Today marks one month since the flood that devastated the Cinque Terre. In just 31 days, progress has been amazing. People still describe walking through town as walking through a war zone, but as I have described previously, the spirit and heart of the people has persevered above all else. That has made the difference between Vernazza being a destroyed tourist destination or a thriving community that will quickly rebuild.
Here is a lovely video put together by an American filmaker in Germany. He has been back and forth to the 5 Terre for three years filming a documentary on the Cinque Terre's cultural history and unsure future of their Sciacchetrà wine. While recently in Vernazza, he took some footage the clean-up in process.
Work continues on, from morning till night, digging out what remains to be liberated from the depths of debris. Fortunately, most of the town has been cleared, thanks to weeks of hard labor and good weather. Those with restaurants and boutiques have done what they can up to this point, leaving them in a kind of holding pattern until rebuilding can begin.
The most immediate problem of digging out their livelihoods has been accomplished with impressive speed and determination — but the toughest parts lay ahead. Vernazza’s mayor describes his town as still being in “emergency mode”, which means that nothing can move forward until certain milestones are reached. The biggest issues they face now are clearing the remaining half a mountain of dirt from the top of the town, securing the canal for the stream along a safer path and rebuilding the road that has been completely washed away.
The building structures also need to be determined safe before the evacuation is lifted and the sewer system, while partly functional, needs to be upgraded and renewed.
In the meantime, the people of Vernazza have been taken very good care of. Those whose businesses have been destroyed are receiving unemployment benefits; train tickets, new mattresses, bedspreads and groceries, are all provided free of cost and dinners are prepared for large groups.
But don’t worry about their meal choices — this is Italy — even flood victims eat well here. Relief packages in Italy are not filled with cans of beans and sliced bread. Here they have local farms donating nothing but fresh fruits and vegetables, seafood and meats. Combine that with several well stocked restaurant wine cellars unable to sell mud stained bottles and you have quite the feast. Fresh scampi or polenta and fine wine may be the key behind those smiles on the workers’ faces! But they deserve it! Everyone has been working so hard day and night for a month.
The road to rebuilding will be a long and arduous one. The realities for many business owners are slowly starting to come into focus. Not only do they need to completely remodel, but everything needs to be replaced. They lost their goods, their artwork, their stock; restaurants lost their tables, chairs, glasses, dishes, and even their expensive kitchen equipment like the ovens, stoves and fridges. They lost everything. And to add insult to injury, discovering that the damages are not covered by insurance because 'flooding is an act of God' was a major blow.
These are the things that will make the next several months very complicated. The good thing about being in “emergency mode” is that everyone is still holding strong and working together for the greater good of their town. But once the town is secured and each begins to rebuild their own business, the need for additional funding will become quite clear.
Currently, Vernazza has two main funds for rebuilding: Per Vernazza Futura, the Italian fund set-up by the municipality of Vernazza (which is only in Italian) and Save Vernazza, a Italian non-profit set-up by American expats in Vernazza for funds to be strictly appropriated for Vernazzan rebuilding projects. Both have websites that stay updated with news and photos, and both accept donations by credit card and PayPal. Save Vernazza is completely in English and geared to be easier for International donations and participation in selected projects.
We are exactly one month from the day of the flood, and one month from Christmas. I am hopeful for where they will be in one month because of how far they have already come. There is talk amongst the people of a big party the piazza for Christmas, and if they can accomplish that, they will renew their spirits for the long and hard road ahead.
For the original story of what happened, see: Disaster Strikes VernazzaFor information on how to donate, see: Donations to Save Vernazza
For all related stories and the latest updates, see: Vernazza Updates