14 May 2012

Vernazza: Six Months Later

As many may know, the Cinque Terre has been working double time to get Vernazza and Monterosso back to normality. It has now been six months since the fateful flood that took lives and destroyed these two villages. But in this brief period of time, people have come together from all over to accomplish what we all expected would take years. Today, a walk down the main roads in old town Monterosso and a stroll through the piazza in Vernazza give the feeling of near normalcy, almost as if nothing had ever happened. Kate Little, who writes LittleParadiso blog, says that seeing pictures of the flood compared to Monterosso today “almost seems like waking up from bad dream”.

The last few months have not been easy, though. The winter months were filled with insecurity for the future and people made it through by taking it day by day. In Vernazza, the winter months were still under evacuation orders, leaving only a handful of people living there without heat, gas and intermittent water. Many Vernazza residents were set up with temporary housing in other towns like Riomaggiore and La Spezia, but their desire to return to their home made the push to recovery that much more palpable. 

December 2011

Day and night, dump trucks drove up and down Vernazza’s canal, clearing the rubbish and ton after ton of dirt from the mountains above. Buildings were dug out, scraped off and pressure washed. 

January 2012

Crews dug up the main road to replace the antiquated water, gas and sewer lines with new pipes. Work was completed at record speed, especially for Italy. 

November 2011

The sheer feat of seeing the street again and being able to chat in the piazza gave a ray of hope that their village had not, in fact, been destroyed and there was hope to return to their glory days. This hope, mixed with the fear of losing out on the upcoming tourist season (the Cinque Terre’s livelihood) is what led to the joint descision in January that both Monterosso and Vernazza would be open to the public by Easter, and nearly back to normal by June. It was an ambitious goal, but it was quite motivating. 

Vernazzan’s temporary housing was up by the end of March and this brought nearly all the residents back, giving another injection of life back into town. Each step of progress was both a relief and a motivator that it was possible. Hard work and constant construction led to days filled with the sounds of jack hammers, scrapping, banging, sawing and clouds of dust that rose from the tiny streets. And my, how far they have come!

If you have any doubts about visiting, Vernazza and Monterosso are absolutely open to the public! All transportation is running on schedule (trains, ferries and buses), rooms are available to rent and restaurants and pizzerias are serving every day. Both are again thriving villages, open for business and working day and night to become better and more beautiful than ever. 

Piazza Marconi, in Vernazza, is the main area of town and the locals are again able to sit in their square under the shade of colorful umbrellas and enjoy the view of the sea. Laundry again hangs from the colorful walls, and the delicious aromas from kitchens cooking lunch again fill the alleyways. 

Even many of the hiking trails are open. Of the nearly 30 trails throughout the area, all but three are open, including the trail between Monterosso and Vernazza (For more information of the trails, click here). Each day that passes, brings another business reopening and another step towards normalcy. As we near the end of May, nearly 90% of Vernazza's shops, restaurants and rooms are open. The remaining businesses, like that of Trattoria da Sandro and Blue Marlin Bar (both just down from the train station) are set to reopen sometime in June. For a complete list of businesses, click here.

My husband and I had an aperitivo at the Baia Saracena and enjoyed the warm afternoon sun, the American family running after their toddler, the German couple with their dog and the group of Norwegian women on a girls' getaway. This is one of the little things that I have always loved about the Cinque Terre...that the entire world comes right here to one place. It was really nice to see that this special part has also returned. 

Spending time in the square or out on the patio by the ferry dock, it is easy to forget that anything happened at all. With the sparkling sea, the hot sun, the crowds of tourists, it feels almost like it did before that devastating October day. 

November 2011

But while it is easy to forget that just a few short months ago the beautiful view of the square was completely blocked by a mountain of debris, life in Vernazza is still not completely back to normal, nor will it be for quite some time. 

The upper part of town is still in ruins, 

the road into town still shows just how destructive the force of the landslides were, the homes at the top of the canal are still unreachable and the town is still without gas, requiring all homes and restaurants to rely on small tanks to fuel their stoves. 

Photo by Rebuild Monterosso

In Monterosso, there are still wood boards over their canal as a makeshift street and their schools are still closed. 

The road to full recovery is a long one and donations are still needed. Please support the rebuilding efforts by donating or buying artwork Save Vernazza has a benefit art auction now through May 21) or personalized stones that benefit the cause. Please visit SaveVernazza.com and RebuildMonterosso.com for progress updates, rebuilding projects, fundraising ideas and travel information. 

For her six month tribute, Andi Piper Brown of Once in a Lifetime Travel, has put together this beautiful video looking back on the last six months in Vernazza. Here is Going Back to the Start:


  1. Such good news. I was wondering if there is a place in the town where tourists could make donations when they visit. That would be very helpful.
    Also, I would love to meet you as I'll be there between Sept. 13-18 with my group of women on my Italy Retreat For Women to Live La Dolce Vita. Any chance?

  2. Your coverage of the flood and the progress of the clean up has been excellent, seeing the photos of Vernazza being restored to its former beautiful self are heartwarming.


I really appreciate your comments.

Vernazza Updates:

Vernazza is well on its way to normalcy and while I no longer write updates on their status, you can learn about the devastating floods of 2011 by clicking the label "Vernazza Updates". For the latest information from the organizations in Vernazza and Monterosso, visit SaveVernazza and Rebuild Monterosso.

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