Tomorrow is the fifth anniversary of the Cinque Terre Flood. Already five years from the flood that on October 25th, 2011, devastated my village.
An event that deeply changed me, meaning that now everything matters in a relative way… Yes, because the flood has brought destruction and death, and I will never forget, hoping that no one will ever forget.
On a personal level, however, if I stop for a second and look back, it also brought awareness, constructive anger, determination, friendship, affection, smiles and laughter, and love… love for a village that I understand I love as if it were a person, love for my family and for old and new friends with whom I have been lucky enough to share unique special moments.
So, heartfelt thanks to all the people who are and have been close to me, to us.
Cinque Terre Flood, Vernazza on November 2nd 2011
My thoughts the week after the Cinque Terre flood.
One week. It’s already one week and despite the daily horror, a part of me still does not believe it. My village, Vernazza, no longer exists. On October 25th, in a few hours, it was washed away by torrential rains and an avalanche of mud, dirt, and debris.
One hundred landslides have opened up within minutes and quickly converged along the main road and the creek that led from the upper road into the village, dragging downtown and then into the sea cars, minivans, asphalt, plumbings, the huge gas tank, gardens, stone walls, and houses. A few hellish hours during which the lives of the inhabitants of this small village have been disrupted, and three people are torn.
After one afternoon and one night of terror and horror, during which the village has been cut in two by a cascade of mud, upon awakening, the sun was shining, a nice warm sun that has allowed us to look around and realize that the debris reached 5/10 meters above street and creek level, that all the ground floors were completely buried, as well as the railway, that there was neither light nor water nor gas nor phone coverage and that the village was surrounded by dozens of active landslides. The evacuation by sea of children and the elderly started. Everybody started by trying to organize the organizable and recover the recoverable.
The week has flown and at the same time felt endless and exhausting, but we all are aware that this is only the beginning and that our road won’t be a downhill one. Yesterday a new weather alert and the first static analysis forced the evacuation of the rest of the inhabitants, except for about fifty men left back keeping watch on Vernazza. I didn’t see the other affected villages. Still, I know that they also are devastated, and as Vernazza, thanks to a strong population and with the help of volunteers – and I hope of the institutions – will return as before.
According to the technicians, for Vernazza, things will be very complicated and time-consuming, but the village will rise, not from the ashes, but from water and rocks that have seen it coming to life and bloom already once.
During the coming weeks, we will need willing hands.
If everything goes well and weather conditions permit it, diggers should clear the main street quite quickly, and in about ten days, we should start releasing the ground floors. At that time, volunteers (armed with boots, gloves, and shovel) will be more than welcome.
Solidarity has already marked the hours until today: aid of all kinds and volunteers from all around. Hundreds of people have offered homes, food, clothing, materials, equipment, and labor. Thousands of messages of support and encouragement. For now, “thank you” is the only possible answer. “Thank you so much.”
“Up to Vernazza”, the documentary film
A few weeks after, Giovanni, a close friend, and colleague at the opera house reached me from Valencia and offered to film a documentary during the week between Christmas and New Year when the big emergency marquise was our main square and being together with our strength. A big thank you to him and Lisa for their cooperation and the good humor they brought into the village during the shooting.
“Up to Vernazza” lasts 54 minutes and tells horror, survival, and struggle to get up and start over again through the words of some of my fellow citizens who wanted to share their stories.
Today Vernazza has risen from the mud, but there’s still a lot to be done. Just walk a few hundred meters behind the train station, outside the village, to see signs of the devastation on the walls, along the stream, on what remains of some houses and mills, landslides, and the road not yet safe.
For those wishing to follow the progress and ongoing projects, I suggest the official website of Save Vernazza, the non-profit organization created by three incredible American women I’m lucky enough to count among my friends.
If you want to come and discover my village, I suggest you do it out of season (!!!) or enjoy it in the morning before 10:00 or after 6:00 in the evening, when the flow of mass tourism isn’t there.
Some time ago, I even wrote a short different itinerary around Vernazza following my memories and scents and smelled the village. A very personal route that never disappoints my friends.
If you come to Vernazza keep me posted!