Capuchin Monastery, Monterosso al Mare
Up on Salita San Cristoforo, just a little downhill from the cemetery, is Convento dei Frati Cappuccini and Chiesa di San Francesco. The monastery was built in in the early 17th century to thank a couple of friars for ending a nasty feud between two strongly divided local factions, and the new church was consecrated to St. Francis in 1623. The Capuchin brothers lived here peacefully until Napoleon appropriated their property for a garrison in 1810, and they were booted out again in 1866 by the Kingdom of Italy. Over the next 30 years the building served successively as a hospital during cholera epidemics, and a warehouse for dried fish.
In 1894 the property was purchased by a local priest and given back to the friars. The Church of St Francis is a modest little number compared to the glittering Baroque and Renaissance basilicas we’d seen elsewhere in Italy but its quiet simplicity is a fitting compliment to the Capuchin order’s humble, brown-robed monks. But it's far from austere; the sanctuary is warmed by creamy yellow walls, dark brown woodwork, a few swashes of red fabric, and an assortment of paintings - the most valuable of which is a 17th-century Van Dyke “Crucifixion.”
There wasn’t a soul around when we stopped by but a closed-circuit camera in the church let us know that someone was minding the shop!
Address: Salita San Cristoforo, Monterosso
Directions: The church can be reached either from Via Buranco, which passes the cemetery, or from a steep stairway near Aurora Tower. Take one up and the other down?
We were ready for a breather after making the uphill trek to the Capuchin monastery. Stepping inside the monastery's 1619 chapel, we found that. A stark contrast to the overwhelming cathedrals to which we had already become accustomed, St Francis Chapel was an oasis of peace and quiet enhanced by recordings of Gregorian chants being piped through the sound system.
Directions: At the top of the trail called Salita dei Cappuccini (nicknamed switchbacks of the monks)
Continuing the climb from the Aurora tower, you reach the church beginning to the Capuchin convent. This place is very peaceful and inside it's was nice and cool, a welcome break from the heat. Continuing up the steps there are more great views over the town.