Rebuild, Restore, Preserve
Save Vernazza is launching, financing and completing projects in three key areas: Rebuild the town, Restore the trails, and Preserve Vernazza’s territory and culture. Save Vernazza’s projects focus on the restoration and preservation of Vernazza, balancing a respect for the territory with that of sustainable tourism.
Rebuild The Town
Vernazza has accepted architect Richard Rogers’ generous donation to design and oversee the “Project for the Requalification of Vernazza”. Since February, Save Vernazza President Ruth Manfredi has been working tirelessly with Rogers, Mayor Resasco, Architect Ernesto Bartolini and others to coordinate this important and vital project. The plan received rave reviews from the citizens of Vernazza when it was presented in September. Public and private fundraising efforts are underway to meet the project’s costs of 2.5 million Euro. We hope to start construction in January 2013, with Piazza Marconi and Fontana Vecchia.
On his June visit to Vernazza, Rogers brought his friend Renzo Piano. Both architects have won the Pritzker Prize (the Nobel of Architecture) and are considered two of the world’s leading architects. Together they designed the Pompidou Center in Paris. Rogers and Piano believe that Vernazza’s reconstruction should be elegant in its simplicity in order to preserve Vernazza’s unique character as an authentic small, Italian coastal town. Save Vernazza is honoured and excited to have their involvement and guidance in helping to rebuild Vernazza. With Richard Rogers’ involvement, Vernazza has a very special, once in a lifetime opportunity. Save Vernazza has pledged the majority of donated funds to this important project.
Save Vernazza is currently preparing to fund projects to rebuild the five footbridges in the most damaged area of town, Fontana Vecchia. The bridges were completely destroyed by the flood and replacing them will allow the displaced residents to return home.
Save Vernazza, along with a generous contribution from the Unione Parmense degli Industriali, has completed the restoration and new roof for Vernazza’s Santa Marta Chapel (“the little chapel that could”). As one video from October 25, 2011 shows, the chapel was flooded and thereafter completely buried in mud & debris.
Restore the Trails
The “Trail 8 Restoration Project” aims to repair and restore hiking trail 8 with the help of experts and volunteers. The goal is to strike a balance so that Vernazza’s rich cultural heritage of religious and community traditions can coexist alongside its economic need for tourism (hiking the extensive Cinque Terre trail system is one of the key reasons why travellers come to the area). The project began in May 2012 with trail restoration efforts including skilled and volunteer laborers and will continue in 2013 with the addition of educational signage along this pilgrimage trail that leads to the Nostra Madonna di Reggio Sanctuary above Vernazza.
Save Vernazza sponsored a Volunteer Cleanup Day held on May 12, to make the trail passable and prepare it for further, significant work (The World Wildlife Fund has pledged 200,000 Euro to reconstruct stone walls and landslides along Trail 8). We are pricing and planning for low impact educational signage for the trail, with cost estimates coming soon.
Preserve Vernazza’s Territory and Cultural Heritage
“Save Vernazza Walking Tours” are informational walking tours to promote sustainable tourism by educating visitors. This educational program is the first and only program of its kind in the Cinque Terre. This project launched in April 2012 with twice weekly tours through October 2012. The walking tours are led by Save Vernazza’s founders and offered as an optional program for travelers on a tour program with an well-known American travel company. Content includes information about Vernazza’s unique territory of natural beauty and traditional, man-made drystone wall terracing, the devastation of October 25, 2011 and consequences for the preservation of Vernazza’s territory and culture.
Save Vernazza completed the reconstruction of 2 badly damaged “muretti secchi” (traditional dry stone walls) on Cheo’s property in July 2012. Cheo is Vernazza’s only commercial vineyard, making excellent quality Cinque Terre DOC white wine, red wine and Sciacchetrà. Cheo owner Lisa Bertram (see 3 part interview showing damage to Cheo) has been recognized for her innovative ideas in agriculture and Cheo’s Perciò white wine and Sciacchetrà with the “Oscar Green” award for “Exporting Territory” by Coldiretti (the main Italian organization for agricultural entrepreneurs with over 1.5 million members).
The Cheo project encompasses two walls that are critical to maintaining the stability of the hillsides and their agricultural viability. This project was chosen for two reasons:
- Dry stone walls maintain the terraces needed in order to replant new vines where landslides wiped out mature vineyards. Without these walls and the possibility of planting new vines, Cheo will no longer be able to produce enough wine to remain a viable vineyard and Vernazza will lose its last commercial agricultural producer.
- The walls are located on Cheo’s property on the hillside above the Fontanavecchia area of town. The area is under direct threat of further landslides which would not only completely destroy what remains of the vineyard, but all of the residents’ homes located below.
The stonewalls that create the terracing throughout the Cinque Terre were a key factor in UNESCO’s 1997 decision to grant its World Heritage Site status.
For the grand reopening of the 2012 tourist season, Save Vernazza created its Town Map of Vernazza (in English), the only one of its kind available with up to date information about Vernazza, hiking the Cinque Terre and ways to help Vernazza. In July 2012, Save Vernazza surveyed tourists about their opinions and experiences in Vernazza. From surveys conducted with approx. 200 respondents, over 50% desired more detailed information in English and online.
In September, Save Vernazza organized a student volunteer weekend with students from Syracuse University studying abroad in Florence. The students were led on a guided hike from Corniglia to Vernazza by a Save Vernazza founder, the walk focussing on the importance of maintaining the territory (terraced hillsides, stone walls, cultivation/agriculture) to preserve Vernazza’s cultural heritage and for the benefit of its future. We also harvested red grapes and helped to clear abandoned land in order to plant future crops.
Save Vernazza is currently developing a Save Vernazza Volunteer Experience project with an international travel company. This project encourages sustainable tourism by providing travelers with opportunities to be a part of and give back to the visited community. The experience includes a guided hike to a volunteer site where volunteer will spend two hours on a rebuilding project (e.g., trail restoration, hillside terracing, stone wall construction, planting or harvesting grapes from a local vineyard).
With your help, we are working to rebuild, restore and preserve Vernazza. Together we can make a difference.
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