It’s difficult to imagine a more Instagram-worthy destination than Cinque Terre, Italy. The quaint pastel buildings clinging precariously to dramatic rock outcroppings overlooking the Mediterranean Sea are a huge draw for tourists. However, the seaside location lulls many visiting day hikers into a false sense of security. Now, the most ill-prepared among them face stiff fines for wearing improper footwear.
The five tiny villages of Cinque Terre are connected by a series of footpaths that cover some surprisingly rugged terrain. They’re narrow and far more challenging than a typical leisurely beach hike. Still, many foreigners embark on their day hikes with little more than a smartphone, a water bottle, and a pair of tattered flip-flops. A sizable number of those hikers wind up stranded, injured, or both.
After years of preventable emergency calls, the national park’s rescue crews had enough. Through a new safety campaign this year, the park service is working with local law enforcement to ensure tourists are better prepared for their day hikes. They now provide visitors with a preemptive warning when purchasing the Cinque Terre card which is required to hike the park’s trails. Those who opt to ignore the advice face fines of up to €2,500 (approximately USD $2,800) with the exact penalty dependent on how much time and money is required by local rescue teams to do their job.
These days, many travelers rely on Instagram for inspiration. It’s a strange social phenomenon that’s funneling massive amounts of tourists to a limited number of iconic destinations. The over-tourism of Iceland and New Zealand comes to mind, but Italy too has been especially hard hit. This new “flip-flop fine” is the next in a line of unique penalties aimed at the country’s tourists. It comes just ahead of Cinque Terre’s peak season which is expecting more than 750,000 cruise ship passengers alone (compared to 450,000 in 2018). Late last year, snacking was banned on Florence’s most popular streets, while Rome has taken a hard stance against public drinking, so-called “slovenly eating,” and bathing in its fountains (which was evidently enough of a problem to require official government intervention).
Cinque Terre checks all the boxes for a picturesque seaside Mediterranean village. However, if you’re searching for a more hardcore hiking — er, climbing — adventure in Italy, check out this cliffside “hotel” in the remote Italian Alps.
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