across the water was a beautiful sight.
We had 2 lovely meals during our stay, the first in old town with some delicious fresh Gnocchi Ragu and Walnut Ravioli while sitting amongst a small alleyway filled with locals heading home or out for dinner themselves.
For our last night in Monterosso, we had dinner down on the wharf by the ocean. It was magical. We could hear the waves, while we ate some delicious and very fresh swordfish, the best caprese salad I’ve ever eaten, followed by some Limoncello. Our waiter was very friendly, and was kindly helping us learn some basics in Italian as we were ordering and complimenting him on the meal. Needless to say, what we learnt that evening came in handy for the rest of the holiday, so we owe him alot! Luckily we gave him a good tip.
It was sad to say goodbye to Monterosso, as we wished we had just a little bit longer to really enjoy the slow and sleepy fishing culture. I do hope to go back one day, and laze on the beach with a good book and some more Prosecco.