As many of you who have walked along the Sentiero del’Amore (the Path of Love), which connects the five medieval villages of the Cinque Terre, or dined at one of the tiny restaurants perched along the port front will know, there are few places as picturesque or charming. Yet charm does not stave off disaster.
On 25 October 2011, after 20 inches of rain fell in the space of a few hours, the villages of the Cinque Terre were hit by a massive flash flood and mudslide, 14 feet deep, that all but destroyed the towns of Vernazza and Monterosso al Mare.
The raging muddy water swept away cars, boats, the railway line and the lives of three people. In the process, it destroyed the livelihood of so many who had lived in these villages all their lives. Although some villages escaped relatively unscathed, the inhabitants of Vernazza have been evacuated and will not be allowed to return for some time to come. As of this writing, the villages of Riomaggione, Manarola and Corneglia are intact. The more modern neighborhoods of Monterosso al Mare appear to be somewhat back to normal but the old town will require exhaustive repairs.
The situation in Vernazza continues to be dire. Valiant efforts have been made to dig out the delightful old village. During the month of November 2011 alone, one million square feet of mud was removed. Underneath the damage is extensive, and the cost of repairs has been estimated at over 100 million euros.
You can help. The town of Vernazza has established a non-profit organization (Una Pietra per Vernazza, which translates as ‘a stone for Vernazza) to channel donations for the rebuilding. The names of all contributors will be listed on a wall of thanks to be erected in the village. American expatriates living in Italy have also established a non profit organization — Save Vernazza— which is collecting donations.
Until Vernazza is rebuilt, those of us who have been captivated by it will only have our memories. Please help.