Posted by: gelatojourney | June 29, 2010

Vernazza Day Three – Monterosso al Mare

First off I’d better let you all know we are home.  We got in Saturday.  Charla took the bus home from LAX and I took Amtrak. We still have a few days left to blog about – so let’s all just pretend we are still there.  Ah . . . I feel better already.  Speaking of blogs – please check out my brother Rob’s blog at  He writes about running, christianity, life and all kinds of everyday things and does it much more eloquently than I do – never thought I’d use eloquent to describe Rob – but you’ll like what you read. And now back to La Cinque Terra . . .

We made our way to Monterosso al Mare by train (5 minutes) rather than the hiking trail (1.5 hours).  Monterosso is the northernmost of the five lands and the largest.  When you step off the train you are in a beach resort.  There are rentable beach umbrellas, beach lounge chairs and changing rooms.  It looks like it would be a great place to spend a day on the beach soaking up the sun and enjoying a sandy beach.

We saw a group of kids on a field trip led by a nun and a priest.  We never saw them on the beach but we did wonder what kind of swim suit the nun was changing into – is that a sin?  They all had on different colored hats to keep them in their groups and looked like they were ready for a break from school.

A beach field trip - Italian style

We had a decent lunch on the beach.  I had the “touristic menu” which means I got two courses and a drink for a good price.  Then we made our way to the old part of town.  We somehow missed this during our first trip to Monterossa but it is really a nice little village once you get away from the sunbathers and striped umbrellas.

Monterosso al Mare

The Pirates are coming!

Old town has its own, slightly more local feeling beach and a nice little piazza.  I sure wish we had something here in the states that compared to the idea of a piazza.  Maybe a hundred years ago, the town square filled this need, but we sure could use a piazza or two here at home.  I guess the mall has become our piazza.

Old Town Monterosso

There is a very nice church near the piazza – dated 1307

Chiesa San Giovanni Batisto in Monterosso

millo cccvii - 1307

Next to the church of Saint John the Baptist there was a little chapel called Oratorio Mortis et Orationis – Orotory of the Dead.  During the Counter Reformation, to offset the rising influence of the Lutherans, the Catholic Church created brotherhoods of good works called “confraternaties”.  They were kind of like religious Rotary clubs.  Monterosso had two called the White and the Black.  This building is still the oratory of the Black group.  They arrange funerals, provide for widows and orphans, and pray for the dead.  Sorry for going a little “teacher” on you again.  The building was full of “death” symbolism – creepy but interesting.

Orotory of the Dead

Inside the Orotory of the Dead

They hang this banner up at the Monterosso Dennys during their monthly dinner meetings

I bought a little ceramic plaque with fish that said “Cinque Terre” and Chala bought a little green ceramic door that reminded us of our door back in Vernazza.  We had some gelato and jumped back on the train to Vernazza.  Of course we had to stop in at Il Pirata for our daily slushie.  I had the famous coffee slushie with whipped cream.  Massimo was proud to show off the bowl of whipped cream and let us know that it did not come out of a can.  Charla had the melone and strawberry slushie with more of the wonderful fresh whipped cream.  These Canoli brothers are amazing.

Sicialian slushies in Liguria

We stopped at the enoteca and bought some “trofie”.  Trofie is the local, worm-like pasta that is served with pesto.  I also bought a bag of “croxetti” or coin shaped pasta.  Ligurian families would stamp this round, flat past with symbols or their family crest.  It can also be served with pesto.

While we were getting ready for dinner, a funeral procession passed by under our window.

Vernazza funeral

Everything came to a stop - even the loud tourists

Now it was time for the beach.  Charla sat and I sunned on the rocks and read.  I am reading An Italian Education (don’t know how to underline in these posts) by Tim Parks.  He is a Brit who married an Italian woman and they are raising their children in Italy.  It is so funny and so perfect for reading here.  The woman who shared my rock helped me with the pronunciation of my new favorite Italian phrase – “facciamo la corno” – or “make the horns”.  When something negative or bad luck comes up in conversation, you say “facciamo la corno” and make horns with your index finger and pinkie and ward of the bad mojo.  The book has really filled me in on some of the culture I have been missing out on as a foreigner.  I had a nice swim.  While enjoying my last swim I ran (swam) into Scott again – we have enjoyed visiting with them.  Then it was time for dinner.

Charla's Reading Rock

My Reading/Sunning Rock and my new Italian friend

Gary enjoying his last swim in Vernazza

Our almost last Ligurian meal (more on that from Milan) was at Trattoria Capitano.  We sat next to some Swedish airline attendants – I know this sounds like the set up for a bad joke – but they were really nice.  I discussed foreign adoption and education with the one seated next to me.  We told them about the Canoli brothers and their wonderful deserts. Then we said good-bye and made our way back to Il Pirata for the third night in a row.  Of course we ran into Scott and Cindy again but then the Swedes showed up and the party began.

We are packed and ready for Milan – can’t believe this trip is all but over and we are leaving these wonderful five lands.  Here are a few more pictures of our favorite place in the world.

The most photographed cats in Italy - tourists follow them around for pictures - feline paparazzi

Can you tell I missed Braxsten?

On the hill above town

Vernazza's church on the harbor

Even more beautiful at night

Arrivederci Vernazza!


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