>This post has been updated with new information. Please scroll to the bottom to read the new info.
The area, put on the map by Rick Steves, is now choked with tourists. Streets are clogged, the footpaths that connect each village are eroding. And we can’t have that. The area is a UNESCO site and it needs to be preserved.
Currently, the area gets about 2.5 million visitors a year and they’re looking to reduce that down to about 1.5 million. They are proposing some sort of on-line ticketing system. There is also talk of dedicated tourist trains and an app that would allow travelers to see which paths and villages are most congested.
In my opinon, not allowing behemoth cruise ships to drop people off by-the-thousand just to trounce around for a few hours, would go a long way to solving the problem.
But, they didn’t ask me for my solutions. So for now we’ll have to work around it.
Here is what I’ll tell my clients:
You Can Still Visit the Area
The Cinque Terre is part of the Italian Riviera. There are many other wonderfully picturesque places along this stretch of coastline to stay and explore. Try Levanto, Portovenere, or Lerici. Santa Margherita Ligure and San Remo are a bit further, and have a more resort feel. And Portofino is worth a splurge. Further north is the sleepy town of Camogli.
You’ll still be able to take a boat or ferry that will pass by the five towns. And viewing it from the water is pretty special.
Dramatic Coastline in the South
For stunning coastline you can also head further south to the popular Amalfi Coast. Towns like Positano, Sorrento, Ravello and Amalfi will welcome you. Active travelers can still find plenty of exercise, like walking the Path of the Gods. It’s not as quiet or laid back, but the gorgeous views and limoncello will go a long way to assuaging your disappointment.
Laid Back and Still on the Coast
Although tourism is on the rise, Puglia is a great alternative and doesn’t attract the same amount of visitors. You’ll still have charm, rustic beauty and lovely coastline, but the jumble of sherbet-colored houses will be shades of putty and white.
You may not be able to hike between most villages, but active travelers can bike, which is a very popular activity in the area. Check out places like Polignano al Mare, Monopoli, Otranto, Gallipolli and the Salento. Real nature buffs, looking for isolation, should consider the Gargano, further north.
Natural Beauty but Not on the Coast
The Cinque Terre has always been very popular with backpackers and hikers. Fortunately, you can find walks in the mountains in the Italian Lakes region. Como and Garda are well known, but you can have the place to yourself in Orta or Iseo. Though not on the coast, the scenery, villas and gardens are still breathtaking and the calmer lake waters allow for plenty of opportunity to spend time on the water.
If Cinque Terre is a MUST
Personally, I have better things to do on my vacation than
- worry if I’m going to be allowed a ticket in
- feel like I’m visiting Disneyland
- travel all the way to the area, just to be turned away
- waste time waiting on line for hours (unless I’m waiting for a museum)
- be at the mercy of any newly-implemented ticketing system, especially an Italian one
I’d much rather see you avoid the area for now, let them work out the kinks and maybe put off your visit until next year. Pick another destination if you’ll be in Italy this year.
But if you’ll accept no substitute, it might be wise to try to visit before summer hits.
Fall is generally a nice time to go – but tickets will be at a premium and will sell out quickly. Not to mention it might be a total fustercluck until they get a system in place.
I think you’d have a better shot visiting in April or early May and having the best Cinque Terre experience.
There are still so many unanswered questions surrounding how this will work.
Will you automatically be granted a ticket if you’re staying overnight in one of the five villages?
Will cruise ship companies get to hoard a gazillion tickets for their passengers, while indy travelers are left holding their backpacks with no access?
And there is still no word on exactly how a ticket system might work or where you will buy them once that’s figured out.
UPDATE #1 : 8/17/16
After hearing from clients and doing a bit of research, the good news is, there has been no change in terms of visiting the Cinque Terre. No gates or restricting tourists from the area. You can still visit.
However, the following changes have been implemented in order to attempt to reduce the flow of visitors.
- The cost of a hiking pass to enter the walking trails that connect each town is now €7.50/day
- Train service has been adjusted to better manage the flow of arriving and departing tourists
- Visitors using the trains now pay more for tickets than locals
Keeping checking back for updates.