The number of tourists allowed entry to the world heritage-listed Cinque Terre could be dramatically reduced next summer, with news that Italy will close entry to the region once the total number of tourists reaches 1.5 million.
Located in the north-west of Italy in the Liguria region, Cinque Terre - which means five lands - encapsulates five small fishing villages joined by narrow and winding cliff-side roads. Tracks leading to the villages have been closing sporadically for years as a result of mudslides, rockfalls and flooding, and it's been very difficult for visitors to know about these closures before arriving to the region.
With a sharp increase in coaches touring the area (many a result of the cruise ships docking in nearby ports), and with Cinque Terre's popularity only growing, protecting the natural landscape of the world heritage-listed site is now more of a priority than ever.
As part of the new measures, tickets will be sold online ahead of time, an app is being designed to illustrate which of the villages are most congested, and roads leading to Cinque Terre will be fitted with devices to clock the number of people coming in and out of the area. Once the number reaches 1.5 million visitors per year, access will be denied. "We will certainly be criticised for this, but for us it is a question of survival," president of Cinque Terre Park Vittorio Alessandro told Italian newspaper La Repubblica.
Parent company of Royal Caribbean International, Celebrity Cruises and Azamara Club Cruises - RCL Australia - has 16 ships sailing through Europe between April and October this year, 10 of which will call at La Spezia and Livorno, the closest ports to Cinque Terre. In response to the concerns raised by the Cinque Terre tourism boards, RCL has increased its portfolio of alternative tours and shore excursions as a first measure.
"Overcrowding of the smaller villages is concerning for tourists and residents alike," says commercial director of RCL Australia Adam Armstrong. "We will be strictly following the local authorities' guidance on this and offering more alternative options in the nearby tourist hubs of Florence and Pisa. This will help us to preserve the authenticity of the guest experience, as well as the local communities."