It’s one of the most beautiful points of one of Italy’s most beautiful landscapes. Chiseled into the cliffside of the Cinque Terre, connecting two of its famous coastal villages, the Via dell’Amore footpath has often been seen as the symbol of the area.
Yet the 1km (0.6 mile) trail has been closed since 2012, when it was damaged by landslides and rockfall. In 2018, a storm surge further damaged the walkway.
Now, after a €22m ($25m) restoration project, an initial section of the path has been opened for summer 2023. The full trail is scheduled to reopen next year. If you’re interested in tackling the trail this summer, here’s what you need to know.
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Path of love
For decades, the Via dell’Amore was one of the top draws of the Cinque Terre: five coastal villages in the northern region of Liguria. The area – a national park – enjoys UNESCO World Heritage status for the unique way in which inhabitants have tamed the land over the past 1,000 years, terracing the steep cliffs to cultivate vines and olive trees.
The trail attracted couples with its romantic name (“the path of love” or “lovers’ lane”), as well as daytrippers, because of its location in the villages, rather than on the cliff tops as the area’s famous other trails are.
Access by reservation only
The first 160 meters of the path are now open until September 30. Access is by reservation only, between 9am and 7pm, by guided tour. The cost is €5 ($5.50).
The three-month opening is an “experiment,” Riomaggiore mayor Fabrizia Pecunia told Lonely Planet, adding that they want to turn it into part of a living “museum” linked to other cultural sites.
“We’re suffocated by ‘hit and run’ tourism, so we need to change what we’re offering, elevate the quality and transmit [to visitors] what the Cinque Terre are. This could be the best instrument to try to do so,” she said.
Although the footpath is an Instagram dream, anyone wanting photos will have to learn about the history of the area before they start snapping.
Ticket holders will also get access to Riomaggiore’s castle, the highest part of the village, the idea being to distribute visitors instead of cramming them into one place. They will also be able to return to the Via dell’Amore independently after visiting hours are over – the perfect time to get sunset shots. The path will be closed to everyone else except locals.
If the project is successful, they aim to open the path fully in July 2024.
“Tourists can’t come here without knowing what [the area] is,” said Pecunia.
Last year, about three million tourists visited the area, which has a population of around 4,000.
“We have to try to find balance, and have the courage to intervene,” she added.