Save Vernazza ONLUS

The renowned Cinque Terre town of Vernazza, Italy, a UNESCO World Heritage site visited annually by 2.5 million tourists, was devastated by massive flooding and mudslides on October 25th, 2011. The disaster buried the town under 4 meters /13+ feet of mud and debris, caused over 100 million Euro in damages and cost the lives of three residents.

In response to this tragedy, three American women who have lived in Vernazza for years created Save Vernazza ONLUS.

For a look at articles featuring Save Vernazza see Save Vernazza In The News.

To view or download our press releases visit Save Vernazza Press Releases.

The mission of Save Vernazza ONLUS (an Italian nonprofit organization) is to rebuild, restore and preserve the town of Vernazza by raising funds for immediate reconstruction and long-term cultural and environmental projects for the benefit of Vernazza’s community of residents and visitors. Our goal is to provide an easy, direct way to donate to rebuild, restore and preserve Vernazza.

Save Vernazza, an apolitical, non-partisan, non-denominational, non-profit organization, works exclusively with the objective of social solidarity and cannot perform activities different than those set forth in its Articles of Incorporation with exception to those activities directly connected to its mission.

In particular, Save Vernazzza has its objective to perform the following activities, in response to damages caused by the flooding of October 25, 2011 to the town of Vernazza and surrounding territory and, precisely:

  • activities in the sector of charity work, directly or indirectly in favor of persons and families who are in need, disadvantaged or find themselves in socio-economic difficulties
  • activities in the sector of conservation and protection of nature and of the environment, through the promotion and contribution to environmental projects for the protection, conservation, improvement, and safeguarding of the environment and of the landscapes, rural and urban, of the town of Vernazza and its surrounding territory

Who We Are

[expand title="RUTH MANFREDI, President of the Executive Committee Click for more."]

Ruth Manfredi, born and raised in New York, has been living in Italy since 1999 when she finished her MBA from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and Master’s of International Studies from Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies. From 1999 to 2003, she was a Strategy Manager at Accenture in Milan, responsible for leading teams and producing results for clients in project management, marketing, business plan creation and innovation. Prior to graduate school, Ruth was a founder and President of JM Associates, Inc., a New York environmental consulting company. In 1996, Ruth was elected and served as the President of the Board of Directors of the Environmental Business Association of New York State. Ruth is a graduate of Vassar College.

Ruth’s husband Cristiano is from La Spezia but his family has had a second home in Vernazza dating back 50 years. Ruth and Cristiano met in Vernazza in 1995 and married there in 2001. They have two children who consider Vernazza home, spending summers and weekends year round in this beautiful little village by the sea. Ruth’s heart is in Vernazza; it is her community, her home.

When the rain started on October 25, Ruth was in La Spezia and was thankful that the rain had ended a very long, dry spell. She had no idea of what was to come.

Ruth’s heart broke when she saw Vernazza two days after the storm. She had heard some of the news but was not able to contact her friends there since all communication was down. She saw that the harbor was gone, covered by mud. It was incomprehensible. People’s businesses and homes had been destroyed, buried under the rubble.

Like everyone else in the days following the disaster, Ruth travelled to and from Vernazza by boat. When she saw lifelong residents and friends leaving with their suitcases, not sure of where they would stay or when they would be back, she felt the immensity and tragedy of the situation. She realized that the road to rebuilding Vernazza would be long, hard and complicated. Yet, on the ferry back to La Spezia, she sat next to a friend, a woman whose children had lost their businesses and barely escaped being killed by the flood, who demonstrated such grace and generosity of spirit that Ruth knew that Vernazza would survive and rebuild, and that the strength of its people, and its community, was intact.

It was then that Ruth decided she had to do something. The immensity and severity of the situation was too great to think that government agencies alone would be able to cover the costs of the cleanup, let alone help Vernazza rebuild. That day, the seed was planted and Save Vernazza ONLUS was born. Because we can all make a difference.



[expand title="MICHELE LILLEY, Vice President of the Executive Committee Click for more."]

Michele Lilley, a native Californian and former television and film Production Manager, first discovered Vernazza in 1999 on a trip to Italy with a colleague in search of Italian family members.

After visiting the big cities in Italy, she decided to take a detour to Vernazza, where she immediately fell in love with the beauty of the town and the warmth of its people. On a subsequent month-long trip, she met her future husband, Antonio Greco, an artist and native Vernazzan. Six months later, after excruciating hours of trying to learn the language on her own while wrapping up her last film, she decided to “leave it all behind” and make the move to Vernazza.

She and Antonio were lucky enough to find a small space available on the main street of town and subsequently opened an artisan gallery, Bottega d’Arte Cinqueterre, in May of 2000. They have worked together ever since, painting and creating, eventually marrying in 2004 and becoming a family in 2005 with the birth of their daughter, Magdalena.

On October 25, 2011, Michele was in their shop when the rain started pouring down. At 3:00 pm, she narrowly escaped her storefront, in thigh-high water, after it became apparent that what started as a storm was quickly becoming a flood of torrential, destructive waters.

The next day, she stepped into the ruins of the piazza, together with the community of Vernazza and she started working, lifting rocks with her hands to make dams, and then with shovels and picks to move mud.

Today, she is working alongside her adopted townspeople and with her fellow citizens to give back to the town and the community who continue to give so much to her. We can all make a difference.


[expand title="MICHELE SHERMAN, Director of the Executive Committee Click for more."]

Michele Sherman was born in New York City and lived the majority of her childhood in northern New Jersey. As a young adult, she relocated to San Francisco and there began her career as a Software Sales Account Executive.

In August 2005, she embarked on a 6 week solo backpacking trip. The Cinque Terre recommended to her as a “must see” by friends and Rick Steves, Michele specifically chose Vernazza as her home base for the intended short stay. In Vernazza, Michele met her future husband Giuliano and what was to be a 5 night stay resulted in over 6 years in Vernazza. She and Giuliano worked together running a successful B&B “Camere Giuliano” and raising their daughter Sofia.

In August of 2011, Michele and Sofia relocated to Lucca, Italy while still maintaining their strong ties to Vernazza. Michele founded a business to manage all electronic communications, including booking inquiries, reservations and confirmations, for a group of Vernazza accommodation providers. She and Sofia were not present for the catastrophe of October 25, 2011, but were thankfully able to provide housing in Lucca for friends displaced by the disaster.

In the late afternoon of October 25, 2011, Michele received word from Giuliano about the torrential rains and subsequent flooding. Losing contact with everyone in Vernazza soon after, Michele was able to connect with a friend in Monterosso to confirm the few details available. Immediatley jumping onto to youtube, Michele found the first posted video of the event, footage of the Monterosso flooding. For the next 20 hours, she diligently stayed at her computer, phone by her side, TV on, trying to put the pieces together. Only able to connect with friends who lived higher up in the mountains and still had phone coverage, a small group was in constant search of information and in constant contact with one another. Days would pass before any Vernazza information would reach the formal news sources.

Michele knew she wouldn’t be the only person living outside of the story to be devastated by what happened within. Aware of the effect Vernazza has on its’ visitors, she immediately felt there would be many others eager to help this special community in its time of need. We can all make a difference.[/expand]


Donate Through PayPal

If you would like to contact Save Vernazza ONLUS, please feel free to leave a comment or email us directly at

Do you have ideas for attracting more attention to our cause (ie: local fund raising events, connecting us with contacts you have in PR, media, corporations interested in sponsorship/donations, etc.)? Please emails us at