The Best Time to Visit the Cinque Terre

Cinque Terre

TripSavvy / Lauren Breedlove

The Cinque Terre, or five lands, of Italy is a group of five small towns on the coast of the northern region of Liguria. Famous for their quaint beauty, the towns are connected by walking trails that were once the only means of getting from one town to the other. Today, they're one of the most popular tourist destinations in Italy. The best time to visit the Cinque Terre is May or September. These two months generally offer moderate crowds and mild, sunny weather that's perfect for hiking.

Regardless of when you decide to visit the Cinque Terre, here's a month-by-month breakdown of what to expect in the Cinque Terre in terms of weather, crowds and special events.

Weather in the Cinque Terre

The five towns of the Cinque Terre are located on the coast of Liguria. Their position south of the Alps means they are sheltered from harsh winter weather. Though winter is especially rainy here, some visitors prefer this period as it's the least crowded time of year to visit.

In the summertime, their seafront location means that temperatures stay markedly cooler than much of the rest of Italy, which can be unbearably hot in July and August. Warm summer days with plenty of hours of daylight draw droves of visitors, making this the most pleasant time to visit weather-wise, but also the most crowded.

In the fall and spring, weather can alternate between mild, sunny days and cold and rainy ones. Many travelers are willing to risk some wet weather in exchange for those pleasant days, as well as hiking trails that are only moderately crowded. One weather caveat: Violent, increasingly frequent autumn rainstorms can cause flooding, mudslides, and trail closures in the Cinque Terre. While fall is generally still a good time to visit the region, keep an eye on weather conditions while you're there.

Crowds and Pricing in the Cinque Terre

Far and away, summer is the busiest time in the Cinque Terre. Even with efforts to limit the number of people in the area at any given time, the trails connecting the five towns can be jam-packed in June, July, and August, and accommodations must be reserved months in advance. You'll find the lightest crowds in the winter, though lots of hotels and restaurants close from November to March. Fall and spring see moderate, manageable crowd levels, if sometimes iffy weather.

As summer is the most popular time to visit, it's also the most expensive in terms of hotels and international flights to Italy. You'll find hotel and airfare prices much lower in the winter (except at Christmas), but again, fewer hotels and restaurants will be open during the low season. The fall and spring shoulder seasons see hotel rates lower than the peak summer season, especially if you book a mid-week stay. Airfares may be slightly lower in early spring and late fall.

January

January is the coldest month in the Cinque Terre; temperatures rarely drop below freezing, but winds blowing in off the sea can make it feel colder. It's also particularly wet, and sees an average of 5.5 inches of rain over the course of the month. For lovers of solitude, this is one of the quietest months in the region. The downside of visiting during this time, apart from the weather, is that a lot of businesses geared to tourists—such as hotels, restaurants, and gift shops—are closed for the season.

Events to check out:

  • La Befana: Celebrated throughout Italy, La Befana is on January 6, the day of the Epiphany. Children leave stockings out the night before, and La Befana, in the guise of an old woman riding a broom, comes and fills them with candy.

February

Though it's a degree or two warmer and there's less rainfall, February in the Cinque Terre is otherwise not much different from January. Hiking trails between the towns are nearly deserted, and sunny days—not unheard of in February—can offer great photo opportunities of empty trails and sweeping sea views.

Events to check out:

  • Carnevale: It depends on the timing of Easter, but most years Carnevale—the weeks-long festival leading up to Lent—starts in mid- to late February. Though the festivities in the Cinque Terre are nothing as elaborate as in the Tuscan town of Viareggio, you'll still find special seasonal desserts on sale and kids partaking in Carnevale pranks.

March

The first month of spring is still cold and relatively wet, with about four inches of rain per month. Trails might start to be a little more crowded, as visitors seeking airfare or hotel bargains might choose to visit in March.

Easter will fall in March or April. In the Cinque Terre, you'll find it's a quiet, reflective holiday, and each town typically holds one or more small religious processions during Holy Week. On Easter Sunday and Monday, most businesses will be closed. If you're thinking about dining out either of those days, check ahead for an open restaurant.

Events to check out:

  • Easter in Manarola: Using figures from the annual nativity scene in December, the town of Manarola assembles the 12 Stations of the Cross on the hillside over the town.

April

April weather is as unpredictable as March, with slightly rising temperatures and about the same amount of annual rainfall. Since it's a popular month for visitors to travel to other parts of Italy, you will likely see moderately increased crowds on the trails and in the towns of the Cinque Terre.

Events to check out:

  • Easter in Manarola: If not in March, see above.
  • Liberation Day: April 25 is Liberation Day in Italy, marking the end of World War II. It's often celebrated with processions and wreath-laying at war memorials.

May

There are a lot of reasons May is one of our favorite months to visit the Cinque Terre. Glorious weather—most of the time, at least—that's not too hot, hillsides in full bloom, and mostly uncrowded conditions are just a few. You'll also find hotel deals in May, particularly closer to the beginning of the month.

Events to check out:

  • Labor Day: May 1 is Labor Day in Italy. Most businesses geared towards tourists will remain open.
  • Sagra dei Limoni: The Lemon Festival of Monterosso is a popular annual event, held on the third Saturday in May. The event includes contests for the largest lemons, and vendors selling lemon-based products, including limoncello liqueur.

June

June is a terrific month weather-wise in the Cinque Terre. Summer weather has officially arrived, but never reaches the high temperatures of much of the rest of Italy. Things will start to get crowded, though not at the peak levels of July and August. Sea temperatures will still be brisk, but the hardy can take a swim. Food festivals and saints' days add to the festive summer atmosphere.

Events to check out:

  • Corpus Domini: In Monterosso and Vernazza, the Corpus Domini festivals, held on different dates in June, see streets decorated with colorful flower petals. In the afternoon or evening, religious processions pass through the towns.
  • La Sagra dell’Acciuga Fritta: On the third Saturday in June, the Fried Anchovy Festival in Monterosso celebrates the tiny, flavorful fish.
  • Saint John the Baptist Day: In Riomaggiore and Monterosso, patron saint St. John the Baptist is feted on the days leading up to June 24, his saint's day. Expect processions, dancing, food, and fireworks. In Monterosso, the festival ends on the evening of the 24th, with luminary candles being pushed out to sea and a fireworks show.
  • The feast of Saints Peter and Paul: On June 29 in Corniglia, the most important festival of the year celebrates Sts. Peter and Paul. A huge cake is baked, and all attendees get a taste.

July

July is peak season in the Cinque Terre. While the weather is sunny and warm and the days are long, it's also quite crowded. Still, if you can handle the crowds, and you reserve your accommodations well in advance, there is a lot going on across the five towns in July.

Events to check out:

  • Festa of Santa Margarita: Vernazza honors its patron saint with an evening procession through town on July 20.
  • Festa del Mare: This two-day festival, the most important in Levanto, takes place July 24-25. The festival culminates with an evening procession down to the sea with a statue of the saint and huge, heavy crosses. Afterward, luminary candles are floated into the sea, followed by fireworks.
  • Cinque Terre International Music Festival: This annual classical music festival, with concerts in all five towns, starts in late July and runs through early September.

August

To experience an Italian seaside vacation at peak capacity, visit the Cinque Terre in August. People—lots of them—flock here in the last month of summer for the warm seas and festive vibe. Things start to quiet down slightly after August 15. Expect warm weather, long hours of daylight, great swimming conditions, and very, very crowded trails, piazzas, and restaurants.

Events to check out:

  • San Lorenzo Day: A procession and a blessing of the sea take place in Manarola. That evening, watch for falling stars: The Night of San Lorenzo falls over the annual Perseid meteor shower.
  • Ferragosto: A huge holiday in Italy, Ferragosto, August 15, marks the start or endpoint of most Italian summer vacations. Celebrations may include fireworks, concerts, and street fairs.
  • Festa dei Pirati: The annual Pirate Festival in Vernazza (dates change year to year) is all good fun, but recalls the real pirate attacks of the medieval era.

September

Know what happens in the Cinque Terre in September? People go home. Crowds thin out dramatically by about September 10, but temperatures are still warm and the sea is still inviting for swimming. Enjoy more elbow room on the trails and in towns, and take advantage of lower hotel rates when compared to July and August. As you walk from town to town, you'll see the annual vendemmia, or grape harvest, taking place.

Events to check out:

Anchovy and Olive Festival: These two savory treats are celebrated the third Saturday in September in Monterosso.

October

The weather starts to turn inhospitable in the Cinque Terre in October, the wettest month of the year. Still, plenty of visitors prefer this period to other times of the year. If you visit in October, you may catch any number of pleasant days—but keep your eye on the weather forecast.

November

Like October, November is a rainy month in the Cinque Terre. But there's solitude, and the occasional sunny—albeit chilly—day. The olive harvest takes place in November, so you'll see a lot of harvesting activity during your walks.

Events to check out:

  • Feast of Saint Martin: Think of it as an "only in Italy" event. Monterosso's tongue-in-cheek festival on November 11 honors the patron saint of betrayed husbands, with lots of spoofing—and lots of wine—involved.

December

While the weather is cold and rainy, the Cinque Terre, like the rest of Italy, takes on the magical glow of the Christmas season this month, with lights and decorations in all the towns. While hotels may raise their rates at Christmas and New Year's, the rest of December is an affordable, uncrowded time to visit.

Events to check out:

  • Nativity Scene: From December 8 until the end of January, Manarola's larger than life, illuminated nativity scene is spread across a hill above town. Made from recycled materials, it is one of the world's largest such displays. There are several vantage points for viewing the scene, as well as a trail that leads up the hill and stops in front of several of the vignettes.
  • Christmas: December 24, 25, and 26 are all holidays in Italy. If you're visiting during this time, be sure to check ahead for restaurants that are open—though virtually everything will be closed on Christmas Day.
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