We are off today to the resort town of Monterosso al Mare, the only Cinque Terre town built on flat land, with two parts: The New Town (Fegina) to the left as you get off the train and the Old Town (Centro Storico) to the right. A long pedestrian tunnel connects the old with the new.
We stroll the waterfront promenade and can see all five Cinque Terre towns along the coast. Looking up we see the sixteenth century pirate lookout tower and down below the Nazi “pill box”, a small low concrete bunker where gunners hid in World War II. Heading into the Old Town there are dozens of little shops, restaurants and skinny, winding streets to explore.
We come to a small jewelry store and a sign outside in the window attracts my attention. It shows a necklace created “step by step” while walking the Cinque Terre.
There is a shop in each Cinque Terre town offering a bronze or silver charm with the name of that village, to complete a necklace or bracelet. I go inside La Gazza Ladra and the kind woman explains the procedure to collect the charms to me. I purchase a charm that says Monterosso in this shop and receive the charm and a passport, so to speak, that shows where the charms are located in the other four Cinque Terre towns.
In every town I must go to that shop, purchase the bronze or silver charm, get the passport stamped and when I am down to the last town I pay one euro for the last charm. You can “Step by Step” the towns in any order. The necklace is lovely when completed. The shop owner shows the intricate knotting she has done between the five charms and added a beautiful clasp. I have a small problem though. I have walked four villages already and leave Cinque Terre tomorrow. Hmm….. What to do. I do the only sensible thing really. I look at SB, who shrugs and says why not? What a guy!!! I buy the charm, my first charm in bronze, walk out with my charm passport and go have a coffee to determine how much time it will take us to go back to all four of the other Cinque Terre villages and find these shops. It will make a lovely momento of my time in Cinque Terre.
After our coffee we explore Monterosso. We walk to find the Church of St John the Baptist, called the black and white church, with white marble from Carrara ( the famous Leonardo Di Vinci Carrara marble) and dark green marble, which looks black, from Punte Mesco, above the village. There is a lacy stone rose window above the entrance to the church. The church is beautiful inside and immaculate.
There is also another church right across the way from St John the Baptist, and it is the most outstanding and different church I have ever been in. It is called the Oratory of the Dead.
During the Counter-Reformation, the Catholic Church created brotherhoods of good works, called confraternities, to compete with the rising influence of Martin Luther. This church building is the oratory of the black group, a group whose mission was to arrange funerals, and take care of widows and orphans of lost sailors. The confraternity dates from the 16th century and membership is passed from father to son. It has a beautiful black and white haunted house decor with skeletons and crossbones, a black hand-carved paneled choir stall adorned in skeletons and skeletons among the cherub angels.
I have never seen anything like it. We explore another church up the hill which has ships hanging from the ceiling and a nautical themed sanctuary. Enjoying the sunshine we walk back through the pedestrian tunnel to the promenade of the beach to New Town.
This beach front of the village is perfect. There are tiny outdoor cafes, a beach with sand and swimming framed with expensive looking neighborhood villas right up to the sandy shore line.
People are swimming in the sea, those brave souls, the rest of us are still donning our coats and scarves. A new stone building reveals architectural additions that start on shore and flow to the sea. At the end of the building is Il Gigante, a look alike rock formation actually made of reinforced concrete originally constructed to support a dance terrace.
We walk back along the beach and eat at one of the outdoor cafes and finish up with gelato before we head back to the train station to make our stops at Vernazza and Corniglia for the charms. While in Corniglia I also decide to go back to Fanny’s Bazar and buy two fish dishes. I kept thinking I would like two small fish dishes and decided I could stash them in my carry on so they wouldn’t get broken.
I buy the silver charm in Corniglia since it is my favorite Cinque Terre village. By late afternoon we are in Vernazza and I have gathered three of the needed charms. We see our Aussie friends at an outdoor cafe (A shout out to Fee, Wes and Kathy!) and enjoy their company over drinks before taking the train back to Manarola and our last evening in this magical beautiful town.
For more information about the Cinque Terre, Step-by-Step charms in Montorosso al Mare see: La Gazza Ladra di Alessandra Pampari, Piazza Giacomo Matteotti, Moneterosso al Mare, La Spezia, Italy Phone:+39 0187 817068