Italian hiking trails to be one-way only

Walkers are only allowed to travel in one direction along the narrow paths that link the villages of the Cinque Terre in Liguria, Italy
Walkers are only allowed to travel in one direction along the narrow paths that link the villages of the Cinque Terre in Liguria, Italy - Andia/Universal Images Group Editorial

Hiking paths along one of Italy’s most picturesque stretches of coastline are to be made one-way this week in an attempt to deal with overcrowding, as Venice becomes the first city in the world to introduce an entrance fee for tourists.

Walkers in the Cinque Terre (literally ‘Five Lands’) region of Liguria in northwestern Italy will only be allowed to set out in one direction along the narrow paths that link the five former fishing villages.

The settlements are overlooked by steeply terraced cliffs that have been carved out over centuries to provide tiny strips of flat ground on which vines, olives and fruit trees are grown.

The measure has been introduced as Italy braces for huge numbers of tourists over a long weekend that revolves around April 25, commemorated as Liberation Day, when the country was freed from the Fascist regime and the Nazi occupation.

Millions of Italians will be on holiday, adding to the overcrowding expected from foreign tourists, many of whom have the Cinque Terre on their bucket lists.

Tourists charged €15

Hikers who want to tackle the Cinque Terre’s celebrated “sentiero azzurro” or blue footpath will have to start in the village of Monterosso and head east towards the hamlet of Vernazza.

Doing the walk the other way round will not be permitted. There will be checkpoints manned by police and national park officials.

“Attention, mandatory one way on the path from Monterosso to Vernazza,” reads a notice on the Cinque Terre National Park’s website.

Hikers near the village of Monterosso. T
Checkpoints will be manned by police and national park officials - Andia/Universal Images Group Editorial

The restrictions apply on April 25, 26, 27 and 28 as well as May 1.

Tourists will also have to pay €15 to embark on the hike.

“We are trying to manage the influx of people on the paths so as to protect the environment of the area and also the safety of visitors,” said Donatella Bianchi, the head of the national park authority.

Tourists were “often disappointed” by the crowds they encountered on the footpaths that link the villages, she said.

Venice entrance fee

The restrictions come as Venice prepares to introduce an entrance fee for tourists.

The city will charge an entrance fee for the first time on Thursday (April 25), with the scheme continuing until May 5. It will then apply every weekend until mid-July, for a total of 29 days this year.

The €5 fee will be levied on tourists who want to come to the lagoon city just for the day. Visitors who stay in a hotel for at least one night will be exempt on the basis that they are contributing more to the local economy.

“The measures will apply to people who don’t spend the night in a hotel,” said Silvia Donaggio, the head of a local branch of the Association of Authorised Tourist Guides.

There will be spot checks by Venetian officials to make sure people have paid the fee and downloaded a QR code to their mobile phones.

“We are the trailblazers for the rest of the world,” Simone Venturini, Venice’s councillor responsible for tourism, said recently.

He said the “contribution to access”, as Venetian authorities are calling it, was an experiment aimed at reducing tourist hordes and preserving the social fabric of normal life in Venice.

Proceeds from the scheme will help to pay for the upkeep and cleaning of the city, he said.

Overtourism an issue elsewhere

Italy has struggled for years to manage overtourism. Florence has clamped down on the number of Airbnb properties amid concerns that the historic city centre is losing too many locals.

In upmarket Portofino, not far from the Cinque Terre coastline, the mayor introduced a local law that bans tourists from lingering too long in the cobbled piazza of the town.

He said the regulation was needed to put a stop to “anarchic chaos” as selfie-taking visitors clogged the streets and made life difficult for locals trying to go about their business. Anyone caught loitering for too long risks a fine of 275 euros.

Bernabò Bocca, the head of a national hotel owners’ association, said a distinction should be made between tourists who stay in places for a few days and daytrippers who come and go without contributing much to the economy.

“The term ‘overtourism’ risks demonising the tourism sector. People are confusing tourists, who stay for a few days, with visitors who arrive in the morning and leave in the evening,” Mr Bocca, the president of the Federalberghi association, told Corriere della Sera newspaper.

“The explosion in short-term rentals has created a totally uncontrolled increase in the amount of accommodation on offer. Tourism brings benefits to the economy, but it needs to be regulated.”

He is in favour of the €5 entrance charge for Venice.

“We don’t think it is a bad idea at all. Day-trippers are visiting an open air museum (when they come to Venice) and there should be no such thing as a free museum,” he said.

But he questioned how the authorities will be able to make sure that people pay the fee. “It won’t be easy - you can’t put up barriers at the entrance to cities.”