Spirit of the Cinque Terre

Monday, October 31st, 2011

Vernazza: before and after photo from Facebook

Early in the morning of Tuesday, the 25th of October, it started to rain. After a very hot, dry summer, the earth was unprepared for the amount of rain that was to fall for the next few hours. By early afternoon, water was streaming down the roads of the villages and by early evening, most of these villages had been devastated.

The buildings, many from the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, held up to the water. The floods though, which reached over 6 feet, ravished the insides of the ground floors: the businesses, the churches, the storerooms and cantinas all completely ruined.

We were at home in Fontona when this happened and our little stream rose about 8 feet in a matter of 6 hours, flooding our bottom floor and washing away everything along the riverbed down to our rock foundation. Thinking that the worst was going to be in our area, we told our twelve year old son to go to Monterosso on the train and weather the storm out there. Luckily the trains did not run because of the foul weather, and he was stuck at the train station with friends.



When we were to go pick him up, we drove down to the bottom of our road to find a landslide blocking our way into town. Our son and two of his friends were able to go to the home of friends of friends where they were given a pizza. We planned to have them sleep there, but luckily our road was cleared and we were able to go get them. 
The other children from Monterosso could not go home because all of the roads were blocked and the trains were completely out of service by this point. They ended up staying with us for two nights.

The damage to our property was terrifying to witness. The whole wall of earth in front of our house slid down to the stream causing a dam which made the water rise even higher. Our bridge and railing partially slid away and our chicken coop was hanging on by the chicken wire underneath.

We were lucky.


Church of Monterosso

Yesterday we took the ferryboat (the only way to reach Monterosso and Vernazza yesterday) and were not prepared for what we would see. As my husband said, it was like stepping into a war movie: pale, shell shocked faces waiting for supplies on the dock, no time for hellos- we were immediately given a job to do. Since we had no shovel or picks, we quickly wore out our welcome and decided it was best to get out of the way. There was a force, a determination and cold stoicism that was overpowering. Everyone, from the most famous restaurateur to the school kids had shovels, buckets and picks. In the piazza, there was a resident-organized makeshift cafeteria set up to provide a hot lunch to residents.


The historic center of Monterosso is mostly without gas, electricity and running water. Landlines are out and cell phone service is extremely spotty. Fortunately the new side of town (where the train station is) has most services.

The weather is warm and sunny these days, lucky for those cleaning up. There is a spirit and energy in Monterosso that makes you understand what these folks are all about. If anyone can survive such an enormous calamity as this one, it's the people of the Cinque Terre.


There are collection points for non-perishable foods, toiletries, work tools such as picks, shovels, wheelbarrows, rubber boots and gloves, baby supplies, batteries, flashlights, warm clothes, blankets, etc., set up in La Spezia, Santo Stefano Magra, Levanto and in the Golfo di Poeti. If you need more info, send me an email at kate@littleparadiso.com.

If you live outside Italy and would like to donate, the easiest way is through the Croce Rossa, Italian Red Cross. When you go to their website, there will be a drop down menu select Emergency Tuscany and Liguria. 

TOURISTS- DO NOT COME. You will just get in the way. If you work in tourism, please tell your clients to stay away for the time being.



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