Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Drama in the Cinque Terre

You wouldn't imagine from this photo of Manarolo that frantic rescue efforts were ongoing only a few miles down the
coast from us, and some from our little town.
We had made reservations for three days in the Cinque Terre a week before leaving Pisa. All four of us and extensive luggage were piled up in the car like sardines for the hour's drive. Right at our exit from the toll motorway, we found barricades and hundreds of lined up trucks. The highway was closed beyond. We should have been suspicious when even more trucks lined the exit and the streets after it. But we blissfully drove on through La Spezia and up the narrow mountainous road towards Manarolo. After passing the road straight down to Riomaggiore we found our own hair pin turns descending.
Our small Inn/B and B, Da Baranin, had given us good directions so we went to the edge of town, unloaded our luggage and then Scott parked it up the hill where he thought it was legal. We dragged our bags up the steep steps to our lovely studio apartments - one for each couple! From the charming sisters who run the place we found out what had happened. The rain of the previous day and night had been torrential just north of Manarolo and caused mud and rock slides that flooded and buried the three towns north of us, particularly the last two, Vernazza and Monterossa. They and other towns up in the hills were now disaster zones and 9 people died. Damage to these towns is so extensive that especially in Monterossa, they are not sure they will be able to rebuild.
The red boat is being rolled down the street for launching
into the ocean

Here it's being hoisted up and then will be slid along the
track to the end and lowered.
We had no idea that this had happened and in fact had arrived the morning after. The town was a staging for relief supplies and people. Many of their boats were launched and headed north. Other larger boats and overhead helicopters worked all day. We watched the activity from the lovely Marina Piccola restaurant while we had lunch and then walked as far as we could along the coast path before we found it closed (a locked gate). We could see how steep the cliffs were above and it wouldn't take much to sweep the path away.
The boats are stored right along the street like parked cars.

The narrow beautiful streets of Manarolo
have few cars.
The next day we hiked up the hill through the grape vineyard terraces to Groppo and Volastra. At the latter we checked with a park official and he said we could hike further north till be were just above Corniglia, but didn't want us to try descending as it was too muddy and slippery. The scenery was fantastic and we saw a number of people working in the terraces. A huge amount of upkeep is necessary to keep the stone walls from crumbling. This area is all part of a national park and one of their rules is that anyone buying a home in the Cinque Terre has to also own and maintain some acres of terraces on the hill.
Marina Piccola restaurant where we sat and ate a delicious
lunch watching the boats being launched and emergency
supplies loaded for the towns buried by mudslides.

A closeup of the boat being lowered 
We loved walking the steep steps and roads around our beautiful town - in the day and at night. We were very sorry to have to leave after the 2 nights, but our next adventure awaited us in Naples. And as Walt dreamily exclaimed "It's ten degrees warmer there!"
It's straight down to the water. Those are fisherman below.

The path normally open for hiking down the coast is
shown above right. You can see how it's really built on
the straight cliffs. It was closed.

A lovely park at the far end of Manarolo

Looking up at the terraces of grape vines.

A bell tower across from the church in
Manarolo's main square

A stream runs right through the town and
most of the way under the town itself.

Flowers and in the distance a waterfall, on our way up the

We caught up with this older woman carrying a big stick
and offered to help. She refused with a big smile and we
had a big laugh when she threw it down the steep stairs
to her house with a smile and a shrug.

The vineyards were devoid of grapes but sparkled with
fall colors

This "shrine" to Disney ? caught our eye!

A closeup at the beautifully constructed
dry walls of the terraces.

In the distance you can see the tiny town of Volastra. The
rough path is along the right of the picture.

Honore captains the vineyard express. This "railway"
goes straight up and down the steep mountain sides
bringing the harvested grapes to central places.

You can get a feeling here for our steep the hills are.

At the end of our hike we could see the small town of
Corniglia. You also see the railroad tracks along the shore.

Scott on the path behind me

Looking back we have a great view of Manarolo

A farmer carries sticks down for proping
up the vines

The steep steps leading back down from

Looking out from our window at the sun setting

Dinner at Marina Piccola under the heat lamps - great

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