Italy plans to slash the number of tourists visiting the "Cinque Terre" UN World Heritage park this northern summer because the rugged coastal area risks being wrecked by coach parties.

About 2.5 million tourists poured into the picturesque park in northwest Italy last year to visit the five small fishing villages, which are connected by narrow cliff trails.

Residents say day-trippers from cruise ships docking at nearby ports have overwhelmed their communities and the head of the Cinque Terre (Five Lands) park said no more than 1.5 million visitors would be let in this year.

"We will certainly be criticised for this, but for us it is a question of survival," Vittorio Alessandro told la Repubblica newspaper.


Roads leading to the area are being fitted with devices to gauge the number of people heading to the villages and once a certain number has been reached, access will be closed.

Tickets will be sold ahead of time online and an app created for tourists to show which of the villages are most congested.

Accessed by steep, winding roads, the Cinque Terre, with their brightly coloured houses, used to be a remote backwater.

However, tourist numbers have risen sharply in recent years partly as a result of cruise companies adding more Italian destinations to their itineraries as other Mediterranean ports, such as Tunisia, lost their appeal following militant attacks.