Men sunning themselves in Piazza Macaroni. Silverware softly clinking against china plates. Sweet salty smell of spring along the ocean.
For a moment you might forget what happened here in Vernazza six months ago.
But just for a moment.
Many of the people of Vernazza have returned home. Four of the restaurants are open with many shops along the main street soon to follow. A long list of accommodations are ready for reservations. The trains are running; the trails are being repaired. Some tourists have arrived, a few unaware of the disaster in late October.
For a moment you might forget.
The damage of the flooding can be seen in the harbor and around town. The obvious places that had been touched and changed. The more subtle signs can be found in the residents of Vernazza, people not used to idle hands. People uncertain during this time of silence. People who have been touched and changed.
For a moment may they forget.
Forget the torrential rain that unleashed 20 inches of water in 4 hours, triggering 7 million cubic feet of debris and mud to flood the valley and bury the town. Forget the homes, stores and cellars filled to the second story. The horror of the town’s gas tank, punctured and spewing gas, careening through main street. The indescribable fear as families, friends and travelers became divided by the rising waters. The parents of a neighboring town forced to spend an entire night without knowing if their trapped children had survived. Forget the frantic escapes through ventilation windows and through holes broken in walls. Forget the sadness as the waters claim three of Vernazza’s own. The evacuation. Displaced and relocated, some of the older residents leaving their homes for the first time.
For a moment may they remember.
Heroic and selfless acts that resulted in many lives saved. Remember the young who rallied and returned to make Vernazza their own. The prayers and kind words from strangers around the world. The support from unexpected places and people. Color created in unthinkable places.
My heart breaks to think despair may settle upon these people.
The soul of Vernazza is not in the buildings or the canal or the trails. It’s soul is found in the smiles of the children, the tenacity of the old-timers and the resilience of the people. The spirit is found in the making of sciacchetra; seen in the dry stone walls that terrace the hills. Life has always been challenging in Vernazza, but never defeating.
For a moment we must remember.
As travelers, we are powerful and we are essential. These families will not survive as they wait for business to return. They need us, need our business and the hope that we bring. No travel plans for 2012? I challenge you, along with Rick Steves, to donate the money you would normally spend in one day to the relief groups below. I also ask that you take the time to pass this message on, show Vernazza you care.
Looking forward, remembering where we came from. For a moment may you feel hope return Vernazza.
Disaster Relief Information:
- Save Vernazza a non-profit organized by American ex-pats in Italy who I work closely with.
- Per Vernazza Futura a non-profit fund set up by the municipality of Vernazza
- Don’t forget Monterosso, also horribly damaged in the flooding. They have set up a municipal relief fund called Rebuild Monterosso
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Copyright 2012 Andi Brown, Once in a Lifetime Travel