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The Truth About Cinque Terre’s Supposed Tourist Limits

Billie Cohen | February 22, 2016

Lots of news outlets have been reporting that Italy will soon start limiting the number of people allowed to visit Cinque Terre this summer. The crowded seaside villages have become so clogged with tourists over the past few years that this announcement—of a plan to require tickets and cap visitors at 1.5 million—sounded realistic.

But as so often happens, the reports got most of it wrong (as they did with the scare that Venice was banning all wheeled luggage). You will not need tickets to visit the Cinque Terre this summer. We checked in with our Trusted Travel Experts for Italy to get the real details.

Turns out that the ticket idea broached by the president of Parco delle Cinque Terre was just that—an idea. As his staff clarified for Andrea Grisdale, it’s true that the national park is concerned about the high numbers of tourists to their UNESCO World Heritage Site—since 2011, the number of visitors has shot up from about 400,000 to about 2.5 million in 2015.

But officials are only brainstorming and researching options at this point—they are not limiting the number of visitors in 2016. One proposed idea is an online ticketing system called the Cinque Terre card (which would give visitors unlimited train access and admission to the park’s trails); another proposal could be a simple increase in prices. Beyond that, other ideas have been floating around—basing ticket availability on weather and trail conditions; an app that would show live information about traffic and tourist congestion in each village—but nothing is concrete.

At this stage, it’s too early to tell what will definitely happen. And you can be sure that we will keep you updated with the facts from our well-connected experts

As Brian Dore and Maria Gabriella Landers clarified, “There is nothing to this story other than it highlights something we’ve been saying to our clients for a long time: The Cinque Terre are overrun with tourists and may not be the authentic, fishing villages and peaceful hiking experience they have in mind.”

Of course, the Cinque Terre are not so popular by accident—they are beautiful, and remain on many people’s bucket lists despite the crowds. If these five towns along Italy’s Ligurian coast are on your travel list, here are some tips for making the most of your visit:

See the towns by boat.

“The five Terre towns are really tiny, so any land-based visit or hiking will be crowded, and the public ferries and local trains that go from town to town are also crowded,” notes Maria. “It is lovely to get out on the water to see the coast from that perspective—the view from the water is really what people see in dramatic photos of the area anyway.” Maria and Brian can set up a private boat excursion for you on a speedboat or sailboat; you can read more about it here.

Plan far ahead.

Andrea recommends you reserve accommodation as much in advance as possible, as the availability in the hotels is quickly booked up.

Visit during shoulder seasons.

“Consider the months of April and October ,as there are fewer tourists and a beautiful time of the year for weather and scenery,” says Andrea. “May, June, July August and September are always busy months for this area.”

Put in the leg work and you’ll be rewarded.

In a great blog post on the Cinque Terre, Maria and Brian point out that “Corniglia, the center village, is one of the least visited, as its clifftop position requires climbing 400 stairs, but because of this also has some of the most stunning views and hikes on the coast.”

Eat local

With all that walking, you’ll need sustenance. Don’t miss the local specialties: Liguria is the birthplace of pesto Genovese and is also known for focaccia bread, seafood, and Sciacchetrà, a wine produced in the hills of Cinque Terre.

Explore beyond Cinque Terre

Pro tip from Maria: Explore the area beyond the five towns. “I often suggest that visitors to the area stay in Santa Margherita Ligure or Portofino, which are also popular, but larger and a bit more expansive so you don’t feel the constant crush of your fellow travelers. The Cinque Terre is only a few minutes away, and you can visit the five towns in one day. You can also hike in the hills above Portofino. Other small coastal towns that are not strictly part of the 5 Terre but are nearby include Comogli, Moneglia and Porto Venere.”

Be a smarter traveler: Use Wendy’s WOW List to plan your next trip. You can also follow her on Facebook and Twitter @wendyperrin, and sign up for her weekly newsletter to stay in the know.

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1 Comment

  1. Anthony Peraino

    Spent five days in the Cinque Terre in 2012, from May 3 to May 7, based in Manarola. It was busy, but not terribly so and moving around was never difficult. The weather was mild and it rained only one day. The local people were delightful and the seafood superb! I’d go back in a heartbeat and would hate to think that I’d have to deal with a ‘quota’ system the next time..

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