Cinque Terre Surprise

Happy Birthday, Bob!

DSCF5266-Monterosso al Mare

Monterosso al Mare

We’ve heard so much about Cinque Terre, but had never made it there. So, I decided to surprise Bob with a 60th birthday trip that took us to the five towns of Corniglia, Manarola, Monterosso al Mare, Riomaggiore, and Vernazza. We stayed in Monterosso al Mare, the northernmost of the towns. (That’s the view from our lovely hotel, the Villa Steno.)

Considered to be the sleepiest of the five towns because it has little nightlife, we loved the food, beaches, and ambiance. And while there was little nightlife for adults, there was plenty for kids: The park down by the beach was packed with children until midnight – playing in the sand, climbing the jungle gyms, slurping gelato, and eating pizza.

You can hike, bike, boat, or ride the train between the towns. Each has a distinct flavor, although many of the shops seemed to be owned by the same people. (You don’t come here to shop, anyway.) The beauty of Monterosso al Mare is that it’s right on the water, with plenty of beach space – both public and private. Since photos speak louder words, I’m going to let Bob’s work do most of the talking: Here’s the main beach. Besides swimming, you can rent paddle boats, row boats, and motor boats. The dock in the background is where you can catch the ferries to the other towns.

DSCF5248-Beach at Monterosso

Beach at Monterosso al Mare


You can tell that the locals aren’t scared off by us. They played cards and ignored the turisti.

DSCF5249-Playing Cards

Playing Cards on the Beach


And, of course, the sunsets were magnificent! This was the perfect time to relax with a glass of prosecco and some antipasti.

DSCF5297-Boats at Sunset, Monterosso

Boats at Sunset


DSCF5236-Noah's Milk MustacheOr, if you’re an 8 year old boy, you can have a glass of warm, frothy milk with a hamburger at a sidewalk cafe in any of the towns, or the fried shrimp served in paper cones at Il Pescato Cucinato in Riomaggiore.

For dinner, Noah enjoyed the pasta at Ristorante Belvedere in Monterosso al Mare (see below). In-season fresh fruits and vegetables were widely available, as was Italy’s favorite dessert, tiramisu.


Seafood Stew Amphora


Favorite Eats: Seafood, pasta, fresh pesto on anything (Cinque Terre is close to Genoa in Liguria, the home of pesto). We ate twice at Ristorante Belvedere in Monterosso al Mare and really enjoyed the food and service. Our one regret was not trying their gigantic seafood stew, which arrives in an amphora (earthen pot) filled with a whole lobster, huge chunks of fresh fish, an octopus, mussels and clams, and big juicy prawns.

Favorite Hotel: Villa Steno

Look For: Restaurants staffed by the owner and family.

Watch Out For: Anyone who walks up and tries to sell you something.

Noah’s Tips for Kids:

  • Swim at the beach in Monterosso al Mare, and talk your parents into renting a paddle boat — a few of the boats even have slides!
  • All the gelato places are good, but they get better as you walk up the hill and away from the beach.
  • Tour all the towns by boat and try the fried shrimp served in paper cones at Il Pescato Cucinato in Riomaggiore: Walk down the steps at the dock and under the bridge, start walking up the hill and look for the restaurant on the left.
  • The big park by the water in Monterosso al Mare is awesome! There’s lots of sand and climbing structures, it’s open late, and there are plenty of kids to play with. (There’s also a gelateria right next to the park.)

Travel Tips: Take public transportation and go early in the day to avoid long lines and the heat. Want some exercise? Hike the trails between towns, and bring lots of water and sunscreen. 

Masthead photo: Marina at Riomaggiore (Bob)  

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