For safety reasons, the mayor of an Italian village struggling with overtourism has banned tourists stopping in certain areas. It is not the only Italian travel hot spot trying new ideas to counter the effects of mass tourism.
PORTOFINO — In Portofino, one of Italy's best known and most visited villages, two “red zones” have been established to limit the pedestrian traffic formed by tourists. These are areas where people can walk freely, sit in a restaurant or go shopping, but where visitors cannot stop for safety reasons, as the human density has become too high.
“Portofino belongs to everyone, but it is a jewel to be respected,” explains Mayor Matteo Viacava, who signed a measure that went into effect on Easter Sunday. The small village of just 400 residents welcomed 7,000 tourists during the Easter holidays — a much higher number than was recorded in 2019.
The restrictions are in effect from 10:30am to 6pm and will last at least until next Oct. 15. Penalties for those who stop range from €65 to €275.
The small roads and piazzas in the village have limited space, which is exacerbated by the many outdoor tables of cafes and restaurants. Here, large numbers of people listen to their tour guide, wait for a boat to pick them up, or stop to take pictures.
This creates gatherings who “have become a safety issue,” says Mayor Viacava to Italian daily La Stampa.
An entry ticket to Venice
The Cinque Terre, a group of villages located about a hundred kilometers from Portofino, are also overwhelmed by visitors, to the point that Fabrizia Pecunia, mayor or Riomaggiore, recently called for "a special law for the Cinque Terre, and measures to regulate the flow of tourists."
In Sardinia's most famous beaches, people can only enter by buying a ticket.
From summer 2023, people will be able to visit Venice — perhaps the most glaring example of this problem — only by purchasing an entrance ticket costing 3, 8 or 10 euros per day, depending on the day of the week and the time of year. The number of available entrances will be limited and tourists will have to pass through turnstiles (like those in the subway) placed at key points in the city.
Since the tourism problem in Venice is largely caused by day tourism, a discount will be applied to those who will show proof of a hotel or Airbnb booking. It is not yet clear whether this will also be applied to those who are hosted by friends or family, while residents and commuters will obviously be excluded.
In Sardinia, tourism has been reduced in the most famous beaches, where as early as summer 2021 people can only enter by buying a ticket. The number of available spots ranges from 400 people per day for smaller beaches up to 1,500 for bigger ones.
Crowds in Venice, Italy.
Towards elite tourism
To solve this problem long term, other cities are trying to entirely rebrand themselves. Amalfi, which gives the name to the world-famous Amalfi Coast in Campania, has already restricted traffic and prohibited tourist bus from stopping in or near the town and it is now preparing to become a “premium and boutique tourist destination.”
Amalfi should no longer “wait for tourists, but go out to find them and choose them,” as Destination Marketing and Destination Management expert Josep Ejarque and Mayor Daniele Milano explained.
However, the plan is not without criticism. Some fear that Italy will become a nation too dependent on elite tourism, becoming too expensive for most people, including Italians themselves.