Save Venazza Program, Cinque Terre.

The devastating 2011 floods caused landslides and loss of life in this beautiful coastline. The Cinque Terre received one whole years worth of rain in just 6 hours…

It’s no secret that the Cinque Terre is a stunning region of Italian coastline. During the summer time beach umbrellas line pebbly shorelines, gelati shops are buzzing, gourmet pizzas are eaten beachside and cameras are flashing like never before. Hellloooo Italy!!

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What many of the millions of people who travel to this region don’t realize is that the Cinque Terre was profoundly affected by devastating floods that tragically claimed lives back in 2011. These beautiful cliffside towns received an entire years worth of rain in just six hours. Incredible. Nature can be so cruel and powerful at times.

DSC04128Photo of Andrea Erdna Barletta’s Photos – Vernazza.

DSC04121Photo of Andrea Erdna Barletta’s Photos – Vernazza. 

DSC04119Photo of Andrea Erdna Barletta’s Photos – Vernazza.

So as travellers, it’s a privilege to be taken in by villages and communities and give some of our time out of our schedules to those less fortunate. Swap sight seeing for a little volunteering and you are likely be left with moments that stick out of your memory bank much more vividly than what those numerous cathedrals ever will.

Back two weeks ago when I was in the Cinque Terre, I participated in the Save Vernazza project. It’s a program sponsored by Busabout, the company I have been travelling my way around Europe with. Save Vernazza is an organization that encourages travellers to donate a morning of their time to restoring and maintaining the vineyards and cliff faces of Vernazza, in sight of preventing such a tragedy of this extent occurring again. It was an absolutely amazing experience to hear our Save Vernazza guide and local Vernazza resident, Carol Bonini, 24, share some of the personal experiences of the local people during the floods. Vernazza was the town most destructed by the 2011 floods. Hearing the stories first hand from another young person really left me thinking how incredibly powerful nature can be and how precious life really is.

DSC04120Photo of Andrea Erdna Barletta’s Photos – Vernazza.

DSC04118Photo of Andrea Erdna Barletta’s Photos – Vernazza.

The last big flood prior to this was back in 1857. “No one from that day is still alive and people didn’t really think this would happen,” says Carol. I learnt that the grassy vineyards of Vernazza weren’t properly maintained, leading to a massive landslide within the village. As this terrain is so steep and inaccessible by machinery, the town relies on the hands of people to maintain the cliffy vineyards. “It’s important to get rid of the debris otherwise the ground stays wet and becomes dangerous. It takes a lot of time and many people also.”DSC03901

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So we spent one of our mornings doing exactly this. Participating in the program, ripping out weeds, digging up soil, watering the vineyards and collecting rocks to build stone retaining walls. Upon feeling hot and sweaty in the hot Italian summer sun, every now and then I would pause and look up to see one of the best views that my eyes have blessed to see. This made it all the more worth it.

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After a morning of hard work Carol took us down into the town of Vernazza, to the castle that overlooks the ocean, for a seaside lunch. The view was incredible and it was amazing to see something special arise from the floods; a new beach was formed as a result of the landside. “A gift of the floods,” as Carol likes to call it. We consumed local wines, the yummiest pesto pasta, traditional Italian herb breads, cakes and even rock melon with prosciutto, the last of which I wasn’t a fan.

Vernazza

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Upon departing our own ways Carol thanked us all, “You may feel like what you’re doing today isn’t much but it makes a big difference for us.” She also told us that she fears that people haven’t learnt from the floods. “We are too quiet about it, we don’t talk about it enough. Some of us have even fallen back into old habits.” She informed us of the need to teach people about the floods and encourage both travellers and locals to get involved in the program.

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I can honestly say everyone in our group found it to be a totally rewarding experience and I know it will be a day from my 2015 Europe trip that I will remember warmly. The €19 that it cost to partake in the program is a donation to Save Vernazza. Busabout also match this and the money is used to help run the program as well as fund critical infrastructure projects.

Without people partaking in the program and the region not being consistently maintained, we wouldn’t be lucky enough to see this coastline dotted with beach umbrellas in the summertime. Gelati shops would be non-existent, gourmet pizzas beachside not a thing and cameras not flashing. Lets share the love for this special place to help protect the amazing coastline and world heritage area that the Cinque Terre is.

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Video coming soon … follow blog or follow on social media to stay updated.

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