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Re-thinking Cinque Terre?

I found an interesting article in the News section of this website---residents of the Five Towns are petitioning for limits on visitors, in particular cruise ship day-trippers, who overwhelm the streets and services of the villages:

http://www.italiantribune.com/cinque-terre-residents-petition-to-stop-flood-of-tourists/

Does not necessarily mean you should avoid the area. Go and stay overnight, contributing to the local economy. But you should be aware of the crowds you will face, and plan accordingly.

Posted by
7180 posts

Cruise ships destroy the natural beauty wherever they go just by their sheer size and thousands of passengers being dumped all at once. If you want to see a destination then do the locals and the land a favor: don't arrive by cruise ships.

Posted by
11977 posts

Not sure how they plan to stop the flood of tourists. They can probably prohibit non resident cars and vans from driving to the area, but you can't stop people from getting there by train. The Cinque Terre are the victims of their own success, like many other popular places around the world. They have people here in San Francisco wishing to stop techies from Silicon Valley from living in the City (and driving the cost of housing to the stratosphere). How they exactly plan to stop people from wanting to go where they like is a mystery to me.

Posted by
842 posts

There are small scale examples of how amending visitor access and changing transportation patterns can improve the experience and atmosphere. Harpers Ferry, WV, is a good model in that most vehicles are no longer allowed into the town, and visitors now take a bus from a visitor center to the town proper. BUT, Harpers Ferry is also a national historical park so access can be controlled by the National Park Service. Somewhat similar to the Cinque Terre (okay, I'm stretching a bit here, but stay with me) it's also a place with cramped topography (town in the valley with palisades rising up from the riverbed and subject to flooding). I've experienced Harpers Ferry before and after the NPS traffic restrictions. I think it works well, but I'm sure both private and public stakeholders including hotels, restaurants, and shops had to agree to the plan.

Posted by
141 posts

Interesting link....where was the photo taken? Is this what to expect in September? We are staying 3 nights, but, yikes....may need to rethink that! :(

Posted by
11658 posts

Lola, petition of support for the "Save the Cinque Terre" movement was posted here on RS a few months ago by an expat living in the region (has since been removed by the poster). And that the CT has become uncomfortably overcrowded is pretty well known by most travelers now because there has been so much discussion and publicity around it.

From what I understand, that new terminal in La Spezia sort of brought the issue to a head: the CT is too compact a space to handle the numbers from multiple big ships in port at one time. Chatting via PM with the local who originally posted the concern, some crowd-control may be necessary - such as scheduled staggering of X number of tours to the region at one time. Not sure what they'll do - or if they'll end up being able to do much of anything all - but I know that there's encouragement from some of the citizens to try and come up with SOME sort of workable solution.

Rachel, the Cinque Terre IS an Italian National Park, and the villages are almost entirely pedestrianized to begin with so vehicular traffic isn't the problem: it's the sheer numbers of people that are overwhelming the trains, ferries and public waste systems, and packing tiny streets and squares that were never built to handle that many humans at one time.

Posted by
11681 posts

Roberto, I assume they are talking about limiting cruise ship visitation, not people arriving by car or train. The village infrastructure can handle the numbers of people staying in local lodgings, but is overwhelmed by the flood of cruise ship passengers who come for the day, clog the streets, and maybe buy lunch but otherwise contribute nothing to the local well-being--- and leave behind a bunch of trash.

Posted by
11681 posts

Kathy--- this article was in the RS News section which I know a lot of forum readers do not see. So I thought it was worth passing on here for more exposure.

Jillmc----I am guessing that photo is the Via dell'Amore between Riomaggiore and Manarola, but since we did not walk that section I really am oly guessing. It does not resemble anything we saw while walking from Manarolamto Corniglia to Vernazza--- and I doubt the cruisers have time or the opportunity to walk these more rugged sections of the coast.

Hopefully someone can confirm ( or identify correctly if not).

Posted by
11658 posts

Kathy--- this article was in the RS News section which I know a lot of
forum readers do not see. So I thought it was worth passing on here
for more exposure.

I completely agree, and am happy that you did!
Editing here as I took another look and think you're right, Lola: that probably is the Via Via dell'Amore. It must have been take awhile ago as that's been largely closed since fall of 2012.

Here's one that gives a better idea what some of the crowding can look like (and no, I'm not pushing the petition, just wanted to use the snap):

https://www.change.org/p/parco-nazionale-delle-cinque-terre-sindaci-dei-comuni-delle-cinque-terre-save-the-cinque-terre-from-mass-tourism-salviamo-le-cinque-terre-dal-turismo-di-massa

Posted by
31030 posts

Lola,

Thanks for posting that article. I believe the same one was posted here about a week ago, but it's good to keep this in the discussion. I'm not sure where that picture was taken but the only place I can remember that has galvanized steel walkways is the Manarola end of the Via dell' Amore. It's not likely that large crowds would have been using that one in the last three years, so this may be an old picture?

I wish I knew what the answer was. I suspect they will have to work with the cruise ship firms on this one, as that area simply can't absorb multi-thousands of passengers in the same day. The majority of passengers probably take one of the excursions offered by the cruise lines, so one possibility might be to have a quota on how many people they bring to the Cinque Terre on each port visit. If there are several ships in port on the same day, that would have to be co-ordinated between all the lines. There are lots of other locations for cruise passengers to visit such as Florence, Pisa or wherever so some of them could be channeled in that direction. It would also help to have some co-ordination with the major tour companies that bring groups in for the day such as Trafalgar, Globus, Tauck, etc. I don't include RS groups in this as they're much smaller in size, they usually stay there rather than being day-trippers, and they also sometimes stay in alternate locations such as Levanto so the impact from RS groups is minimal.

I agree completely with your last paragraph. It's not necessary to avoid the area, but be aware of the situation and plan accordingly. I've been developing "coping strategies" over the last few years, and I'm not too concerned about the crowds as they have minimal impact on my touring. However, I should add that I try to avoid Vernazza in the day time. I was back there again in September and even this mob involved in a fierce argument at the Monterosso station didn't bother me (they weren't from the cruise ships, but rather German and Austrian tour groups). The entrance to the platforms was plugged solid and while I could have used an alternate entrance, I decided to go have a cup of coffee and visit with other travellers instead. I'm never in a big hurry when I'm there.

Posted by
1666 posts

It's not just CT that is having problems.

We took a Walks of Italy evening tour of Rome in December. Our tour guide Uta said that the high season in Rome has become unbearable. They've enlarged the cruise ship port near Rome and there will be several cruise ships disgorging 3,000 or so passengers at a time. They get on buses and head to Rome. Uta said you can hardly walk in the heart of the city and can't get close to the popular sites like the Pantheon and the Trevi Fountain.

Based on our experiences, I'll definitely plan all future visits to Italy for the quiet season. We had a great time in December and the crowds were low.

Posted by
842 posts

Kathy, thanks for the reminder that it has park status. Whether it's vehicles, people, sanitation infrastructure, what have you...crowding is crowding at peak periods. I just wanted to provide an example of how a town, private industry, and government took action to change a similar situation (and I'm sure there are many examples around the world....) Yeah, it's not the same a a cruise ship dumping a load of passengers at one time, but it's a smaller scale version of it. Thanks.

Posted by
141 posts

Kathy, that video is an eye-opener for me. We will be arriving in September by train from Varenna, so we will most likely arrive in Monterosso the same time as the group tours. The scene on that train gives me great pause. Sigh. If we roam the upper trails during the day, will the shops and eateries be available early in the mornings and around the dinner hour? Is it possible to walk to the villages, or are all of the pathways just as crowded? I would imagine the ferry is packed as well? I will not get on a train if it looks like the one in the video!

Posted by
11977 posts

The Cinque Terre may be a national park, but it's also 5 living villages.

One way to limit the people would be to close the towns to vehicles (except residents with permit). However if they prohibited cars into the towns, the cruise ships would simply dump the cruisaders at the La Spezia station so that they could take the train.

They would then need to stop the Regionale train service to the towns. But that would affect the locals' ability to travel. So that would be a solution that would negatively impact the residents as well.

An effective solution is to disembark North African and Middle Eastern refugees to the Cinque Terre instead of Lampedusa and set up a few refugee camps in the Cinque Terre National Park. That would probably dampen the desire to visit the Cinque Terre, just like it did for Lampedusa, and few will want to visit there. Then of course, the locals would start complaining because the tourists are not coming anymore.
http://www.panorama.it/news/cronaca/lampedusa-niente-immigrati-turismo-affonda/

Posted by
258 posts

I am so glad I visited the CT before the floods, both of water and people. Back then, the place was magical even during the day. The physical beauty is still there but who can enjoy it with the hordes of people? I remember taking my glass of wine out to the breakwater in Vernazza and watching the sun set. The trails weren't full of inappropriately "shoe-d" people and you could get great coffee and pastries in the Sicilian place by the gate. I had always planned on going back but now I doubt it.

Posted by
11658 posts

jillmc22595, as someone said earlier, the masses are not necessarily a reason to avoid the place. We found it to be much quieter early in the morning and in the evening, and the upper trails should offer plenty of breathing room. The upper reaches of the villages themselves weren't mobbed either. The vast amount of visitors tend to cluster around the piazzas, shops and restaurants in the middle of the day, and the Sentiero Azzurro is really the only one of the trails that's seriously overused - although it's also the most direct route between villages, and not all of the sections have been open.

People who choose to stay a day or more have the advantage of enjoying some relatively crowd-free hours, and it's lovely during those times.

I would expect the ferries and trains to be very busy, though.

Posted by
31030 posts

As mentioned in an earlier reply, the Cinque Terre isn't the only place dealing with this issue. Although this video is a few years old, it provides an interesting look at what the residents of Venice feel about the cruise ships.....

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-81c4q9_9LQ

Posted by
14003 posts

The article included this . . . The cruise sector in Italy had created more than 100,000 jobs and generated revenue of more than 4.5 billion euro ($5 billion) last year. Which brings to mind Mark Twain's quip: There are lies, damned lies and statistics. What kind of jobs? (menial, low-paying, seasonal work? on the ships or on land?) Who is employed? (foreign nationals on the ships, European migrants?) Revenue for whom? As far as I can tell the main (perhaps the single) benefactor of the cruise sector is the cruise lines.

An overnight tourist of necessity pays locals for food and lodging, which are the 2 largest (by far) costs of local travel. Even day-trippers from other cities are spending money in the country for lodging and food. Day trippers at best eat a meal on land (many bring food from the ship for lunch and return to the ship for dinner), have a cup of coffee and a gelato besides.

As long as the cruise companies are showing profits, they are unlikely to have any incentive to reduce the number of passengers overwhelming small towns (i.e., CT, Pompeii, Pisa) and straining the "tourist capacity" for cities like Venice, Florence and even Rome. Italy is particularly at risk because of its topography - long, long coastline, most cities and sights easily accessible from the many ports.

Posted by
243 posts

Whether Cinque Terre, specifically, or some of the other posts in this thread referencing Rome or Italy in general, one of the reasons 2015 witnessed such a surge in visitors was the dramatic drop of the Euro compared with other currencies, particularly against USD. Europe was 'on sale' last year, to the tune of 30-35%, in terms of local purchasing power for those visitors coming from dollar-denominated countries. Certainly the (increased crowds') Trend goes back beyond last year, but last year's exchange rate prompted many a traveler to choose Europe over other destinations.

We were in Italy last July, and yes both Rome and the Cinque Terre were very crowded. But if you're traveling during high season, then you should know what to expect and plan accordingly. Stay local and see stuff early in the day, or late-afternoon, after the 'cruisers' return to their ships. Vernazza, in particular, was crowded between 11-3, but not so much outside of this window. I wouldn't let one aspect of a region deter my interest in visiting, just suit up and show up! : )

Posted by
11658 posts

Whether it's vehicles, people, sanitation infrastructure, what have
you...crowding is crowding at peak periods. I just wanted to provide
an example of how a town, private industry, and government took action
to change a similar situation.

I absolutely agree with that too, Rachel. Some of our National Parks are having an enormous problem with being "loved to death" and are throwing around all sorts of ideas to try and solve the issue. While the challenges may be slightly different than the CT's, it still drills down to overcrowding being damaging to fragile environments, and creating a less-than-quality experience for almost everyone.

As Roberto pointed out, Parco Nazionale delle Cinque Terre is more than a park; it's been home to local families for generations. Aside from headaches for visitors, when overcrowding makes it difficult for locals to travel to school, medical appointments and whatever else is necessary outside of the region, and tourists are using their gardens and trails as toilets due to overburdening of facilities, I can sympathize.

My other concern is tourism driving prices to a point that none but the wealthy can afford to live there so they convert their homes and flats into guest accommodations - or sell them to a well-heeled someone who'll do that - and move elsewhere: another problem Venice has.

http://www.newsweek.com/merchants-are-killing-venice-324987http://www.newsweek.com/merchants-are-killing-venice-324987

Posted by
6067 posts

Chani, I think a lot of that cruise ship revenue (maybe most of it) comes from the port charges paid by all the passengers. I doubt that much of that revenue gets to the towns of the Cinque Terre though, I would assume most of it goes to the port town itself or maybe to the 'State'. The bigger the ship, the more passengers, the more revenue so of course they like the big ships and make accommodations in their ports to handle them. The little places like Cinque Terre and other towns that are visited by the cruise ship passengers probably don't see much value from the added crowds unfortunately.

Posted by
7735 posts

I'm pretty sure the residents of the CT vastly prefer the overnight visitors who spend way more money than the daytrippers (from cruise ships or other) who pretty much only spend money on meals. But short of selling admission tickets to the towns, there's not any way to keep people out. I'm so glad we got to go back in 2003.

Posted by
645 posts

Is there a reason why The Cinque Terre couldn't simply limit or prohibit boats disembarking more than a certain number of people? Museums limit the number of visitors, why couldn't a national park? Passes are currently required for the trails. They could be required and limited for the villages too. Why not?

U.S. national parks have long since limited backpacking permits and many have prohibited private cars in favor of buses. It helps.

Posted by
6067 posts

Jen, I believe the cruise ships do not dock in Cinque Terre. The cruise ship passengers are on excursions from ports of La Spezia and Livorno. Therefore they would have to limit the number of people coming into the towns on buses or trains (whichever they are using for the excursion) and I don't think that's going to happen. How do you distinguish the cruise ship passengers from individual day trippers from other cities in Italy? It's going to be a tough situation to control.

Posted by
11658 posts

Right, Nancy. The ships bus/train their tours in from ports outside of the park. As La Spezia is so close (Livorno, not so much) it's also an easy day trip for cruisers to do on their own - which I'm guessing a chunk of them do. Pisa would be the closer destination from Livorno.

Posted by
645 posts

Again, there's no inherent reason why trains, buses, parking permits, or just permits to be in the villages (not a thing now, but could be), couldn't be instituted. Italian law is the only real restriction on what's possible. But that's up to the Italian government and the people of Cinque Terre.

But, in the here and now, I suggest looking at cruise ship schedules and avoiding the days they dock within day trip distance. Barring that spend the day hiking between villages. We were last there in 2013 for two nights working out to a full day and a half plus breakfast and it wasn't bad. But we spent the one full day walking on the trails between towns. Lunch was crowded. Mornings and evenings were quiet.

Posted by
11658 posts

But just to mention? We were there the May right after the flood - when visitation was down just a bit - and the Sentiero Azzurro was one continuous conga line of hikers. The upper trails will be less busy if you are up to tackling them.

Posted by
63 posts

This looks terrible. Has anyone personally experienced this while visiting Cinque Terre? Does this occur only when cruises are in port nearby? How do you find what cruises are in port in June 2016? I can't find this information for June 2016 anywhere. We are visiting 2 nights in mid June.

Thanks for bringing this to our attention!

Posted by
6067 posts

I was not able to find cruise ship schedules for either port for June 2016. The only ones I found just go through April right now so you'll have to keep checking to see when June dates go out there.

Posted by
14003 posts

I can think of a way for the CT to discourage day-trippers, but I wonder if they could stand up to the pressure of the cruise companies and - maybe - nearby towns who also benefit from overnight tourism. Simply limit access to the National Park trails to people who are staying overnight in the CT. Might also be tricky if there are a lot of rooms for rent that are not legal. Another possibility is to have a much higher National Park entrance fee for day-trippers, at least then the money could go to the CT.

Posted by
11613 posts

Two years ago in June, I went to Monterosso with friends who used to spend summers there. We had a coffee at the station and got right back on the train, which was packed. This was late morning.

I would not hesitate to spend a couple of nights there, since like other popular places, everything is different after the daytrippers leave. Just get away from the five towns during the height of the day.