A couple of weeks ago I wrote a post on some of the national parks in Europe. In this post, one of the parks I featured was the Cinque Terre in Italy.
This national park and UNESCO World Heritage site has made the news recently, unfortunately for some not so great news. The big news on the Cinque Terre is that the park is going to limit the amount of visitors.
This is what happens, sadly, when a beautiful place becomes “famous”. The US National Park Service has put restrictions on cars in so many of the parks, mostly in the summer, the high season. These gorgeous, protected lands are popular for a reason – they’re stunning and unique and interesting and certainly worthy of some time. But, and this is a big but, at what cost?
So, now Italy has made the decision to limit the amount of visitors to 1.5 million each year to the Cinque Terre. That’s still a lot, but will be down significantly from the 2.5 million the park has seen in the past few years.
A ticketing system will be put into place that will determine how many tickets are allowed each day, according to Italian newspaper, La Repubblica. Weather and trail conditions will factor into how many tickets are sold each day. The park is accessed through the trails and the rail system.
Vittorio Alessandro, a representative of the Cinque Terre National Park, commented, “We will certainly be criticized for this, but for us it is a question of survival.” You see, all these visitors damage the footpaths that connect the 5 towns. And the towns themselves, really villages, are feeling the influx of all these people, especially in the summer months. It’s just too much for the towns and their inhabitants. And, to top it off, cruise ships are now docking nearby adding more visitors and thus more deterioration of the towns and their beautiful natural surroundings. In order to preserve the Cinque Terre as the Cinque Terre, visitors need to limited.
To assist travelers wanting to visit the Cinque Terre, park officials are working on developing an app that would provide live updates to visitors and potential visitors on the trails and the tourist train. This way, travelers can at least make some plans and not show up to enter the park only to be turned away.
So, for me, having been here back in May 2008, I get it. It was busy enough for me back then. I can’t imagine what it is like now, 8 years later, as it has grown in popularity. The Italians need to protect this unique and special destination – to keep the ecosystem healthy and to keep the cultural heritage intact.
While I still recommend visiting this area, I do think there are loads of other alternatives for those wanting to forgo a busy place. But, if you do go, I’d highly recommend staying a night or 2 in one of the towns. This is what I did back in 2008. It really is wonderful to see the village at night when so many of the day-trippers have returned to other nearby bigger towns and cities. You’ll get a better feel for local life. And, if you go out of season even a bit, late April or early May or even early October, you’ll definitely have more elbow room.
I applaud the Italian government for stepping up to preserve a place that is so special, so unique and so much a part of their culture and their history. And, even though it might be a bit inconvenient, in the end, future generations will reap the reward.