The Grand Tour

The Grand Tour 29a – Cinque Terre/ 5 Towns

As promised, I’m backtracking to Italy.

One of the reason we chose to stay in Zoagli is that it is not a ‘tourist town’. We wanted to have some space from thousands of other people. We also needed a car park and Caroline found a place that had stunning sea views. Like this.

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So, along with thousands of other tourists we spent a day exploring the very popular coastline containing five fishing villages which were at one point accessible only by sea. We travelled by train, both from Zoagli, and between some of the towns. They are all connected by walking tracks, and we managed to walk the 3.2 kms from Monterosso to Vernazza which took us nearly 2 hours. The track climbs to about 180m above sea level, and then goes downhill quite steeply at the end. As you get over the hill you start to get views of Vernazza.

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From Vernazza we jumped on the train to Manarola. That is also fairly picturesque.

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We skipped Corniglia as we were running out of time.

The last town in the five is Riomaggiore and here is a shot of us taken by another tourist.

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I made a point of trying to help other couples get photos, but only if they did not have a selfie-stick, and they would often reciprocate. Here is a shot of people taking selfies, or checking the selfie they just took.

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I don’t like selfie sticks and all the museums and some sites we visited had banned them.

From the photos you see of the Cinque Terre online and in travel books they look like idyllic little fishing villages. They are beautiful to be sure, but this is what you see when you visit.

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The main streets are absolutely packed with tourists. Occasionally you would see locals looking on from above, and this was also the first time on the trip we encountered pushy and inconsiderate fellow-tourists. This type of signage was quite common.

Private Property 

This was taken on the upper part of the main street of Riomaggiore, where only a few tourists seemed to venture. We’d just bought a couple of pastries and sat down on a longish bench seat to eat them. An older gentleman came from that side-street, with a cushion under his arm, and sat on the end of the seat next to me.

This got me thinking about the impact of tourism on these towns and their unique culture. According to the Guardian 2.5 million people visited last year (2015), with day-trippers from cruise ships overwhelming the towns. This year Italy will limit the number of visitors to 1.5 million with a ticketing system.

After that the intention is to make access by reservation only, and numbers per day will be controlled. There is such as thing as too much tourism, and I for one am glad measures are being taken to reduce my impact on these heritage sites.

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