The tunnel that connects the long beach stretch of the “New Town” of Monterosso with the old historical center is not very interesting at first glance. Burrowed through the “red mountain” that aptly gives Monterosso it’s name, it is the one street that connects the boardwalk on the sea with the colorful “Old Town”. Many visitors walking through note the glass display cases that show off handcrafted ceramics and old photographs sharing the history of the little fishing village, but few look up. It’s worth doing – on one wall, about halfway through, hides a small Madonna, lit from behind, in a glass case. Seemingly an odd place for the Virgin Mary, the small shrine has a great historical significance to Monterosso.
Occupied and bombed during World War II, villagers huddled in the tunnel’s protection and darkness as airstrikes went on outside. Families brought in makeshift beds and clustered together in the tunnel while their world exploded. The tunnel, more than just a passage from one end of the village to the other, became their sanctuary, their temporary home, and the Virgin Mary became their church, their place to pray for safety and salvation. The small shrine that remains in the tunnel marks the spot that the villagers turned to to pray in the darkness during the time they spent in the tunnel, hiding in the dark in the mountain as planes roared overhead.
Certainly not the most ornate church in the area, certainly not the most picturesque, but worth noting for it’s significance to the village, nestled in a tunnel that saved their lives.