Is Italy about to impose limits on Cinque Terre tourists with ticketing? Friends — it’s just not happening.
This past week the travel industry was in a share-storm (is that a word?) with news about a limit being imposed on the amount of visitors allowed into the Cinque Terre starting in 2016.
We’ve been getting emails and messages from our clients, as well as from concerned travelers who had their hearts (and in many cases travel plans) set on coming to visit these five little villages this spring and summer.
People are even trying to cancel hotel rooms!
Before anybody panics, here’s what’s up:
The number of visitors to the Cinque Terre will not be limited in 2016.
But what about all of the articles? Publications like The Guardian, Travel + Leisure, and Condé Nast Traveler claimed on Wednesday (February 17th, 2016) that Italian officials had announced that no more than 1.5 million visitors would be allowed into the Cinque Terre this season, down 1 million from the 2.5 million that are estimated to have passed through in 2015.
Here’s what: Nothing but a mighty misunderstanding. Or mistake. Or gaffe.
Whatever it was, the same officials have since backpedaled and retracted their “announcement,” a clarification that of course has not been picked up by the international media the way the first one was. Which is a shame because those articles are still circulating, and worried travelers are being led to believe they have to alter their plans. This article has not been passed around, but it’s what the local media is now saying.
We say scramble not. Fear not. Keep your plans the same.
Do you want to know something curious about this whole blow-up?
The only people not talking about it were the residents of the villages themselves.
No posts about it on Facebook. Not much discussion around town. If anything, they were skeptical. After all, the Via dell’Amore — arguably the Cinque Terre’s most famous attraction — has been closed for three years (going on four, since there are no plans to reopen it this season either).
If the authorities haven’t been able to get that up and running, then how on earth is the infrastructure necessary to implement what would essentially be fencing off the Cinque Terre going to happen in time for the 2016 season, which starts in a little over a month?
Knowing the kind of red tape and bureaucracy it takes to get anything done in Italy, it just seemed completely unfeasible. If anything, many dubious residents assumed the hoopla was a marketing ploy on behalf of the National Park to sell more Cinque Terre Cards, which are not currently necessary either for visiting or hiking the Cinque Terre.
Anyone with plans to visit the Cinque Terre this summer, though, was immediately concerned, and understandably so. Plane tickets have been bought, reservations made — what if they can’t get a Cinque Terre Card and are turned away? Our local friends’ loved ones were sending emails with the articles attached, worried about no longer being able to visit freely. Hotels in the villages received dozens of emails and phone calls from people looking to cancel because they didn’t want to take their chances.
Why would Italy impose limits on Cinque Terre tourists with ticketing anyway?
Well, there has been discussion for some time about managing the influx of people coming to visit the Cinque Terre every year. Since neighboring La Spezia opened a new cruise ship terminal a couple of years back, residents have been insisting that something be done. Which is wise. The main complaint is cruise ship day trippers who are bussed in in large groups and who are seen as doing little to support the local economy, but who place a great strain on an already fragile territory.
The Cinque Terre aren’t the first to consider limiting the amount of traffic they are hit with each year. Venice has been talking about it since the 80s, the Spanish Steps in Rome are currently closed to repair the damage done by an overwhelming amount of recent wear and tear, and Pompeii has put a cap on Sunday visitors, when entrance to the site is free. Perhaps most famously, Machu Picchu in Peru has recently instated daily visitor limits as well as restrictions on its trails.
So talk of a cap on visitors is not new. What was unexpected — even for residents and local officials, who had not been informed that any such decision had been reached — was the announcement on Tuesday in Italian newspaper La Repubblica. An interview with Cinque Terre National Park President Vittorio Alessandro and General Director Patrizio Scarpellini stated that a limit on visitors to the five towns would be implemented as early as this spring, and that in fact electronic pedestrian counters were already being installed on the trails and an app for alerting tourists to congestion in the various villages was in the works. The article states that access to the Cinque Terre will be granted via advance online purchase of the Cinque Terre Card, and that once the established limit has been reached, remaining hopefuls will be out of luck.
What’s more, Italian Undersecretary for the Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Activities, Ilaria Borletti, picked up the story on her blog and then took to Twitter, tweeting:
As of summer 2016 limit on visitors to the #CinqueTerre in #Liguria.
Such a high-level Italian official corroborating the news caught the attention of the international media, and the floodgates opened, with “Italy to impose limits on Cinque Terre tourists with ticketing” trumpeted all over the internet. And the share-storm started.
In the end it’s hard to say whose mistake this announcement was. The article in La Repubblica doesn’t directly quote either the President of the Park or the General Director as making any of the contentious claims, though they are quoted more generally. Did the reporter misinterpret musings on potential solutions as confirmed plans? Did the President and General Director not explain themselves properly? Or are they backpedaling now because of the backlash? Whatever the case, the President assured the public in a new article published a few days later that though they are examining ways in which to reduce the strain on these five villages by managing the flow of tourists, “there is no gate that can bar access to the Park.”
So to all of you who have made your reservations and booked your tickets, there’s no cause for alarm. You will not need to purchase a special Cinque Terre admission ticket to get in, and there’s no need to worry that you’ll be turned away upon arrival.
The Cinque Terre is an incredibly fragile part of the world, and we too would love to see some changes happen here. We hope that the people to whom this responsibility is entrusted do their jobs right. But there will be lots of notice before any measures for implementing a cap on visitors are taken. If Italy is anything (besides beautiful and magical), it is SLOW. A good thing in this case, at least for our 2016 traveling friends.
Truthfully, I’m a little bummed to see such negative things being said, because it feels cheap. It seems to imply that the Cinque Terre is overrun like rats in a sewer, which is simply not true. I’m here every year hosting tours, enjoying time with friends and family, laying on the beaches and enjoying myself! Just like everyone else.
In travel, like in life, you need to ignite your curiosity and imagination and do your homework! (Not to mention have an open mind and trust your instincts.) If you know where to go, what to focus on, the timing and the tempo, you’ll find your corner of paradise in the Cinque Terre, even in the middle of August. Translation: Don’t believe the hype.
Besides, Italy is not someplace you go to “get away from it all.” Hole up in a cabin in Canada for that. Italy has 60 million people — it’s intense and exciting, and stepping on Italian soil is about tapping into that bubbly, hedonistic energy. Life is mind-blowing… if you let your mind be blown! Remember that before you get off the plane. Accept Italy for it’s beauty and faults in one messy package.
As an Italy traveler, focusing on “too many tourists” is entirely the wrong metric.
It’s kind of like complaining that rush hour traffic is busy on the freeway because that’s what everyone else does. How about this instead: Crank the tunes, roll down the windows and count your lucky stars your car isn’t at the mechanic’s.
Italian Fix exists to help Italy travelers have a great trip, and we promise to keep you updated with the latest news. Part of our team is based right in the village of Riomaggiore, so we’re in touch firsthand with the word on the street.
Want more? See more ideas for what to do on the Cinque Terre:
What to do in the Cinque Terre
Do you have just one day in the Cinque Terre?
Hiking the Cinque Terre trails.
And my answer to the question, Should I go to the Cinque Terre?
Check out one of our fabulous day tours!
You can rely on us to keep you posted on this whole “Cinque Terre limits and ticketing” business.
Hope this helps,
Thanks for checking out our blog!
Are you interested in travelling to the Cinque Terre with us on a day trip?
Check out our Day Tours of the Cinque Terre HERE!
(We’ve also got tours in Florence)
We’d love to see you in Italy!
Images: Leela Cyd
I visited in 1995 and again last year. The towns and trains were so overwhelmed by tourists that the charm I loved 20 years ago was gone. I know it will hurt the local economy, but I would support limiting the number of tourists and discouraging cruise ship stops in Cinque Terre. It has become more like Disneyland and less like a historical area in the 20 years between my visits.
Hi Ann, thanks for your info. I would love to hear more opinions about the Cinque Terre as it is on my bucket list to visit in 2018 when I get my long service leave. Thank you so much
Hey there Cheryl,
You should definitely leave the Cinque Terre ON your bucket list! So much to see and do and we’ll keep you posted on insider stuff, so do keep in touch. Our mailing list is a great way to do that so you can collect a lot of info before you even travel and get a jump start on planning. We have a lot more Cinque Terre articles here:
Stay in touch,
Thank you for taking the time to share your experiences. We are noticing more people here of course, but the charm I feel in love with 13 years ago still exists! I spend a lot of time here every summer and sure — there are now more people. But with that has come some new great places to eat, stay and there is even talk of adding more trains — which I hope happens! My thoughts about traveling, anywhere, are that knowing the local rhythms and timing does a lot for your trip. For example, since we’re all in the loop now, we can not schedule train trips that require us to be anywhere on time in the villages! I always take the train before the one I need, and I like to think about scheduling my travel before 10 am and after 5 pm on the trains in high season. I also encourage people to sleep in the Cinque Terre, and not just day trip in, as it’s so pretty being there at night. Just to clarify, the cruise ship don’t stop the Cinque Terre (it’s impossible as it’s a marine protected park. You can’t even rent a jetski here). They come from the neighboring port city of La Spezia, and the passengers are only there for a narrow “afternoon window” of sightseeing. As always when you’re traveling abroad — having local knowledge is key. We try to really provide that through our free content and our paid travel guides too. I hope they help you navigate your way around these beautiful places.
Good to know that I can still visit Cinque Terre!
Not sure if you can help me with this, I’ll be travelling from Turkey to Italy – and i’m wondering what’s the best route to get to Cinque Terre directly.
Will it be better to go via Rome using train?
I tried to plan – and it seems that even if I go from Turkey to Pisa or Florence, to take a train to CT – somehow I’ll still have to pass by Rome?
My end point of Italy trip is Rome (i’ll be flying back to Singapore from there) – so I’m really not sure how to plan my route efficiently or effectively 🙁
Please if you can help, that will be much appreciated!
The traveller from Singapore
The easiest thing for you is just to fly into Pisa from Turkey (lots of flights) and hop on the train (Pisa airport has connections from right at the airport terminal) and head north on the train. It takes about an hour and a half and costs under 10 euro (no need to go through Rome on the way there).
If you’re heading to Rome after visiting the Cinque Terre, just hop on one of the fast trains that take you south to Rome — it’s about 4 hours. That’s the simplest. When you’re planning any parts of your Italy trip you can use 2 free tools: Google maps and the train schedules at Trenitalia.com. You can see the way Italian towns flow from north to south, and then you can figure out how long travel times take you via train with Trenitalia. We have a ton more information about how to plan Italian itineraries in our new travel guide coming out. Make sure you sign up for the mailing list on this page so we can keep you in the loop.
Hope this helps!
Hi Bianca. My husband and I being Canadian visited Italy for the first time last September. Well we stayed in Greve and we are still talking about the beauty of the people and their magnificent food. They are to us the happiest people in the world. After studying parts if Italy I stumbled on the Cinque Terra. I am bringing my daughter and granddaughter this coming September. As Francis Mayes says you could never experience the beauty of Italy in 10 life times. You are sooo blessed to live there. Thank you for all the wonderful information and guides to the cinque terra.
Hi Bianca – I love you blog. My wife and I would love to go on one of your tours but my only dates off in 2016 are May 25-June 5th. Too bad.
I had a question. We have been to the Amalfi Coast for 3 nights and loved it. We both have wanted to go to Cinque Terre for a while and curious your views on how they differ? We are likely opting for 3 – 4 days in CT versus the shorter stay and were looking to combine it with where else in Italy or even South of France.
If Italy- any new place you recommend? We can do Tuscany again and we love it but been twice and been to many of the towns. Perhaps further north? Or always could go to Venice as I have not been.
Or we were thinking of driving from CT to Nice and exploring the south of france for 4-5 days. Any thoughts on the drive (we would take a day).
I always say that the Cinque Terre are like a salt-of-the-earth version of the Amalfi Coast. They have a similar look, but they’re smaller and a lot less fancy (and less expensive too). I think combining a trip to the CT with a drive up to the South of France is a great idea, and the drive up the coast can be a goldmine too, with lots of beautiful and mostly undiscovered little seaside towns to stop in along the way.
Have a wonderful trip!
Looking for a guide and place to stay in monterosso or Vernazza may 12-13 for seven family members.
Check out Gigi Guides — we include a list of our top picks for places to stay in all of the five towns, plus sections on places to eat, things to do, the lay of the land and how to get around.
Happy travels to you!
I am planning next weekend in Italy from Thursday evening to Sunday with my wife and 3 year daughter . Unable to decide between Tuscany or cinque terre, pls help…..
We have been to Rome Venice Florence Amalfi coast in the past…
Totally Love Italy 🙂
We love both, but as I’m sure you can tell from our blog, we’re big Cinque Terre fans. It’s our home base, so we promote it a lot. Check out these blog posts for some inspiration:
I’ve just read your post about this. In a way, it’s reassuring, but also I do feel that many places will need to look at numbers. I’m often one of those day-visitors causing the problem – and yes, my wife and I do go on cruises – but my conclusion is that many of the honey-pot places will have to take some steps. Cinque Terre; Capri; Santorini; Mykonos; Florence, perhaps; the list is long.
I visited the Cinque Terre last summer (yes, on a cruise – we bussed from Livorno) and had a good day, with some interesting and fun experiences. For what it’s worth, here’s a link to a blog post I did about the trip.
Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts! As someone who lives in the Cinque Terre year-round, I agree that something is eventually going to have to be done. As Bianca mentioned in a comment further up, these towns are still magical (especially if you spend a few days really discovering them), but increasing crowds will eventually begin to erode the area’s charm. The good news is that Riomaggiore and Manarola have just elected a new mayor who is very hands-on and eager about studying the influx of tourists and working together with residents, businesses and government to manage it in such a way that everyone wins. Here’s to hoping they are successful!