Manarola (October, 2015)
The Cinque Terre (or five lands) has been a major tourist attraction/destination for locals and tourists travelling through Italy. With its towns growing out from the sides of cliffs surrounded by vineyards, as well as its seemingly endless hiking options, the Cinque Terre is a must see. However, it’s about to become a little tougher to visit this little paradise.
Recently, Italy has started initial plans to reduce the number of tourists visiting the Cinque Terre. Through a new system visitors will have to purchase tickets in advance. At the same time, roads leading into the villages will be equipped with gauges to track the number of visitors coming in that way. Once a certain level of visitors has been reached they will cut off access to the villages. At the same time, visitors are now able to see how busy each of the villages are by downloading an app (which I have not seen yet). The Cinque Terre received well over 2 million visitors last year and this move will cut that amount in almost half.
I couldn’t be happier. I did a lot of research and saw a lot of video of this region before I visited for a week. I was bombarded with images of hundreds and thousands of visitors arriving by boat or train (mostly) and just running through as fast as they could in a day before leaving. When I finally made it there in October, I saw the same thing on a slightly smaller scale. Droves of people rush into one of the villages by boat, they snap their pictures and grab a quick meal, and then they hop back on the boat and never return. In reality, most people don’t actually spend money in the villages here.
I got a chance to speak to my hosts as well as a local chef in Monterosso. All of them share the same sentiment. They love tourists. The reason why they can still have some success in these small villages is because of all the visitors. However, they aren’t exactly fans of most of the tourists that just rush through during a day trip. These people aren’t spending as much money on local products and they are basically just flooding space for a day (especially on the main trails).
What does this mean for future visitors?
Yes. It’s going to be a bit tougher to visit now, dependant on the time you are hoping to visit. Here’s a few things to keep in mind
(1) Plan well in advance: I booked my accomodation almost 6 months in advance 9thank you tax returns). Had I waited another month or so, my options would have been cut by at least 60% (based on what I saw on Airbnb and booking.com a few months later). I know a lot of people like to be more spontaneous when travelling, but this is one of those destinations you should build your plans around 🙂 Oh, and don’t think a day trip will be enough 🙂
(2) Stay longer: This is just step 1 for the Cinque Terre. I can see how this region will only have more restrictions imposed on it for years to come. It’s a UNESCO site and should be protected. If you manage to get your ticket into the park make sure you read up on any time restrictions if they have them. Take advantage and stay as long as you can.
(3) What experience do you want: This goes hand in hand with how long you are staying. Think about what you want to check off. How many of the restaurants do you want to try? How many trails do you want to hike? I stayed one week and felt like I only scratched the surface of all the trails available.
Because I’m so emotionally attached to this place, I will be following up with any information that comes along. This shouldn’t deter you from visiting. If anything, these changes will help you realize how important the Cinque Terre is.