Seasonal Planning for Travel to Cinque Terre
Cinque Terre covers a 1.8-mile (3 km) section of Italy’s northwestern Liguria region. Known as the “Italian Riviera,” it has earned this nickname due to the coastal mountains and five historic villages that comprise it. These include Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza, and Monterosso al Mare.
However, because Cinque Terre is situated in the north, it’s not always sunny out. It gets more drizzly and chilly during the fall months and winter. Still, summer is great beach weather, and you can score slightly lower prices on accommodations in the shoulder season of spring and autumn. All you really need to know about visiting is dress lighter in the sunnier months and bring an umbrella and raincoat in the fall/winter. Below, you'll find more info on the benefits of traveling here no matter the season.
For more planning advice, see Best Time to Visit Italy.
Summer (June through August)
There’s nothing quite like the image of this small section of Ligurian coast when it’s kissed by the summer sun. It indeed makes for great beach weather. Besides diving near the docks at Riomaggiore and Corniglia, the only real public beaches in the five villages are in Monterosso.
But you should know that those long pebble beaches start to overflow with holidaymakers in the summer months. August is particularly crowded as not only is Cinque Terre filled with foreign tourists, but many Italians have vacations during this time as well.
However, you can take tour cruises and private boat trips to some remote coves and hidden beaches around Monterosso and other villages. There’s Albana Beach, also known as Red Ones due to the red hue of the coastal cliffs hugging the beach. Canneto Beach can be reached by boat from Riomaggiore and is nice and secluded between Punta Cavo and Punta Castagna. Then there are the beaches accessible from Corniglia, like the one at the marina located at the bottom of the stone stairway leading from town.
As for rain, you don’t have to worry since these months are dry in Cinque Terre. In fact, it doesn’t get any precipitation at all during the month of July. Summer also happens to be the time for celebrating feast days of the various patron saints of the area, and each town has its own saint.
Feast of Saint John the Baptist (June 24th). On this day both Riomaggiore and Monterosso celebrate St. John the Baptist. For days leading up to it, there are activities like children’s games, charity events, and fundraisers. On June 24th there are long processions, and in Riomaggiore they lead from the historic church of the same name to the marina. There are also special masses and often the day ends in fireworks over the water.
Feast of San Pietro (June 29th). To celebrate Corniglia’s patron Saint, a traditional cake, La Torta dei Fieschi, is offered in the main plaza.
Feast of Santa Margherita di Antiochia (July 20th). Vernazza celebrates their martyr's saint with food stalls and a nighttime procession leading to the water followed by fireworks.
Feast of San Lorenzo (Aug. 10th). In Manarola, from 8 pm to midnight on Aug. 10, there is a night market with vendors and craftspeople selling fresh produce and locally made sweet dessert twine. This is followed by an evening procession from the Church of San Lorenzo to the ocean where locals release thousands of floating candles into the water to signify the saint's path in the sea.
Fall (September through November)
Fall is a nice shoulder season in which to visit Cinque Terre. In general, you’ll find cheaper flights to Italy, and it will be easier to get to and from Cinque Terre without having to contend with mass amounts of tourists. There will be some nice breathing room as you stroll the main streets of the towns as well.
That said, this is the season when the weather starts to turn for the worse. By fall the high temps dip into the 60s (°F) and become chillier at night, particularly as it gets deeper into the season. October is the rainiest month, and while there are still sunny days during this time, it’s a crapshoot whether you’ll get sun or gloom during your visit.
If you want to enjoy Monterosso’s famous beach, come in early September. This will likely coincide with this region’s famous grape-harvesting season, which is a special time of year. Perhaps take a tour of a local winery and they might let you participate in the harvest. If not, you can always head to a restaurant in any village and enjoy a glass or three of Cinque Terre’s famous whites made from their top three grape varietals: Bosco, Albarola, and Vermentino.
You can find a good wine-tasting excursion combined with other Cinque Terre highlights here.
Anchovy festival. Typically held during the third week of September, this festival in Monterosso celebrates exactly that: fresh, salted anchovies prepared every which way, from grilled to fried to drizzled in olive oil with tomatoes.
All Saints Day (Nov. 1st). This is a national holiday literally celebrating all Christian saints, plus families honor their dead by bringing flowers to the cemetery. Stores and restaurants are closed.
Winter (December through February)
If you’re dead set on avoiding big crowds and saving money on lodging, then December is the time to visit Cinque Terre. You’ll want to bring warm clothes, though, because temps peak in the low 50s and at night dip into the high 30s. Also, you should know that a few businesses might be closed during this time, as many of the staff come for seasonal work.
Mostly this is a good opportunity to just indulge in the wine and food of the region. Walking around is the best way to warm up, and you can find more hiking options on a wall map of trekking routes located in the tunnel beneath Vernazza’s train station. You can also enjoy brisk walks into the hills around any of the five towns—there’s a particularly good hiking route that leads from the Church of San Pietro in Corniglia to the nearby mountains.
Christmas Day/Santo Stefano (Dec. 25th-26th). Both Christmas Day and Santo Stefano (2nd day of Christmas, are national holidays in Italy. Come to Manarola anytime from Dec. 8th through the end of the month and you’ll see the hillside lit up with an elaborate nativity scene.
Spring (March through May)
There’s no better time to visit Cinque Terre, particularly if you want to beat the crowds while still enjoying great sunny weather, than spring. March can still be a little chilly, with average temps peaking in the high 50s, but by April the weather settles into the pleasant 60s and by May the mercury hits the sweet spot around 70.
This is great weather for outdoor excursions, particularly hiking, as you can witness Mother Nature in full bloom. This is exemplified by the terraced grapevine, lemon groves, and the bright yellow flowers of the ginestra bushes.
You’ll see much of this nature on a hike from Cinque Terre’s southernmost town of Riomaggiore up to the Sanctuary of Montenero, which sits perched on a mountain. It’s a 2.2-mile (3.5-km) hike that ascends up to 1,115 feet (340 meters), and the views of the coast from the 6th-century monastery are incredible.
For a brisk coastal hike, you can walk from the village of Vernazza to the northernmost town, Monterosso al Mare in about 1.5 hours. Some other great Cinque Terre hiking options can be found here.
Liberation Day (April 25th). National Holiday signifying the end of Nazi occupation in Italy. Cinque Terre is particularly busy during this time.
Pasqua/Easter (dates change each year). Both Easter Sunday and Monday are national holidays. There are special masses and Cinque Terre is very crowded.
Labor Day (May 1st). National holiday and businesses are closed.
Lemon festival (mid-May). Like on the Amalfi Coast, Cinque Terre is famous for its prized lemons. During this local festival, Monterosso fills with vendors selling lemon products, foods, and of course, limoncello. Plus there are guided walks through the lemon groves up in the hills.