In November of 2006, I joined my family on a trip to Italy to visit my cousin, who was studying abroad in Milan. We visited Venice, Padua, Florence, Sienna, and the Cinque Terre. If it weren’t for Rick Steves’ we might not have visited Cinque Terre. He’s put these five little towns of the Ligurian coast on the map for American tourists. They’ve long been popular with Germans and other Europeans. It just takes a couple days in the Cinque Terre to recognize how special this place is.
As Steves describes it, the Cinque Terre, a remote part of the Italian Riviera is the “traffic-free, lowbrow, underappreciated alternative to the French Riviera”. He wrote that in his 2007 guidebook to Italy. Traffic-free and lowbrow it may be, but underappreciated it is certainly no longer. The world has come to recognize the place he dubbed as “one of God’s great gifts to tourism”.
On October 25th 2011, mother nature assaulted this gift to tourism. Heavy rains resulted in epic mudslides and flash flooding leaving Vernazza and Monterosso al Mare buried in four meters of mud and debris. A dozen people were left either dead or missing. The townspeople have since been evacuated with the exception of 30 volunteers and emergency crews. Rebuilding will be long, complicated and costly.
This week I received an email. It started like this: “You are receiving this message because at one time you inquired about accommodations at Camere Giuliano in Vernazza.”
Yes indeed, I had inquired about accommodation at Camere Giuliano back in 2006. I remember. I stayed there with my family for two nights. We came from Genoa on the train, got off in Vernazza and navigated our way to Camere Giuliano, up on the hillside. There we met Michele. We learned her story, how she first came to Vernazza just like us, but fell in love with not only the town, but one of its residents. That would be Giuliano of Camere Giuliano. We chatted and settled in for the evening. In the morning we wouldn’t see her. She was rushed out in the early morning to give birth to their daughter, Sofia.
Fast forward to today. Vernazza needs our help. That’s why Michele wrote to me and that’s why I’m writing to you. With the assistance of two other American women, Michele has formed an Italian non-profit Save Vernazza ONLUS. Here you can donate money to show your support.
Save Vernazza ONLUS is endorsed by Rick Steves, a long-time champion of the Cinque Terre. Take a look at his page with updates from Vernazza. The YouTube videos posted are shocking.
What else can you do? Put the Cinque Terre on your travel radar for 2012. The mom and pop accommodations and café/restaurants need you. Rick quoted Woody Allen, who said that “ninety percent of life is just showing up” and added that “ninety percent of Vernazza’s life is travelers showing up.”
For a better view of the Cinque Terre before the disaster, check out my good friend Nell Rakhimova’s post on GoMad Nomad: Photo of the Week: Cinque Terre.