On our first full day in Cinque Terre, we headed to the National Park Office near the train station. You need a pass to hike the trails. The trekking card, which includes bus transport is 7.50 Euro. The Cinque Terre Card Train MS includes train travel between the villages and costs 16 Euro.
While we did not plan to hike this day, we still bought the Cinque Terre Card Train MS. The difference in fees is well worth it, if you plan to take 3-4 train rides that day.
Our first destination was Monterosso al Mare, the village furthest away from us. It is located at the center of a small natural gulf protected by an artificial reef. The town is split into two parts (Old Town and New Town) connected by a tunnel for the pedestrians and the few cars in the town. Population as of 2009 is listed at 1562.
This town is the least exciting of the 5 towns and is more like a resort town. It also has less stairs than the other towns. In 643, people living in the hills moved down to the sea, hiding from the barbarians. The village is named Monterosso because the ruling family had red hair.
(Source:Cinque Terre Travel.com)
The train lets you off in the new town by the beach, so we explored here first, enjoying the brightly coloured beach umbrellas.
The ruined castle, partially built by the Genoese is clearly visible, as you wander towards the old town, past boutiques and restaurants.
We hiked up the Capuchin trail towards the statue of Saint Francis of Assisi. The views were stunning.
After our visit to the statue, we walked onward along the trail, down into the Old Town.
It was market day on the Old Town, so we spent a bit of time wandering through the stalls.
We walked through the narrow old town streets, happy that there were fewer stairs.
Before turning around to head back, we stopped into the 16th century Oratorio della Cofradia de Bianchi o de Santa Croce…
….before walking back down into town past all manner of tiny shops, steep stairs and narrow lanes.
One last stop at Chiesi San Giovanni di Batista (built 1282 to 1307), where we tried to figure out why the decor included skeletons and skull and cross bone motifs.
Back through the tunnel to the train station and on to our next stop.