Cinque Terre sustainable tourism

Cinque Terre trail -PrevoSustainable tourism” seems to be on everyone’s mind, and particularly at the Cinque Terre, the words are raised at every meeting and in reports that come out of the Cinque Terre National Park. The idea being to visit a place and make a positive impact or at least a low impact on the environment and local culture ensuring the development of a positive experience for local people, tourist companies and tourists themselves.

In the age of mass tourism I have my doubts as to wether it is in the mind of most tourists when they visit, and I fear there is a conflict of interests and economical issues that hold sway and slow the process to Sustainable tourism in the Cinque Terre.

Still some slow progress is being made, a few steps forward and one step backwards. Cinque Terre Quality LabelFor hikers the new developments for 2018 include a discount voucher if they stay more than 2 days in accommodation that has a Cinque Terre Park Quality label. (Seen in foto)

The only trail that has to be paid for is the coastal trail or Blue trail between Corniglia, Vernazza, and Monterosso. From April 1st instead of the €7.50 daily fee, it will be €5.00 with a voucher . Instead of €29 for a 2 day pass – Blue trail plus train, hikers will pay €26. There will be NO DISCOUNT on the day trail and train pass which costs €16. In my humble opinion the discount demonstrates only how ‘tight’ Ligurians can be and are famous for!!

Late last year a Cinque Terre newslocal newspaper was over enthusiastic in saying the daily tree would be reduced to €1.00 with the hope that it would also include a discount on the rather scandalous Cinque Terre Express train which costs €4 for a 5 -10 min ride between villages. But it was only fake news?! Trenitalia is too mean to even offer a discount on a 1 day pass. I am at a loss for words…otherwise I may be offensive!

At this time late 2016 a new App was to limit the number of tourists, unfortunately aimed at hikers. It was to assign a ‘red light’ if there was an overload of hikers on the trail or in the next village. The news appeared in  headlines worldwide…..but the App never eventuated! I breathed a sigh of relief as while the Cinque Terre seriously needs to impose a limited number access, it’s not the hikers it needs to limit but the mass tourists who flow from the cruise ships and day trippers on Tourist crowds Vernazzacoaches. Admittedly some limit has been placed on day coach passes, requiring an advanced booking on the day but they are a drop in the ocean in comparison to the thousands of cruise passengers. A fact which had CNN recently put the Cinque Terre together with Venice on a blacklist of places to AVOID! There has been embarrassment locally but neither Regional President or the Minister of the Environment seem to recognise the need for a ‘closed number’ on tourist access. While the current (acting) President of the National Park and Mayor of Vernazza declared that a place “can die from too much tourism(Il Secolo XIX newspaper)Cinque Terre coastal trail

Still if you are coming to stay, check out the Quality Label to see if you may be entitled to a discount voucher. The Quality label is being given to enterprises that respect regulations associated with energy, water, trash, toxic substances, air and noise. So as I said, 2 steps forward and 1 step backwards as the discount is really stingy!

The second new approach is how to deal with the plastic trash problem. That is definitely not unique to the Cinque Terre, but a worldwide issue which is getting a lot of airplay at the moment. Officially, as from the Cinque Terre National park site, the Park will install machines (solar powered) at the entrance to and along the Blue trail which will squash plastic bottles and take any plastic rubbish. And tourists ‘may’ be offered a discount on products from the Park, ie the Cinque Terre Card if they make use of the deposit machines, as well as being encouraged to buy the Park’s one litre re usable flask.

In grand enthusiasm this initiative was also widely publicised in international news – ex The Telegraph headlined with “Italy bans the plastic water bottle along heritage coastline“. The article reported that the president of the Cinque Terre national park said “We are going to update the existing water fountains and install new ones: they will provide people with still or sparkling filtrated water. By the start of next Spring, we hope to have liberated ourselves from this nightmare.”   He said local shopkeepers were likely to be unhappy with a ban on selling bottled water but should realise that it would be in their long-term interests.”

The statement rings of resolution of the problem in an exceptionally short period, when I fear in reality it will be a lengthy process. As with the App proposed last year that never eventuated, it will be interesting to see if the Park can fulfil their promise. Unfortunately the same International newspapers never follow up on the promises made, and the world thinks the problem has been solved. We will see if the CNN blacklist gives the relevant authorities a shake up!

We would like to seriously see sustainable tourism in action and a limit placed on the hordes that invade during the Summer months that have little time or inclination to walk a trail, as well as a drastic improvement in the plastic rubbish (and non) amassed as a consequence. The Cinque Terre is too special to be trampled to death.

Cinque Terre trail

On that pessimistic note I encourage any of you visiting to think about being a responsible tourist, by refilling at water fountains, avoiding take-away packaging and refusing straws in your aperitifs. Small steps can make a difference in this fragile territory and I highly encourage  longer stay hikers to check out any of the possible discounts at the various Cinque Terre park offices, you deserve it!


 

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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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vernazza

 

 

 

Photo credit for crowd photos from Vernazza:Corniglia Council blog

 

 


 

 

 

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