Saturday, January 14, 2012


View to Old Monterosso - the mudslide to the right of center is the one that destroyed the school and it's gym, the pink and orange buildings in the center, at the top...
Sunrise tower and Vernazza in the distance
Yesterday, a cloudy, overcast day that showed just how many shades of blue grey exist, we went up to the Church of San Francesco, which overlooks the town and the "Pirate Tower" (which, as a side note, has a much more beautiful name - the Torre Aurora, or "tower of sunrise" - though it was built by the Republic of Genoa as a lookout for those pesky pirates who kept popping up in the 15-1600's).  The Church also includes a convent of an order of Cappucin Monks, lead by Padre Renato, and is the most breathtaking Church out of the several in Monterosso.  It's up the hill, above the tower - either a long, winding, crumbing staircase of stone laced with moss, or a twisty, narrow road that weaves off the main street out of town, wiggling across the mountain.  Either way, it's a beautiful sight once you arrive, and one that many Monterossini make frequently, as next to the Church is the town cemetery, where people come to pay their respects to their beloved friends and relatives.

View to Via Fegina and the New Town
The Church itself was built in the early 1600's, and the hill that it is built on has great significance to the town.  The earliest settlement of Monterosso can be traced to this hill of San Cristiforo, where the ruins of a castle or fortress atop this hill make up the walls of the town cemetery, and the rust colored dirt is said to give the town it's name of "red mountains by the sea".  Sensible.  The Church building is quite small, with wooded pews and a few notable pieces of art, by Sir Anthony Van Dyck, who though Flemish painted a great deal in Italy, especially Genoa.  The order of monks was expelled by Napoleon in the early 1800's, and the buildings were used as everything ranging from a hospital to a warehouse, until a priest from Monterosso, Don Giuseppe Policardi, bought the structure in 1894, spruced it up, and gave it back to the monks.
Note the gate in the wall, that opens up to nothing - just the sea
Now, it's a Church and convent again, with sweeping views of the town, the hills in the distance, and on a clear day, the whole Cinque Terre and the still as glass Ligurian sea, as far as Corsica.  They have a garden that is full and thriving in the summer, now lovingly tended by the monks and full of lemons, oranges, and some curious guard cats in the winter.  Old stone walls, in shades of sharp, dark grey, cut a stark contrast to the soft blue of the water that is in every direction you look.  As we were invited back into the convent after mass by Padre Renato, I was awestruck by the beauty of this convent, perched on the hill, overlooking everything.  "The best views in Monterosso", Manuel's Uncle laughed, though it wasn't a joke.

We all stood, overlooking the railing, and gazing into the broad distance dreamily, and alternately surveying the hills around the town with a watchful, critical eye.  Just a few months ago, they gave way and caused us so much pain (ironically, there was only one landslide we could see, behind the school) as we were reminded of the bitter and the sweet that life can give us.  Manuel's father leaned over and told me that the locals call this spot "paradiso".
I couldn't think of a better description.


  1. Hi Christine,
    It really looks like a paradiso!

    Since the first time I saw a picture of Monterosso and the other terres, I knew I would visit it some day. We are finally going in the beginning of March. Will we be able to visit Monterosso by then? it's such a sad tragedy, hoping and praying for fast recovery. God bless you all.
    Love, Lilian

  2. Hi Christine, Thank you so much for sharing your life in this feed, I am so looking forward to seeing Monterosso and the Cinque Terre in June this year, I will be taking that walk to the little church, you made me feel like I was there. I hope to maybe even meet you when I am there. maybe you could let me know how to find you when I am there. would love to say Hi. enjoy Blessings Denise (australia)

  3. Hi ladies!
    Lilian - Monterosso is pretty much ok now, in the sense that the majority of the residents are back in their homes, we have stores open, and the beach is back to normal. The trains are running on time, and we have bars and cafes and a restaurant open for normal hours. However, the most dramatic thing about town now is the streets - Via Roma, Molinelli, and 4 Novembre (and a few others) had to be ripped up to clear out the canal below, and as they are being worked on, they remain open and there is only plywood and mud to walk across narrow paths to get up and down the street. It's safe but a little unsteady, and looks much more terrifying then it is - it's what needs to be done to repair the street, but it looks dramatic. They're working as fast as they can to repair it, and I don't know if that will be fixed by March. But aside from a few messy streets, Monterosso is ready for visitors now - we've had some tourists for the past few weeks take the train in and enjoy the sunny, mild weather. Thank you so much for your prayers, and I think you'll be fine to come visit in March :)
    Denise - Thank you! I'm glad I get the chance to help people see this area through my eyes and maybe fall in love with it like I did. When you come, let me know!

  4. Thank you Christine for your update. I'm glad things are going back to normal.
    Thank you for sharing news from the beautiful Cinque Terre.

  5. I'm glad to help, and if you have any other questions please don't hesitate to ask :)