It was about noon when we got to Monterosso al Mare, so the first thing we did was look for somewhere to have lunch. Monterosso is the largest of the Cinque Terre towns and the one with the most tourist amentities — hotels, restaurants, shops — so we had our fair share from which to choose.
As hungry as we were, we passed a church during our restaurant hunt that seemed worth a brief detour. The Oratorio Mortis et Orationes (the Oratory of Death and Prayers) was built in the 16th century by the Confraternity of the Blacks, so called because they wore black robes. Two words in the last sentence with which I was unfamiliar: oratory and confraternity. An oratory is a space dedicated to prayer and worship that is not a parish church. And a confraternity is a lay organization dedicated to doing good works. The Confraternity of the Blacks bury (they still exist) the poor and cared for the orphans and widows of seamen. You’ll need to know that to understand the oratory’s interior decor.
The exterior was the now familiar dark and white stripes of a gothic Ligurian church.
The interior, being restored, was decor by Morticia Adams.
I’ve tried to find more about the interior — who designed it, when was it done, anything — but I’ve come up with nothing so far. I’ll revise this post if I ever do.
After wandering a bit and not really feeling our choices, we settled for a cute place on a narrow side street, called Restaurante al Carugio. It specialized in seafood but we both opted for non-meat dishes that featured the Ligurian speciality: pesto. Liguria is Italy’s most prolific basil growing region and pesto was born in Genoa. I had Trofie Pasta Liguia, which is pesto on trofie (a short, twisted pasta native to Liguria) and green beans. Patricia had a lasagna that was nothing but layers upon layers of cheese, pesto and pasta. We even indulged in a little mid-day wine.
I have to show you this sign, that was in the restaurant’s restroom. That last square — what the fork?!
After lunch, we wandered up St. Christopher’s Hill toward the Convento dei Cappuccini e Chiesa di San Francesco, that sit on top of a promatory overlooking Monterosso Bay. There’s a 17th church with a Van Dyke Crucifixion, a Capuchin monastery and a cemetery that I wanted to see.
Just below the church and monastery, there’s a bronze statue of St. Francis of Assisi and a German Shepard, created in 1962 by Milanese sculpter Silvio Monfrini. Beyond the statue, there was a view of the other four Cinque Terre along the coast.
I don’t know what we were doing — could it have been [Church Lady intonation] shopping? — but once we’d finished with St. Francis and his dog, we realized that we were running out of time. So instead of continuing up to the monastery, we went over the hill to the new part of town, where we met the rest of the group for our train ride back to La Spezia.
This last photo is just to remind you that we were still on the gelato tour of Italy. These were from one of the beach concessions on the new side of Monterosso. As you can see, teeny tiny totally inadequate chocolate chips in my strachiatella, so it was immediately eliminated from the best competition.
I’d love to do the Cinque Terre by foot, and I’ll definitely look into going back there once I’m assured that the walking path is open again. A few days exploring Cinque Terre, with Monterosso as a base, would make a wonderful seaside holiday.