After many months of hardship, the Cinque Terre refuses to remain a damsel in distress. The gorgeous stretch of neighboring medieval villages, tucked along the cliffs of the Ligurian Sea, has been rebuilding and restoring ever since last fall when devastating floods pummeled some of the region’s most visited areas.
Comprised of five villages — Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore — the Cinque Terre is widely known for its rolling hills peppered with vineyards and olive groves, vehicle-free streets and an eye-popping landscape of seemingly stacked homes stroked with all colors of the rainbow. The region has always been known as one of Italy’s most precious gems, particularly since it was added to the UNESCO World Heritage list in 1997, attracting approximately 400,000 tourists in 2011 alone.
During a recent event held at the Italian tourism offices in New York, a representative from the tourist board said that the Via dell’Amore, a popular coastal path linking Manarola with Riomaggiore is open, but other paths remain closed until further notice. The Parco Nazionale delle Cinque Terre, regularly updates information on its website about which trails are safe for public use.
In Vernazza, the village most affected by the storm, children are back to playing in the town square and some older residents are coming home to live. Tourists are walking the streets, restaurants are opening and the weekly street market has returned. During a recent visit to Vernazza, Italy’s president, Giorgio Napolitano, stated that he was prepared “to move forward with a pilot project that will consist of clean up and restoration efforts to Trail Number 8 (from Vernazza to the Sanctuary Madonna di Reggio). The president went on to say that “In anticipation of a successful outing, we look forward to future opportunities involving volunteers as we work to rebuild, restore and preserve Vernazza” (Save Vernazza).
Monterosso is also on the mend. Many of the village’s shops, restaurants and hotels are up and running, including the path leading to the hilltop of St. Christopher. Rebuild Monterosso, a site that frequently updates progress on restoration projects, recently released this statement: “Monterosso has made a miraculous recovery, mostly thanks to the residents’ personal efforts to reconstruct their town as quickly as possible. We have heard people say that they had no idea that something so drastic had happened so recently — that the village looked “˜normal’– until they reached a certain corner of town, or realized that the coffee-colored stain on the church wall was where the water level rose to. That is how much progress has been made.”
Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore were not affected by the floods, so it’s business as usual in these towns. Most tour companies are running trips to the region as hiking, cooking classes, wine tastings, historic sities and shopping are all available attractions for tourists.
A recent post on Rick Steves’ online Europe guide, which provided regular updates on the floods and currently reports on restoration projects in the Cinque Terre, sums up the urgency for tourists to return to this special region of Italy:
This corner of Italy “” especially Vernazza “” needs travelers to keep their economy afloat. A family-run hotel or restaurant will not survive waiting a year or two for business to return. Honestly, you’ll be a hero. If you can’t make it in 2012, think of what you’d normally spend during a day in Vernazza or Monterosso, and donate that amount to one of the groups listed below!
Donate to local relief groups. We trust and recommend these:
Save Vernazza is a very active and engaged non-profit organized by American ex-pats in Italy
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