Cinque Terre: Thongs, pumps and sandals banned along Italy's coastal hotspot

Tourists who embark on the steep, winding trails of Italy's celebrated Cinque Terre coastline face heavy fines this summer if they set out in flip-flops, pumps or sandals.

Exasperated mountain rescue units are fed up with having to rescue ill-equipped visitors who find themselves in trouble on the tough, narrow footpaths that link the five former fishing villages of the coastline in the northwestern region of Liguria.

The national park authority is to introduce a public information campaign this year to try to convince tourists to be better prepared.

But day-trippers who ignore the advice will face fines of between 50 and 2,500 euro ($A80 - 3,988), depending on how much inconvenience and expense they inflict on the authorities.

The tightening of the rules has been prompted by a number of mishaps and accidents in which tourists have come to grief on the Cinque Terre's precipitous paths and have had to be rescued.

Next month marks the start of the tourist season for the Cinque Terre, which literally means "five lands".

The picturesque region is bracing for a fresh invasion of hapless visitors this year because of a forecast surge in the number of cruise ship passengers who will dock at the nearby port of La Spezia, from where they access the Cinque Terre.

An estimated 750,000 cruise passengers are expected this year, compared to 450,000 last year. Many more will arrive by train on the railway line that runs along the coast.

"The problem is that people come here thinking they are at the seaside, but the paths above the villages are like mountain trails," said Patrizio Scarpellini, the head of the Cinque Terre national park. "First, we will introduce the information campaign, then we'll start issuing fines."

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Rescuing tourists who get into trouble falls to volunteers from the Club Alpino Italiano, a hiking organisation which maintains paths and mountain refuges across the country.

Last year, they had to go to the aid of a German family who tried to negotiate a rocky path with a child in a pushchair, and to help an elderly Italian man who attempted a clifftop walk despite having a leg in plaster.

"The paths are like Alpine trails. Tourists should not be tackling them in flip-flops and without adequate water," said the club's Maurizio Cattani.

The Cinque Terre are ever more popular as a destination, now attracting around two and a half million visitors a year, with an ongoing debate about whether to close off some paths in order to limit the impact on the environment.

Bus-loads of tourists are disgorged into the narrow winding streets of the five villages that make up the Cinque Terre - Riomaggiore, Manarola, Vernazza, Corniglia and Monterosso - and locals complain that they are being swamped by the crowds.

Mountain rescue teams in the Alps sounded a similar alarm over woefully ill-prepared tourists.

Last summer, there was a spate of incidents in which climbers came across tourists trudging through snow in jeans, trainers and sweatshirts at altitudes of up to 13,000ft (4,000m).

Italy's National Alpine Rescue Corps said: "Some people approach the high peaks as though they are going for a city centre stroll."

The Telegraph, London

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