The article that was published by The Guardian claimed that the numbers of tourists would somehow be limited, from 2 million+ down to 1.5 million. Let’s just start there. How would they go about that? Counting every person? What systems could you possibly put in place to keep people from visiting ? Even now, they can’t keep people off of the damaged parts of the trails, so how can they keep people from coming to the area at all? We aren’t talking about a museum or even a single village. This is a huge area that can be accessed in multiple ways. Keeping people out is not a feasible concept to begin with, and the locals want and need the business.
The Cinque Terre’s popularity has exploded in the past 10 years. When I started as a tour guide 16 years ago, it was a relatively funky, quiet backpacking vacation spot. Now it is more affluent and filled with every sort of tourist. We all knew something big had changed when the cruise ship groups started coming a few years ago.
The blessing has become a burden, though. The problem in the Cinque Terre is the crowding in high season, particularly September. The villages can’t really handle the crowds that flow in and out like a tsunami. Big tourist groups are the issue, too many people all at once. The trains are overcrowded, the trails are dangerously jammed with groups marching down them all together. I may seem like a hypocrite complaining about it, but our groups are not the problem, we stay for a couple of days and are usually all doing our own thing, never en masse. We try and be responsible and respectful on our visits and the locals appreciate our business. They are less enthusiastic about day trippers and cruise groups that come for a few hours, don’t stay in hotels and don’t eat at the restaurants. They don’t add to the economy in the same way, and they don’t tend to make a cultural connection with their “check the box” style of get-it-done sightseeing. These are the tourists that they would like to discourage. How are they going to do that? I don’t know.
I have many friends in the Cinque Terre, including my friend Giuditta who stayed with me recently. I asked her what the situation was, if indeed the Cinque Terre would be limiting visitors. She sent me this that she would like for you and everyone else to see:
While I understand the concern, and it is a good idea to consider how to make tourism coexist more peacefully with the destination, the news media really missed the mark on this one. So, if I can be so bold as to speak for my friends in the Cinque Terre, forget the media hype. If the Cinque Terre is a part of your travel dreams in 2016, go! Don’t put it off. You will receive a warm welcome and probably a nice glass of the local sciacchetra wine when you get there. I’ll see you on the beach.