Red Light in the Cinque Terre

It’s the talk of the town: limiting the numbers of tourists to the Cinque Terre in 2016. The word is out from the National Park and it rippled across the world in a flash. See articles in The Guardian and the Daily Mail. Cruise passengers

An online petition began last year as residents protested about the overcrowding of the villages with a total of 2.5million visitors in 2015 and no space to move for tourists or locals alike. Train carriages described as ‘cattle trucks’ attracting pickpockets which left many tourists without a wallet and credit cards for the rest of their holidays.

The continuous arrival of cruise ships forces most of their passengers onto local trains and ferries leaving many individual travelers on the shore for lack of space. Coastal trails looking more like a pedestrian highway and the limited beach areas standing room only.

The solution? The proposal so far is to count the numbers of tourists that enter the coastal trail, which since 2012 the only ones open are between CornigliaVernazza and VernazzaMonterosso. When numbers go beyond the limit imposed the trail will be closed. The high trails will not be monitored and remain open to everyone. Not such a bad idea as the trails pass through a fragile territory but then from experience it seems a rather futile tool to limit the influx since most cruise passengers and day trippers rarely hike the trails for lack of time and inclination.

If the idea is to limit the numbers from 2.5 million to 1.5 million In my opinion the hikers count will have little influence and is targeting the wrong type of tourist. But at least it is a recognition of the problem.

Sustainable tourism is an issue worldwide, as more isolated places become renown and tourism becomes cheap and accessible to the masses.

Few would realize that the villages are small both physically and residentially with only a total of around 4,000 residents in the entire Cinque Terre. At 1/1/2015 – residents in the Council area of Riomaggiore and Manarola were 1,591, Monterosso 1,476 and Vernazza and Corniglia a mere 864! As residents leave during the season to rent their apartments the villages lose their atmosphere and become a barren Disneyland.

VernazzaFor tourists the experience is often not what they were expecting as they file elbow to elbow up and down, queue incessantly for a toilet or even a coffee, or sit bewildered on the pavement below the station impatiently waiting for a train to the next nightmare!

For the moment discussions continue between the National park, the Councils and the Train company as to what the changes will be and when they will be implemented. I tried to get some answers from staff at the station of Corniglia who could only shrug and say for the moment tickets remain the same price as before ( ie €1.80 between villages instead of the rumoured €4.00) and for further information to contact the National Park. The National Park replied ” that they did not want to discourage tourists and that there were no definite details to the measures to be implemented”?! Vernazza council circulated a new extensive questionnaire which will be collated on views from residents, tour operators, guides etc.

I will keep you posted!! But don’t let it put you off visiting as the situation can only get better and the Cinque Terre remains gorgeous!Manarola













Photo credit for crowd photos from Vernazza:Corniglia Council blog







4 thoughts on “Red Light in the Cinque Terre

    • Ohhh I hope not Vicki! But in peak season the grim reality is this and I know many individual travelers are now trying to book in exclusively on the days the cruise ships are not in. It will take time to find a solution

  1. An eternal problem for governments/authorities of these “iconic” tourists’ destinations; how to preserve their cultural/environmental integrity and at the same time maintain a sustainable economic outcome? At least, Cinque Terre attract the “right kind” of tourists; unlike where we are, St. Kilda. Our local authorities seem at loss at the prospect of making St. Kilda both environmentally and economically sustainable. At the moment we’re having a mini “battle Royale” about converting one of our famous streets, Acland Street, into a mega transport hub. Good luck, all the same. I’d hate to see Cinque Terre “crumble” under the weight of 2.5 million tourists.

    • So true Alex. It’s a very complex issue and no easy solution in sight. Also reflects on us to be choosing more environmentally friendly holidays and questioning what we are really looking for as a tourist. I would loathe to see Acland St as a transport hub and wish you luck with the battle.

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