Surely you saw the news about the devastation to Cinque Terre following heavy rains last fall. How are these five villages coping and are they ready for visitors this spring and summer? Kate Little, a tour guide and sommelier originally from Texas, lived and worked in the area since 1989. (You can find out more about Kate and the Cinque Terre at her site www.littleparadiso.com) She fills us in on some hopeful news for those wishing to visit the Cinque Terre this year:
October 25th, 2011, will be a date that no one in Monterosso will ever forget.
It had been an exceptionally long, dry summer and the drizzle that started on the 24th was welcome. However, during the course of a night and day of constant rainfall, the land could not absorb any more water. Culminating on the early afternoon of the 25th, 20 inches of rain pounded the village in less than 3 hours. Landslides tumbled downhill and downstream, taking dirt, trees, boulders, automobiles, and in many places – people, with them.
After the rains stopped, residents first made sure that everyone was accounted for and put out the alert for those who were missing. Next they started assessing the damage. The buildings were standing in their correct places as if nothing had happened. However parts of roads had popped open from the volume of water running in the canals underneath and the piazzas, remaining roads and the ground floor of almost every building were a good two to three meters under mud. Livelihoods were mixed in with the sludge. They lost everything, but not their spirit.
Five months ago, no one expected Monterosso to be ready to welcome tourists by Easter 2012. No one, that is, except for the Monterossini.
Being determined and no-nonsense, from day one, locals got to work. There was no job too difficult, dirty or menial. The results speak for themselves: Monterosso, against all odds, is open for business.
What can tourists expect this year in the Cinque Terre? Monterosso is planning on being 75% back to normal by Easter and 100% recovered by June. The great majority of hotels and restaurants, if not open already, will be open within the next 2 weeks.
More importantly, the village is eager to have visitors in town again. The main motivation for rebuilding the town in such a short period of time was due to the responsibility that the locals feel towards the tourists. This year visitors will sense an extra-special gratitude from the locals- they appreciate your support.
The trails that run between the towns of the Cinque Terre were mostly unharmed by the rains. The only one that suffered heavily was the Monterosso-Vernazza trail. Specialized teams have worked during the winter months to repair it and it is very close to reopening. The Vernazza-Corniglia trail should be opening soon as well.
Unfortunately the Corniglia – Manarola trail continues to have landslide problems (unrelated to the rains of 2011) and will more than likely not open in 2012 as well.
This winter saw the formation of a number of local volunteer groups that have helped clean up some of the secondary trails that run above the villages (and in many cases are much more beautiful that the lower trails that you have to pay for). There are a multitude of trails to hike in the Cinque Terre, and now many of them are more accessible and well-marked.
Ferry boat service will recommence on the 1st of April, as usual and the trains are stopping in every station of the Cinque Terre.
The bay of Monterosso has been inspected visually by scuba divers and the water has been analyzed. All results have been positive for the safety and cleanliness of the water.
Vernazza, too, is working hard to ready itself for tourist season. The main problem that they have faced has been the lack of a road leading into the village due to a number of landslides that have compromised the security and, in a number of cases, destroyed the sole road that leads to town, therefore prohibiting vehicle access into the village. Though they will be only partially open during the Easter holidays, they are aiming to welcome tourists none the less. Their recovery should be well on its way by June.
So, should visitors come to the Cinque Terre in 2012? Absolutely! Not only will you be met with appreciation for choosing to visit us after such a difficult winter, you will witness the tail end of an important piece of history and the start of a promising future for the area.
RebuildMonterosso.com is a site set up set up by American expats in Monterosso. They work in collaboration with the town hall to inform the international community about progress in Monterosso and ways in which people may contribute. Information regarding open hotels, businesses and trails can also be found on their site.
Monterosso would love to have you participate in its reconstruction by donating a personalized stone to its dry-stone "wall of hope." Click here to find out more and donate.
You can follow Vernazza’s progress at SaveVernazza.com