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The towns of Vernazza and Monterosso al Mare were the site of terrible floods in the fall of 2011. What we saw were fully recovered towns, with evidence of the flood, water lines on the walls, beaches and boulders where they were never before … such a shame that we take so much longer to recover in the US.

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Constructed in 1318 in Ligurian gothic style by the Maestri Antelami, the church of Santa Margherita d’Antiochia rose on a pre-existing XI century building. It was built on a rock in front of the sea, with an impressive 40 meters belfry adorned by a pointed shape dome. It has three aisles and was widened in the XVI and XVII century. According to the tradition, the church was built because a wooden box with the bones of Saint Margaret was found on the beach. But the inhabitants decided to build the church in the Isolotto quarter and a strong sea storm destroyed it and the relic got lost. Time after, it appeared again in the original point and the population then erected a new church there, where it stands now. (from http://www.lecinqueterre.org)

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Next stop: Monterosso al Mare.

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The town of Monterosso al Mare is divided into two distinct parts: the old town and the new town. The two areas are divided by a single tunnel that caters to pedestrians and the very few cars in the town. The beach at Monterosso runs along most of the coast line and is well used by tourists and locals. The beach is the only extensive sand beach in the Cinque Terre. Monterosso is a small town that in the summer months is overrun by tourists. The village was briefly excluded from the Cinque Terre trail in 1948, but was re-introduced in mid-1949. This is because Italian officials considered the village too large to be considered part of the historic trail. (from wikipedia)

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The town is known for its lemon trees, white grapes and olives.

Right next door to San Giovanni Battista is the chapel of the Brotherhood of Death and Prayer: Mortis et Orationis. Dating to the 16th century, it belongs to one of the surviving charitable lay groups created during the Counter-Reformation when the Catholic church, under threat from the spread of Protestantism, decided it needed to clean up its act. Confraternita dei Neri – Fraternity of Blacks – was responsible for the welfare of orphans, widows and victims of shipwreck, and burial of the destitute, and “black” refers to the color of attire they wore in religious processions. (from http://www.virtualtourist.com)

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Construction of the Romanesque-style Chiesa di San Giovanni Batisto began in 1282 and finished in 1307. Its Carrara marble exterior appears to be black and white horizontal stripes, but in fact the “black” stones are an aged green. (from http://www.virtualtourist.com) The intricate rose window, almost like lace-work is carved out of one piece of marble.

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On our way to lunch at the only restaurant open for the season, we cross Monterosso’s Piazza Garibaldi with a statue of Italy’s revolutionary hero Giuseppe Garibaldi. We had a wonderful seafood dinner at Ristorante Belvedere in the Piazza Garibaldi overlooking the water.


Lightly-breaded deep fried prawns drizzled in lemon juice.


Black & white spaghetti with local mussels. The black pasta is colored with squid ink mixed into the pasta dough. The town is also famous for its pesto sauce made from local olive oil, garlic and basil.

After lunch, we were led by our guide up the hill to the Monastery and Chapel of the Capuchin Friars (currently only one of them resides there, but he also takes care of two other churches, so he wasn’t home). There was some hope he would be home, and he would serve us their local version of Limoncello called Limoncino. Apparently, Limoncello is a copyrighted name.

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Monterosso from the Capuchin Friars’ chapel on the hill.

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Inscription above the door to the friars’ cenacle.

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“Crucifixion” attributed to Antoon Van Dyck (17th century) in the chapel.

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Iron cross at the garden gate: Fr. Bill Dickinson, our guide Fulvia, Fr. Dennis Yesalonia SJ, Fr. Jim Walsh.

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Image of St. Francis of Assisi from behind overlooking the sea as we make our way down from the Capuchin Friars’ chapel.

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Rain in the distance over the Ligurian sea.

Last stop: Manarola. It was about 4 PM and rain seemed to be headed for shore.