Follow Italy's Unexpected Shoe Rule To Avoid Getting Slapped With Fines In The Cinque Terre

Your clothes can help you look like a local when traveling in Italy — or make you stand out as a bumbling tourist. But more than that, the wrong clothing items could lead to a costly fine, and, nope, that's not a joke about the fashion police.

While navigating your way through Cinque Terre, you can get in trouble with the authorities for wearing the wrong footwear. Cinque Terre is an area encompassing five fishing villages located on the coast of the Italian Riviera. The communities are known just as much for their gorgeous harbors and beaches as they are for their jaw-dropping cliffs. While trains and boats connect the villages, the best way to reach the tops of the mountain trails is on foot.

Unfortunately, not all tourists make it to the top without getting stuck along the way, and their shoes are often to blame, according to Cinque Terre National Park officials. Patrizio Scarpellini, the park's director, told CNN, "These are difficult paths, in some cases, similar to mountain paths. ... Essential to have proper shoes!" If your shoes leave you stranded and in need of rescuing, you might have to pay a fine of between €50 and €2,500.

What shoes to wear and which to avoid

Strappy sandals and easygoing flip-flops might fit right in during most oceanside vacations. However, when visiting Italy's Cinque Terre, you'll want to stick to comfy shoes that protect your feet and are easy to hike in. Ask yourself: Would my shoes work on a rugged hiking trail? If not, you may be better off leaving them at home — or at least in your suitcase for another day.

Cinque Terre Park's online "Hiker's Handbook" offers more specific guidelines: "Open footwear and/or smooth soles, i.e. Not anti-slip (such as vibram type) are forbidden." The resource adds that shoes must be closed-toed, waterproof, and covering the ankles.

Hiking boots are a safe bet, though they may feel stuffy during the Mediterranean country's warm-weather months. Most running shoes and grippy sneakers are also suitable for Cinque Terre's cliffside terrain, especially if they come in a water-wicking material with a supportive high-top design. Note that designer sneakers made of luxurious leather or suede could get scuffed or dirty on the trails. Rick Steves' best tips for hiking in Europe can help you prepare.

Is the shoe rule actually enforced?

A fine higher than your round-trip airfare just for wearing the wrong shoes might sound harsh, but as Patrizio Scarpellini shared with CNN, the punishment is real and enforced with the help of the Comandi Regione Carabinieri Forestale, a local law enforcement group. Visitors disembarking at one of the Cinque Terre's villages or entering the trails might find themselves being stopped by authorities before they even have a chance to try to break the rule.

However, it's unclear how often fines are actually issued in the Italian destination. In 2019, Scarpellini told The Telegraph that Cinque Terre National Park was in the process of introducing a campaign about the shoe guidelines before starting to penalize rule-breakers. More recently in 2023, travel TikToker @jetsetting_jacki posted a video about the fines, though she noted that she didn't see any authorities checking hikers' footwear during her trip.

To be safe, heed the officials' advice and wear sturdy shoes when exploring the Cinque Terre. Even if you don't receive a fine for wearing flimsy sandals, you could get stuck or even injured on the trails. Save the stylish shoes for days in Milan and Rome instead.