Monterosso on the north end of the chain is largest of the five hamlets and makes a good home base because it has 20 hotels, the only sandy beach, excellent restaurants, and the start of the hiking trail. It is also the only one in which long-distance trains stop, so it is easy to reach by rail service from throughout Europe. You arrive by train at Monterosso in the newer section built in the 1970s, then walk through a short tunnel into the Old Town, just as quaint and charming as could be -- for pedestrians only when you get into the heart of town.
Of course, the best way to see any place worth visiting is walking, just using your own 2 feet and meandering around. And here it's very easy because the old town is small enough you don't need a map. Just take a left, take a right, go straight, see what looks good. You're going to wind up going around in circles, which is perfectly okay. Even if you backtrack on the same route, you’ll see it in a different way from the opposite direction.
Walking inside these villages is one of the most entertaining things to do, and of course for the shoppers, there's always that chance to find the elusive outfit in a little hidden, out-of-the-way boutique that you would never find at home or on the main shopping circuits, so there's something for everybody here in the Cinque Terre.
Monterosso has a handful of historic sites, including a Cappucine convent and church, a medieval tower, castle ruins, and WWII bunker, but you are here primarily here to wander the little lanes for a few hours, admire the cluster of picturesque buildings, eat well, and use the town as a springboard for visiting the region. Of course, for the shoppers, there’s always that chance to find the special souvenir or elusive outfit in little, out-of-the-way boutiques that you would never find at home or on the main shopping circuits, so there’s something for everybody here in the Cinque Terre.
At the far end of the beach you can see a path going diagonally up the side of the hill. That's the beginning of the great hiking trail described in our hiking section.
And a short video photographed many years ago - but nothing much has changed!