January has been a busy month in Vernazza. It welcomed the new year, new projects, new donations and even welcomed back many of it’s residents. But it also said goodbye to a tragic year, painful memories and the seemingly permanent and comforting presence of the cooks from the Marina Militare.
With their portable trailer, the big tent and some powerful generators, Piazza Marconi was the "epicenter" of activity and comforting hot meals. These guys, lovingly nicknamed "The Navy Cooks", have been there from the very beginning, cooking meals for the residents, the volunteers, the military and the emergency crews. Here they were cooking Christmas dinner. On January 5, their work was finally over and with big hugs and big tears, they were bid an emotional farewell with a goodbye party thrown by the grateful residents of Vernazza.
|"A Rainbow for Vernazza"|
The very next day, January 6, was the last celebration of the holiday season, La Befana--or the Epiphany. And there was plenty to celebrate in Vernazza because a group of local artists and even a few internationally known artists came to paint all the makeshift “doors” (most are currently made of plywood panels) of the village so as to brighten up the drab, depressing main road and give back some of the vibrant color we are used to seeing. Here are some highlights:
Even the destroyed ATM machine was given a little color!
On January 17th, the train reopened full access to Vernazza, which not only brought turists, but also many mixed emotions from the residents. In one aspect, it is another step towards normalcy to have the regular train schedule, but the overwhelming feeling from the residents is one of feeling exposed and and slightly violated. The fact that most of the town is still unable to return home and those that have are still dealing with open wounds every time they look around makes them uneasy and not yet ready to receive people wandering around and "seeing Vernazza nude and exposed". One person, after seeing a group of tourists that came just to see the destruction, described feeling a little like they were in a zoo. It may be difficult to understand, but the people of Vernazza have been through so much, and even though so much work has been accomplished and it seems they have come so far, everyday is still difficult and every day that rain is in the forecast, dread fills the air. It has only been a few months since the horrific shock and tragedy of the raging flood waters and it is not an easy time for them. I agree that opening the train station to the public was done a bit too early.
On top of all the stress from the storms and landslides, this last week has been rather scary here, as there has been a lot of seismic activity. It is very unusual to have earthquakes in this area, but last week there was a sizable earthquake centered near Bologna and yesterday, a 5.4 earthquake hit our area, giving a violent jolt to most of the Ligurian coast, including Vernazza. Fortunately, there was no damage reported anywhere, just a lot of fright. There is a high probability of more quakes within the month, but let's hope we don't get any more. We've been through enough already!
I have gotten a lot of requests for recent pictures of Vernazza, but I have to admit, she's really not very presentable at the moment. Like the statements above, Vernazza is rather exposed. Construction is under way on the water and sewer lines and the entire village is dug open down the center, looking worse than she did last month. This month and next month is the critical rebuilding stage and Vernazza needs a bit of privacy to get herself back together. The residents are still strong and excited to be working towards reopening, but they need some time to pull in and focus on rebuilding.
If you have travel plans to the Cinque Terre between now and the end of February, don't worry, everything else is open, including many places in the hard hit old town of Monterosso. But Vernazza, unfortunately, is still not even open to all her residents, so please be respectful and leave them to their work for the next month or so.
Just about everyone in Vernazza who had a car, including those with a garage, lost their vehicle during the flood. In lieu of that, on January 21st, Fiat donated 4 new 4x4 cars to the mayor of Vernazza for a car share program to help the residents with their transport needs during re-entry, rebuilding and general needs for the entire year. Donations, small and large, have been a major part of the rebuilding effort. If you still have not had a chance to donate, or would like to give more, there are several options and programs available. See my Vernazza Still Needs Your Help post for more details.
The best news is that the wheels of the rebuilding machine are in motion and some limited projects have already been cleared for remodel. Businesses of 'first necessity' are the primary focus. The Pharmacy is now officially open, the Belforte restaurant is open (they are located well above the flood damage) and the panificcio, or bread shop, has been green-lighted for rebuilding.
|Construction Permit Poster|
The next month will be a long one, filled with hard work and a big push to reopen the main road. Stay tuned as more and more businesses reopen and Vernazza can finally welcome tourists with open arms.