The Cinque Terre represent one of the best preserved natural and semi-natural areas of the Mediterranean. Historical and geomorphologic reasons have forbidden excessive housing development and the creation of major roadways (which instead are present inland in the Val di Vara). Human activity and especially viticulture, have contributed to create a unique landscape in which development of the typical stone walls is so extensive as to equal that of the famous Great Wall of China. All this, combined with the characteristics of a crystal clear sea, of architecturally interesting locations, of a varied and extensive network of paths (one of the most enviable in the whole Mediterranean), makes the Cinque Terre an increasingly sought after location among Italian and foreign tourists. This is not so much the result of a successful promotional campaign but rather the spontaneous recognition of the uniqueness of the place, of its beauty, of the enjoyment one gets from staying in or visiting it.
A tourist’s perspective:
It’s important to remark that the Cinque Terre are not a classic touristic resort…particularly in Manarola and Corniglia everything has remained as in the past, no adjustments to the new touristic bent of these towns; local people’s life has been influenced by tourism only in marginal aspects. These are, with no doubt, the main features of the Cinque
Terre: a very different dimension, so distant from the towns’s stress as from the “all inclusive paradises” where everything is carefully planned and organized. Of course
this uniqueness requires some sacrifices: difficulties in moving and parking, lack of services, tiring up and down hikes… After all the Cinque Terre aren’t suitable for
everybody; not for the ones who like (and it’s a very respectable point of view indeed) exclusively a comfortable and served holiday… We don’t want to run the risk that the tourist
may expect something different from reality; but we well know that who loves the Cinque Terre would’t desire them to be different from what they are!
At present, tourism represents, along with agriculture, the main occupation in the area, and in fact farming has benefited tourism. The landscape has been altered in the course of centuries by peasants employing a know-how, that is slowly being lost. In the 15th century the wines of Corniglia and Vernazza were renown and appreciated not only in Rome but also in the halls of the nobility of France and England; now the tourist is able to purchase directly at the source the products of the vines and olive groves in a splendid and beautiful environment. The Cinque Terre, which already belonged to a list of protected areas and subsequently were defined Regional Park have now been made a National Park. A prestigious acknowledgement has recently been made also by UNESCO, which has defined this territory as ‘Humanity’s World Heritage’
Finally, It must be said that there’s a concrete risk of distorting the beauty and quiteness of this Paradise’s corner. In the last years, in fact, particularly in some periods of the season, there’s been an increasing flux of tourism made of large organized groups which is not suitable and compatible with the geomorphological characteristics of the territory of Cinque Terre. Currently the discussion is about to curtail the flow of grups ( mainly -but not only- coming from the big cruise ships regularly docking in the harbour of La Spezia) to avoid over-crowding in the small fragile hamlets where the inhabitants are suffering the situation. On the other hand the economic reasons and a lack of rules make everything difficult.
Shared opinion is that the Cinque Terre National Park should take responsibility of the management of touristic flow, obviously being the institution in charge of sustainability, adhering to the European Chart of sustainable Tourism but so far it does’nt looks like strong politics of protection have been carried on.
What we all want to avoid is to empty the “human” and cultural content of our towns and transform them in just another toy at the service of the global industry of tourism.