Self-defeating tourism in Italy

The beauty of the Cinque Terre region of north-western Italy has been a great draw for many years, with five quaint fishing villages, painted in myriad colours.

I visited in 2004 with a friend and there were plenty of people about, but not so many as to completely flood the place. Visitors have long had to buy a pass to hike the coastal path and that’s absolutely fine: monies go to maintaining the path and ensuring that the beautiful countryside and terraces remain as they are.

Thanks to an expansion to cruise ship itineraries, the region now gets too many visitors – especially when one considers the limited landward access. (The villages with their narrow lanes are only linked by a local, tunnelled railway line and a very narrow road.)

The understandable response is to limit the amount of people visiting, although I’m sure that the profit-hungry tour companies will do their best to find a way around the limits. This bodes badly for the peace of the region and brings horrendous images of cruise ships docking in Venice to mind.

Ruby Princess in Venice, by Dan Davison at Flickr

Ruby Princess in Venice, by Dan Davison at Flickr. (Used under a Creative Commons attribution license.)

I’d love to take Jo to the region, in particular because the coast south of Genoa is our nearest seaside and because the path between Manarola and Vernazza is ridiculously beautiful. But the numbers of visitors alone, and the knowledge that great cruise liners now dock along the coast, means that the idyll I hope for when I visit places like this is probably gone; replaced by the popularity and increased access with which the local tourist offices have shot themselves in both feet.