Cinque Terre ( Monterosso al Mare) - Momboisse Family Adventures September 2019 / Part 1

View of Old Town Monterosso al Mare from Capuchin Monastery

Momboisse Family Adventure Fall 2019 was a 3-1/2 week adventure of a lifetime.  A pilgrimage to Italy, Montenegro, Croatia, Greece, Lourdes France, Spain and Fatima Portugal.  But a tiny, well maybe not so tiny,  detached retina caused us to bag our trip after six days.  Good news, the re-attachment surgery was successful and sight was saved! Praise God and modern medicine.  

This blog and subsequent parts 2 through 7 to this blog chronicle the incredible six fabulous days Mike and I had touring and hiking Cinque Terre, Italy and Kotor, Montenegro.
I make these blogs as a diary of sorts as well as information for others traveling the same path.  

So off we go on Momboisse Family Adventures 2019.  God is good and He is in charge! Peace! 



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Eight hours after leaving Washington, Dulles airport we landed early in the morning on September 29, 2019 at Fiumicino Airport Rome. 



Breezed through passport control (sorry no pictures, against the law) and we are on our way to the Fiumicino Airport Train Station located in the Fiumicino Airport across from Terminal 3. 

Follow the signs overhead in the terminal with a picture of a train.  Or just ask someone.  We found everyone to be very friendly and eager to help especially when we appeared lost and confused. 

The train station was about a 1/4 mile walk from our arrival terminal.

The first leg of our train ride was via the Leonardo Express.  These trains leave every 30 minutes and are a 35 minute non-stop ride to the Roma Termini, the main railway station in Rome.  We had purchased all of our train tickets on line ahead of time through Trenitalia




But they can be purchased on the day of travel at ticket counters adjacent to the departure platform.  The cost was 14.  No advantage to buying ahead of time other than to have tickets in hand and know you have seat on train. 




Once you have your ticket, enter the turn style and wait for the train clearly marked Leonardo Express. 



There are no assigned seats so sit where ever you find space. All seats were taken.   




If you buy your ticket at the ticket counter you must validate your ticket before entering the train at one of these cute machines (see below). Or the nice Italian man (see above with red tie)  who checks your tickets will give you a nice big fine payable on demand! 




At the Rome Termini Train Station there is a wonderful food court  with numerous reasonable priced options for starving tourists such as ourselves.  



After sharing some Italian flatbread we were ready for our next challenge, reading, and deciphering, the Italian train schedule. 




There is a learning curve, which we thankfully figured out before our train left the station.  




This leg, Rome Termini Train Station is 3 hours and 45 minutes to La Spezia Centrale.  The cost, €35 for an economy class seat.

This train, which was not a regional train, had numbers assigned to each of the coaches.  Once we located the correct departure platform, we needed to find the coach with the same number as our ticket.   After a sprint to our coach we located our seats and proceeded to take a long nap awaking just in time to exit at La Spezia Centrale.  



From La Spezia Centrale we had a 6 minute transfer to the train that would take us to our final destination for the day, Monterosso. 

How hard could that be?  Well, it shouldn't have been difficult, as this station only has a two platforms. Our connecting train was on the platform across the track, which meant either an elevator/escalator ride or a flight of stairs.

What we learned was from here on out any time we were in an Italian train station all elevators would be "fuori servizio
out of order.




Mike muscled up to the challenge and went down a flight and then back up a flight.  And yes, we made our connection, a 15 minute ride €4 each. 



Exit at Monterosso, there are more stairs as the elevator was, of course, fuori servizio.  Thankfully our hotel is just a few blocks from the station.

Take a right on the via Fegina and roll our suitcases a few blocks to the Hotel La Spiaggia located at via Fegina 100 (shown above).  When we arrive they greet us with a glass of wine! 



Our room was on the third floor with small balcony overlooking the beach.  These rooms are small but perfectly fit our needs with double bed, attached bathroom, superb internet connection, hearty breakfast, and working elevator! 


After we settled into our room, it was time for our first hike. 

Monterosso is divided into two sections.  The new section which is where our hotel was located and the old section which is where we were ultimately headed to attend Sunday Mass at San Giovanni Battista. 

In between the old and new towns is the train station and St. Cristoforo hill where the Capuchin Monastery, a statue of St. Francis and old castle walls and towers are located.  The top of St. Cristoforo hill would be our first stop. 

Heading back in the direction of the train station on via Fegina we stopped at the Tourist Information counter (near the train station) and picked up some free maps of the five main towns of Cinque Terre. 

Our maps did not survive in the best condition to reproduce them on this blog, but Googlemaps works just as well. 

Continue past the train station and the pharmacy.  You will be walking on a promenade lined with oleander, bougainvillea and palm trees. The road for cars is to your left and beach to the right. In the photo below you can see the pedestrian tunnel carved into St. Cristoforo Hill in the distance.  That tunnel is 1/3rd mile from our hotel. 



Continue walking and pass the pedestrian tunnel, which will be to your left and leads directly to old town Monterosso. We are going to get to old town the hard way, up and over St. Cristoforo Hill.


Just a few hundred feet past the tunnel will be a set of stairs on your left.  A sign by the stairs will point up for the Covento dei Frati Cappuccini and St. Francis statue.  Take the stairs up and pause periodically to take in the view and catch your breath.   



The picture below as taken from the top of the first landing. It is looking down at the location of the l'Tortuga restaurant where we will eat on our last night in Cinque Terre.


  
Three switchbacks of ascending stone stairs will bring you to a view point of the back of the statue San Francesco with the Wolf

This bronze statue was created by sculptor Silvio Monfrini in 1962. He was 75 years old at the time. A set of stairs leads down to the landing to view the statue from below. 


Monterosso often found itself under attack from pirates and at one time the Saracen's (Muslim's) in 1545.  A strong defense system was built to protect the village that originally contained 13 watchtowers.  Only three remain.  The Aurora Tower, now a private residence, is one of the three and can be seen in the photo below which is taken from our vantage point near the top of the hill.  Also in the picture below and to the right notice the "pill box,"  used by the Nazi's during World War II.  


Continue on ahead and find a fork in the road.  To the right steps lead down to a path to old town.  To the left, which of course is where we are headed, is a set of stairs that leads to the Convento dei Cappuccini. 


Enter the iron gate, which is  located under the arch with a niche containing a statue of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception.  


Another flight of stairs leads to a small plaza in front of the entrance to the church monastery.  The monastery was built between 1618 and 1622.  It was dedicated to Saint Francis of Assisi in March 1623 and run by Capuchin friars.  During the Napoleonic War in 1810 the friars were expelled and for one reason or another would not return until 1895.


Inside the church there is a beautiful ornate wooden altar piece.  


Back outside we turn left after descending the stairs to the gate entrance and continue ascending more stairs to the cemetery.  


Finally we have reached the top of the hill and begin our descent  along a lovely path that will wind us back into old town. 


Our view as we turn the corner to make our way back down the hill is worth the hike to the top.  Which was probably no more than 1/2 of a mile. 



It is another 1/2 mile from the cemetery winding down the hill to the town.  

There will be a number of stairs and you will walk past remnants of castle walls.  All will be heading downhill. 
Just before you enter the back of the town you will come to a gate which is a private residence.  The path continues to the right of the gate.   

Turn right and continue downhill  


  along the stone path. 



Our first sign of civilization. 



The path ends at the Via Buranco, which will be on the outskirts of the old town of Monterosso near the office of the Carabinieri.  On our best behavior here.


Continue walking.  At the next opportunity turn to the right.
  

Ahead at the end of the "block" you will see two buildings that have black and white marble stripes.  This is the Church of San Giovanni Battista and the Oratory of the Dead.  



The Oratory is Gothic in style and dates to the 1600's.  It was in this building that a confraternity mission was organized to bury the dead and take care of the poor.


Inside, skeletons


and skulls adorn the walls. 



San Giovanni Battista with its lovely rose stained glass window dates to 1307.  



Still an active Catholic church we arrived just as the church bells were ringing for 6 pm Mass which was beautifully celebrated in Latin with Holy Communion distributed on the tongue via Intinction.  


Later that evening we toured the rest of old town.  From the church walk back in the direction we had come from. When you come to via Buranco veer right onto via Vittorio Emanuele.  Even if you don't see any street signs this is the only way to go.  




Continue down the narrow street past restaurants and tourist shops till you come to an archway. Go under the archway and you will end up on the main street, via Roma. Then make a U-turn, just past the Italian mama's,  and head back on via Roma toward the sea.




When looking at the picture above, we have just come out of the archway and are headed back in the direction of those pink buildings in the distance on the left side of the picture.  

Here you will pass more restaurants and shops eventually coming into the main square. 



Looking back you will also see the back of the bell tower to San Giovanni Battista.  



Continue walking, heading back toward the sea.  You will cross under the train tracks. The picture below was taken after we went under the train tracks and again were looking back at the church bell tower.  


On the other side will be stairs that lead up to St. Cristoforo hill on the right and the pedestrian tunnel to the new town on the left.  

We are taking the pedestrian tunnel this time.  At the end of the tunnel we turn right to head back to our hotel.  


Dinner our first night was at Nuovo Bar Eden across from our hotel on the beach side.  The restaurant has a large covered patio with a panoramic view of the sea.  


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All pictures by L. A. Momboisse and R. M. Momboisse


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