If you visited Cinque Terre, Italy, back in 2011, you would have been one of 400,000 people who strolled the narrow streets in this picturesque cluster of five villages on the Riviera. If you went in 2015, however, you would have been just one of the more than 2.5 million that visited the area.
As Mashable reported this week, Italy has decided enough is enough, and is taking steps to protect Cinque Terre and its sensitive ecosystem. Cinque Terre’s villages are only accessible by foot, boat or train, and this year, you’ll have to have a ticket to get in.
Italy to impose limits on visitors to Cinque Terre with tourist ‘ticket’ system https://t.co/nWo86Nd2dN
— The Guardian (@guardian) February 17, 2016
Part of the overcrowding problem is the result of cruise ships that dock nearby and unload hoards of travelers to spend the day. The Guardian reported that in recent years cruise lines have added more areas in Italy to their itineraries in place of Mediterranean ports like Tunisia, which have experienced militant attacks. Before this shift, Cinque Terre was a “remote backwater.”
— Photography Pilgrim (@thephotopilgrim) February 17, 2016
But Cinque Terre isn’t completely turning up its nose at tourists. The limit will be 1.5 million visitors per year, a significant drop from 2015’s total, but almost 4 times the number of visitors that came through the area in 2011. The online ticketing system will be accompanied by an app that lets visitors know which areas are the most congested, in real time.
President of Cinque Terre Park, Vittorio Alessandro, told Italian paper La Repubblica that criticism of the move was expected, but for the region, it was a question of “survival.” He gave more information about the technology that will monitor the size of crowds on the trails that link the five villages.
“We installed a pedometer on the trails in order to calculate the maximum load. By the summer we will have all the data to establish the number of people that can access each path per day.”
There are also plans to introduce a tourist-only train line that accepts pre-purchased tickets.
Rick Steeves’ exploration of Cinque Terre revealed that the area is accessed through trains that go through dark tunnels. Each village has a unique culture, and even a distinct dialect of Italian; so much so that given enough local knowledge a person’s specific village might be identified by his accent and word choice alone.
Many of the locals are from families that have lived in the Cinque Terre for generations. Fishing is still an important means of livelihood, and a single travelling market serves each town one day a week. Visitors can choose to stay in small apartments or hotels.
According to Steeves, the locals are proud of the remote nature of the villages and the fact that the area has remained largely untouched while other Riviera regions have become overrun with glitzy hotels designed to appeal to tourists. The area offers spectacular views, and just what one would expect from a spot on the Riviera: sun, water and (rocky) sand.
Cinque Terre is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and not the only location with that designation that is in danger of destruction from too many feet trampling its streets. Conde Nast Traveler noted that Maccu Picchu in Peru now has a daily cap on the number of visitors and requires that foot traffic be restricted to specific trails. Another Italian landmark, the Spanish Steps in Rome, has suffered damage as a result of crowds.
The online ticketing system for Cinque Terre is set to be in place as of the summer of 2016.
[Photo by Leoks/Shutterstock]