Wednesday, August 29, 2012
This post was written by Amy Little, who has been visiting Monterosso and the Cinque Terre for the past 15 years. Despite the October 2011 flood, Amy and her new husband decided to not change their plans to honeymoon in Monterosso. These are Amy's impressions of what she found during their visit in July 2012.
I came back for the fifth time to Monterosso in late July with my husband Nate as part of our honeymoon. Monterosso has always held a special place in my heart; I’ve been visiting it with my family since I was a little girl to see my aunt Kate, who has lived in the Cinque Terre for most of her adult life. Monterosso was the first place I visited outside of the United States, and its turquoise waters, crayon box-colored houses, and lemon tree covered hills still enchant me each time I visit.
Nate had wanted to incorporate Monterosso as the last leg of our honeymoon from the beginning; I was a little unsure. The video from October’s flood of muddy water rushing around my aunt’s house and the pictures of my uncle and cousin knee-deep in mud near the church worried me. Would there be restaurants open? Were all the trails washed out? Would there be a beach to relax on? Kate assured us Monterosso would rebuild in time for the summer, so we booked our plane tickets.
On our first afternoon, Kate and my cousin William took us around town. Without them to show us, I might have missed the most of the marks the flood left behind. The beaches were full of people, not of rocks, stores were bustling with business, and the streets’ cobblestones were all in place. Frankly, I was shocked Monterosso looked so unscathed considering the images I’d seen from just a few months earlier.
But in the church the clean up crews had left a sober reminder of that flash flood: a muddy water line right about my eye level. There was a laminated picture hung up on the wall from right after the floor. Pews were askew, floating like boats. There were other signs around town too. Another water line, this time over my head, inside the bank, new pavement on the street, valleys widened up above town from the rush of water, new boats to replace sunken ones at the marina. William took us snorkeling out past the rocks that guard the Old Town’s public beach a little later, mostly to show off the fish, but also to show the one remaining piece of debris in the clear water, a child’s bicycle lodged under a rock.
A few days later we spent several hours hiking, starting with the ever-popular Via dell’Amore between Riomaggiore and Manarola. The trail between Manarola and Corniglia was closed, so instead we took a quiet path up high in the hills, meandering through vineyards and forests before joining up with the main trail down in Corniglia. On the way to Vernazza it was clear there had been serious mudslides that had damaged the trail; indeed in some areas there were construction materials still lying around. Nevertheless, the path was repaired well enough to handle all the tourists out walking on such a nice day!
During the remainder of our stay, Nate and I hardly thought about the flood since everything in Monterosso seemed to be back to its magical self. But every now and then, Kate and William would share an incredible story about how this little community banded together to save the town they love. We’d pass the iconic fountain in the shape of a fish and hear how a heavily pregnant woman sat on top of it to prevent the bulldozers from mowing it down. William would “Ciao!” an elderly woman and then tell us how she and her 90-year-old, blind husband climbed on top of furniture to survive that day. Or how nearly everyone stopped their lives to dig away the mud, stopping only for communal meals donated by restaurants and cooked by the town’s matriarchs.
Going back to Monterosso after the flood was not only a perfect way for Nate and me to cap off our honeymoon by hiking, swimming, and eating way too much gelato, but it also gave us an enlightening perspective on the tenacity of this town to overcome whatever comes its way. There’s a reason Monterosso has been around for hundreds of years, and it’s not just because of the spectacular way the mountains meet the sea. Monterosso’s people love their home, and they will give everything they have to keep it the special place that I’ve grown to love, even if that means defeating a flood.