Stuck to the rugged rocks of the Italian coastline you will find Cinque Terre. Cinque Terre is a cluster of five colorful villages, built so remotely that they have almost completely escaped all influences of the modern world. In 1997 the villages were classified by UNESCO as world heritage. For anyone who wants to take a closer look at this historical site, it is advisable to leave the car at home. Because of the unique location, the villages are difficult to reach by car. Fortunately, there is an alternative: the Sentiero Azzurro.
The Sentiero Azzurro is a 7 mile (12km) hiking route that runs over a path, formerly used by merchants. Together with their mules they would go from village to village to sell their merchandise. Until the construction of a railway in 1874 it was the only link between the five remote Italian coastal villages.
When Cinque Terre got a place on the World Heritage list, the region quickly gained recognition. Suddenly tourists from all over the world came to this unique spot. Many of those tourists find it pleasant to stretch their legs after a long boat trip. In addition to a few other local hiking trails, the Sentiero Azzuro is particularly popular for this. After all, 7 mile (12km) is not such a big challenge. And that’s true. At least, if you have the right equipment for it. And that is exactly where the shoe – literally – pinches.
Every year, local rescue services have to rescue stranded hikers from the cliffs. And in most of those cases, the rescue operation has to do with the fact that the hikers in question did not put on the right shoes. They think they can do the job with flipflops, but in many cases that does not turn out well.
And now the authoroties of Cinque Terre are tired of it. They have set up a large communication campaign, which should warn future visitors that there will be a “dress code” on the trail from now on. Flipflops are no longer allowed and hikers will have to tie on a slightly firmer shoe. If they don’t, they run the risk of being fined. And that fine is at least €50 ($56) , but could be as high as €2,500 ($2,824). The exact amount is determined according to how much discomfort the affected flipflop hiker has caused to the rescue services. But it also takes into account the effective cost of the rescue operation.
This government measure may sound funny at first glance. But the Italians are dead serious. They hope that this unusual initiative will help to protect the tourists against themselves. The proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back was a German couple, who ended up in a difficult situation last year when they ventured on the paths with a pram. Cinque Terre may perhaps consist of coastal villages, but the hiking trails are far from dunes. Here and there they even have an alpine character, experts are warning.
If you plan to visit this tourist attraction this summer, you better put a sturdy pair of shoes in your backpack. Otherwise there is a risk that you will not have any cash left to score a delicious Italian pizza on the beach in the evening.Follow us on social media