What to do in the Cinque Terre this December

December is decidedly off-season in the Cinque Terre, but catch some nice weather and you’re in for a treat! Nearly empty streets (with the exception of locals and the rare tour group) allow visitors to appreciate the true beauty of the Cinque Terre.

Visiting the Cinque Terre in the off-season isn’t for everyone; if you’re hoping to hit the shops and choose from a plethora of restaurants, you’re going to be disappointed. The off-season is the time when locals catch up on R&R after a long peak-season; many businesses close (some on rotation, others for the entire off-season). However, if you come seeking tranquillity and low-key explorations, you’ll be rewarded, big time.

I will soon be posting an off-season schedule for open restaurants, bars & cafes in the Comune di Riomaggiore. Stay tuned!

For those of you planning to visit the Cinque Terre this December, check out these scheduled events. I’ve highlighted what I think is of the most interest to visitors and I will be updating as various events are announced later on:

December 5th through 9th in Monterosso:

Saturday 12/8:

  • from 2pm: Living nativity scene (with the birth of Jesus at 6pm)
  • 6:30pm: Religious procession

Sunday 12/13:

  • 3pm: Religious procession

Saturday, December 8th in Manarola:

10:30am: Eco-friendly Christmas ornament workshop for children. Free, but advance reservations are required. Email: cea@parconazionale5terre.it

5pm: Candle lit procession on the hillside where the village’s nativity scene is located

5:30pm: Lighting of Manarola’s nativity scene with fireworks

Throughout the day there will be a Christmas craft fair as well as a refreshment stand starting at 2pm.



Holiday happenings in the Cinque Terre

The off-season in the Cinque Terre typically spans from the beginning of November through the week before Easter. However, things pick back up a bit for the holidays between Christmas and New Year’s.

Here’s a running list of happenings over the 2017 holiday period in the Cinque Terre (keep checking back as I will update as more events are released):

December 22nd: A free concert will be held in Vernazza’s church at 9pm. Advance reservations are requested (although I highly doubt they’ll turn people away at the door).

December 23rd: The highly awaited inauguration and lighting of Manarola’s Presepe (nativity scene), which covers the hillside opposite the village, will take place at 5:30pm. Expect fireworks (and lots of people). I recommend arriving early as there will be events preceding the lighting.

Photo credit: Michael Pasini

December 24th: At 9:30pm Monterosso will hold a religious procession which will start in the sea (spectators will be at the water’s edge) at the Molo dei Pescatori in the historical center of the village. The procession will lead to the church where at circa 10:30pm a special Christmas Eve Mass will be held. Following Mass, hot chocolate, panettone (Italian Christmas cake) and Christmas cheer will be shared.

December 26th through January 5th: On various dates there will guided excursions of Manarola’s world famous Presepe (nativity scene) as well as planned visits to local wineries. Advance reservations required (see details below).

December 31st: New Year’s Eve party with deejay in Monterosso’s Piazza Garibaldi starting at 11pm.

From my family to yours, Happy Holidays!


Village spotlight: CORNIGLIA

Corniglia (pronounced core-neel-ee-uh) is the smallest of the Cinque Terre villages and arguably the most underrated (as it is oftentimes overshadowed by its larger and easier to reach neighbors).


If you are a numbers person, Corniglia is considered the third village in the Cinque Terre (from either direction).

There are a few things that set Corniglia apart from its more popular neighbors:

  • Its location off the sea.

Unlike the other four villages, Corniglia sits on a mountaintop reigning over the sea.  When you reach the Corniglia train station you’ll find that you still have to climb 382 stairs (yes, 382, I’ve counted them myself!) to reach the village center.

The fact that it takes a bit of effort to reach the village tends to weed out visitors that can’t be bothered (which is a BIG plus in my opinion).  Little do these people know, you can actually “cheat” and take a bus up the hill to the village.

Despite that, I still prefer to take the stairs (probably because of my next point). 

  • It has my *favorite* gelateria in all of the Cinque Terre.   


You can get traditional homemade gelato in a plethora of flavors all throughout the Cinque Terre.  And to be honest, it’s all pretty delicious.  But in how many places can you get gelato al basilico, made with fresh basil from the owner’s garden?  Or, gelato al miele made with the honey harvested from local Corniglia bees?  Yeah, I didn’t think so.  This place is unico.  What better way to treat yourself after climbing all of those stairs? 


  • Most consider Corniglia to be the only Cinque Terre village without access to the sea, which isn’t exactly true.  

They have this lovely little cove where you can swim off the rocks (granted you’ll have to hoof it up and down the hill but you didn’t come to the Cinque Terre to be sedentary, right?).

There’s also a famous/infamous nude beach called Guvano hidden beneath Corniglia (but you’ll need a boat to reach it).

  • Locals are so nice here.  


While sitting at a tiny cafĂ© I witnessed a foreign couple ask the barista to place a slice of savory cheese in a sweet croissant (I must be turning Italian as I winced simply at the thought!).  The barista didn’t bat an eye and accommodated their request with a smile.  I must admit, I was really impressed.

  •   It’s less commercial.  

You won’t find hotels here, just a scattering of affittacamere (room rentals).  It’s quaint and personable and you’ll feel like you’re staying amongst the locals.

  • It’s quiet when the sun goes down.


And heck, it’s pretty quiet during the day, too.  If R&R is your scope and you like to turn in early, Corniglia could very well be your own little piece of paradise.


My personal recommendations in Corniglia


Gelateria Alberto, via Fieschi (you can’t miss it!)  

A quick coffee or aperitivo:

Bar Pan e Vin, via Fieschi 123 (this place is tiny and gets cramped quickly… grab a coffee and sit on the bench outside to people watch)


Affittacamere da Cristiana is family-run with love and care by friendly Cristiana and Stefano (they also run the bar listed above)


Corte del Gallo offers a convenient location (an easy and quick walk from the Corniglia train station), beautiful views and comfortable accommodations.  Owners Roberto and Claudia are lovely, lovely people that I had the pleasure to meet when Roberto so kindly volunteered to be Babbo Natale (Santa Claus) for my son’s preschool.  Their stellar reviews just go to show what lovely hosts and people they are! Contact them directly at info@cortedelgallo.com 

Local and national holidays in Italy

Carnevale 2015

Carnevale in Riomaggiore, Cinque Terre

So, you’re heading to Italy.  Maybe you want to relish in our country’s holidays.  Or, maybe you want to avoid them (and the crowds they can bring).  Here’s a listing of both local and national holidays to help you out.


  • January 1st:  New Year’s Day
  • January 6th: Epiphany                                                                                                                         
  • Carnevale: Not an official public holiday, but festivities are celebrated throughout Italy six weeks prior to Easter Sunday
  • Easter Sunday and Easter Monday: Dates change each year based on the religious calendar
  • April 25th: Liberation Day
  • May 1st: Labor Day
  • June 2nd: Anniversary of the Republic
  • August 15th: Ferragosto (Assumption of Mary)
  • November 1st: All Saints’ Day
  • December 8th: Feast of the Immaculate Conception
  • December 25th:  Christmas Day
  • December 26th:  Santo Stefano (commonly known as the 2nd day of Christmas)


Each city or village in Italy has its own patron saint and will have special festivities on their saint’s day.  The Cinque Terre villages are no exception with suggestive religious processions along the narrow streets, some ending with fireworks over the water (like for San Lorenzo in Manarola).  See below for each village’s patron saint and their day of celebration.

Riomaggiore:  San Giovanni Battista (St. John the Baptist), June 24th

Manarola:  San Lorenzo (St. Laurence), August 10th

CornigliaSan Pietro (St. Peter), June 29th

Vernazza: Santa Margherita di Antiochia (St. Margaret of Antioch), July 20th

Monterosso: San Giovanni Battista (St. John the Baptist), June 24th

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

Just outside of the Cinque Terre but most definitely worth a visit for their patron saint festivities:

Portovenere:  Madonna Bianca (Miracle of the White Madonna), August 17th

Levanto: San Giacomo (St. James), July 25th