The best time to go to Cinque Terre

Do accept some crowds in Cinque Terre. You don’t want to visit too far out of season, as damp weather makes walking difficult, public transport schedules are cut down and frankly, the villages don’t have a great deal of atmosphere.
Cinque Terre has a long main season that effectively spans May to October, due to the Liguria region’s mild Mediterranean climate. Really the best time to visit Cinque Terre is on the edges of this period, in mid to late April, or mid to late October. May, June and September tend to be the busiest months of all with cruise ships arriving on an almost daily basis, July and August, when daytime temperatures can reach 27°C, only slightly less so. If you can avoid school holidays, and definitely Italian national holidays, you will also find it a lot more manageable. Cinque Terre in winter is very quiet, with many shops and restaurants closed, train and ferry timetables reduced, while rainfall can close off some hiking trails. Instead visit during the season, but escape the crowds by walking higher routes.

Cinque Terre Weather Chart

 
MIN °C
MAX °C
RAIN (mm)
JAN
3
9
93
FEB
4
10
83
MAR
6
12
83
APR
8
15
72
MAY
12
19
63
JUN
15
22
50
JUL
18
26
25
AUG
18
26
53
SEP
15
23
82
OCT
12
18
120
NOV
8
13
120
DEC
4
10
88

Our top Cinque Terre activities

Things to do in Cinque Terre…

The five villages might be the main attraction here, but explore further afield too, especially if you’re walking, as there are so many other gorgeous locales that get nowhere near as much attention – or tourism income. Seaside communities such as Moneglia, Portofino, Rapallo and Santa Margherita Ligure are much more peaceful than Cinque Terre, with oak forests, old mule paths and hilltop sanctuaries that most day-trippers get nowhere near. Eat and drink local. Cinque Terre specialties include anchovies and pesto, but especially look to produce such as olive oil and wine. These are made from crops grown on the hillsides using almost 2,000km of dry stonewall buttresses. In recent decades as people leave the land, unable to compete with the low costs of products from elsewhere in Europe, this unique terraced landscape has fallen into disrepair – supporting local producers encourages people to keep farming and for authorities to fund repairs. Aim to see Cinque Terre in the mornings and evenings, if you want to avoid the heaving crowds. For that reason it can be best to stay in one of the villages (as far from the train station as possible) so that after breakfast you can snap a few photos then escape for the day, returning to much quieter carrugi (side streets) and restaurants after sunset.

Things not  to do in Cinque Terre…

Don’t fall for the Instagram-perfect imagery of Cinque Terre – the most photogenic spots are always going to be super-busy and the chances of you having them to yourself for even a few minutes are tiny. Unless you visit out of season you just need to anticipate and accept lots of other people and find ways to avoid them – see our page on skipping the crowds in Cinque Terre. Cinque Terre is a high profile victim of overtourism, so don’t come just for one day. Cruise passengers are disgorged by their thousands onto guided tours which cover the main landmarks and offer very little value to the residents whose daily lives they disrupt. Staying in the area for a few nights on the other hand, using locally owned accommodations and restaurants, means your money can go a long way while in return you’ll get a more culturally enriching experience than following an umbrella around for a few hours. The most popular activity in Cinque Terre is walking, but don’t stick to the Azure Way – this is the most popular route between the villages, taking around five hours in total plus stops, and it’s admittedly very beautiful. But wow, do you get some bottlenecks. Instead enjoy views of the white-flecked waves of the Med from trails further up the hillside, where far fewer people venture.

Our top Cinque Terre Holiday

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Cinque Terre travel advice

Chloe Oliver from specialist tour operator Exodus with some tips on walking in Cinque Terre:

Fitness required

“Most people just hop on trains between the villages but the best way to explore and experience them is on foot. The trails are rocky underfoot with some narrow, exposed sections and are undulating, not particularly steep but they do raise your pulse so you do need a reasonable level of fitness. Some walking routes involve a considerable number of steps (more than 500) which make them unsuitable to people with knee issues.”

Avoiding the crowds

“On our trips we have tried to combine more off the beaten path trails as well as the real highlights such as the Blue Trail so that there is some time away from the crowds. Deiva to Bonassola and Montallegro to Chiavari are walks more for locals than for tourists and you hardly meet anyone.”

When to go

“Peak summer has been very busy for years. That said it’s so beautiful. Each of the dotted coastal villages has lovely little shops and restaurants and all the coloured buildings are great to see – a photographer’s dream! If you go early and later season (April/early May and end of Sep/Oct) it is quieter as you are missing the main tourist season (cruise ships arrive in June/July/Aug boosting the numbers).”
Written by Rob Perkins
Photo credits: [Page banner: antonio erre] [Intro: Matej Drha] [Our top Cinque Terre activities: Anna Church] [Chloe Oliver advice: jim walton]
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