Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Despite widespread reports, Italian government is NOT limiting access to the popular Cinque Terre

If you have travel plans to visit the spectacularly picturesque Cinque Terre in Italy’s Liguria region, you may have read that you need to get permission from the Parco Nazionale delle Cinque Terre, starting this summer, to enter the area. That’s according to an article in the The Guardian, a British daily newspaper, which translated and repeated news printed in La Repubblica and several other Italian news sources. However, the park president, responding to outcries and criticisms from other government officials and tourism agencies, has since backtracked and stated that no limits will be put into place.

Vittorio Alessandro, president of the Cinque Terre national park, initially stated that some restrictions would be instituted this summer, but now he says only that the park is studying the problem and seeking solutions. This is not surprising, since it would seem to be a near-impossibility that the park could exclude visitors who have already booked tours and hotel rooms. While the area is part of a national park, it also contains five working cities, and one can hardly deny people access to the businesses and homes there. While many other news sites picked up and repeated the story from The Guardian, most Italian news sources are telling people not to be concerned.

However, it can’t be denied that tourists are over-running this once unspoiled jewel, creating tangles of foot traffic that snarl the small roads and trails. It is obvious that measures are needed to preserve the environment and the ambiance. People live there year-around and they have for centuries. They have a right to move around freely on their own streets. If tourists chase the residents away, the area will become a Disneyland or Epcot Center, a facade where the only real residents are employees of the tourism industry.

Our aim is to reduce attendance,” Alessandro said in the controversial interview printed in La Repubblica. “Normally the tendency is to try to increase tourism, to fill the beds and rooms. The flow of crowds must be managed in a more sustainable way. People will criticize, of course, but the park must also have a pedagogical (educational) mission.”

He said that 2.5 million people visit the Cinque Terre each year, and that is a million more than this fragile area can sustain.

According to Alessandro, the since-withdrawn proposal had two parts: One was to limit the number of tourists allowed on the Via dell’Amore at one time, and the other was to allocate separate trains for tourists and residents. Tourists would have to buy a special train ticket that would include admission to the Cinque Terre area.
Via dell'Amore

Part one, Alessandro had said, was already in place: “We installed pedometers on the trails to the Via dell’Amore . . . in order to calculate with the geologists, the maximum load. It’s also a safety issue. By the summer, we’ll have all the data, and the number of people who can access each trail per day will be established, according to the weather and course conditions. If the trail is sold out, the visitors will postpone the visit to the next available date.”

As expected, the plan had many critics, and they quickly exerted pressure to see the restrictions nullified or at the very least postponed and modified.

“Limiting the number of people at Cinque Terre is inappropriate and unworkable,” said Rita Mazzi, provincial director of a confederation of tourism businesses. “The Cinque Terre are and will remain the driving asset in the future of tourism development for the entire La Spezia province. They must be protected and defended. We must aim for quality tourism that is sustainable with the environment. But to speak of a ‘closed number’ is harmful.”

It does seem possible that limited traffic on the trail could be attainable, because it would just restrict access in a particular area, and residents of the Cinque Terre could be given passes allowing them to bypass any barriers. Part two, however, is filled with complications and would require the cooperation and participation of numerous governmental agencies, including the national train company, the regional government and that of the various cities in the area. This cooperation and coordination will be much more difficult to attain.

The President of the Liguria Region, Giovanni Toti, has stated on behalf of the regional government that he is totally against limited access to the Cinque Terre: “Limiting access in a country that must count on tourism is a contradiction and a way to abdicate responsibility. We will work instead to increase the quality of tourism services.

Toti mentioned the need for enhanced transportation systems and the development of other means of reducing congestion, problems which previous government administrations have failed to address.

Liguria’s regional assessor of tourism, Gianni Berrino, also spoke against the plans put forth by Alessandro: “The position of the regional government is clear, and we want to confirm this strongly in order to prevent inaccuracies like this which spread internationally at lightning speed these days. This non-news will inevitably undermine the upcoming tourist season, not only in Eastern Liguria but with domino effect on the entire region.”

A frequent forum participant on Rick Steves’ website, Roberto, from Fremont, California, weighed in with his insight as well: “Unfortunately once in a while you hear public officials, such as the head of the CT National Park, who has no jurisdiction on this matter, making statements just because they like to hear themselves talk.”

My own advice is that if you want to visit the Cinque Terre, do it in the early spring or late fall, when the weather is still mild and the number of tourists is low. Summers are hot and crowded here, so that advice pretty much goes for any place in Italy you want to see, but it is especially true for the more popular attractions. However, if you must come in the summer, don’t worry. It is in the best interests of the Italian government and tourism industry to accommodate you.

2017 update: The park service has responded to a written inquiry about the coming season: No, non ci sarĂ  nessuno limite turistico.” No limits this year.



  1. No easy answers with overcrowding due to popularity. Much like hiking the Enchanments here where you need to win a hiking permit lottery it is a pain but you understand the intent. As a traveler that enjoys locals as much as the scenic uniqueness of a place I can appreciate the concern over the loss of real people living out normal lives in such places. Patty and I enjoy our friends in Hawaii as much as the beach and sunsets.

  2. Roberto is a notorious moron, in 2017 the Park will enforce limits on the number of people accessing the trails as it is entirely within their powers. A cascade effect will follow.
    Nobody apart the national government can tell a national park director what he can or can't do.


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