If you're planning to hike the alluring network of cliffside trails that connect the picturesque Mediterranean villages of Italy's Cinque Terre National Park, do your wallet and feet a favor and leave the flip-flops and sandals at home.
That's the warning from national park officials, who earlier this month announced a public information campaign urging people to choose proper hiking gear or potentially face steep penalties ranging anywhere from €50 (U.S. $56) to €2,500 (U.S. $2,796).
The push to levy heavy fines comes in the wake of a dramatic up-tick in the number of tourists needing rescuing along the narrow, cliffside trails of Cinque Terre. Despite its Mediterranean setting, officials say, the 11-kilometer (6.8-mile) hike is not a day at the beach.
"The problem is that people come here thinking they are at the seaside, but the paths above the villages are like mountain trails," Patrizio Scarpellini, the head of Cinque Terre National Park, told The Telegraph. "First we will introduce the information campaign, then we’ll start issuing fines."
The park service has not yet spelled out the particulars of this rule on the Cinque Terre webpage. Travelers who will be going there soon can reap the benefits of other travelers' experiences on footwear choices. This forum is a good place to start.
Like other coastal sites in Italy and around the world, Cinque Terre has experienced a heavy swell in tourism from cruise ships. While last year some 450,000 people visited from cruise ships, this year's forecast is expected to top more than 750,000 people. As a result, officials expect a surge in day-trippers walking the Cinque Terre using improper footwear like sandals, flip-flops and even pumps.
"We use the helicopter to rescue a lot of holiday-makers. Usually they've fallen down along the road of the Cinque Terre or they've injured themselves because of a lack of experience or equipment," one rescue helicopter pilot told The Local.
Should you wish to visit this UNESCO World Heritage site yourself, the present recommendation is that you a) avoid going via cruise ship and b) visit outside the slammed summer tourist season (April-October).
Just remember: Leave the flip-flops at home and pack the hiking boots.