Oct 25 Stories

Valentino’s Story:
An Incredible Story of Courage in the Face Of Death

A Personal Account of Tragedy Caused by the Vernazza Flood

Pino Giannoni of the gelateria “Porto Dody Gelateria Artiginale” in Vernazza disappeared in the flood that occurred in Vernazza on October 25, 2011. This is the personal account of what happened as told by his son Valentino Giannoni, who was with him on that day.

It was the morning of the October 25th, 2011. I did not sleep well the night before.

My family and I wake up hastily, make breakfast and rush our eight year-old daughter India up to school. We are running late. On the way I observe the fast moving clouds of the “scirocco” winds painting the sky against the backdrop of the tower at Mari’s. It was a surreal sight. Upon my return home the winds pick up and it starts to rain. Quickly, my wife Carly and I try to close the shutters, the wind making it almost impossible to do so, as we see that the water is entering under the windowpanes. People outside our window are struggling to walk down the road, the strong rain coming down by the bucket full. When the storm calms a bit I call Carly over to the window to show her the rising water level of the canal outside our building, telling her of a time when I was a boy and saw the canal waters rise to its’ maximum capacity.

After a while the rain subsides and we go out on the balcony to check on the ducks and geese that live in the canal below and see them struggling, trying to defend themselves from the force of the water. Right in front of our eyes, as if we are meant to see it, one of the geese is swallowed up in the current and to our horror and dismay the other dives in trying to save his mate.

Carly and I, along with our 3 year old son Zen, decide to go downstairs and follow the canal downstream hoping to find the geese again. Across the canal we see one that has found safety under the garage that houses the town’s ambulances. No sight of the other.

Saddened, we walk to our family gelateria to visit my father and tell him the story of the geese and discuss the weather. It’s raining lightly now so Carly and I decide to go to higher ground and see if we can find the other goose in the canal outlet at the bottom of town. Not a trace. We return to the gelateria where we all eat foccacia and Zen has Grandpa make him a strawberry ice cream cone.

While visiting with my father, the rain starts pouring down again, the electricity goes on and off and the wind is picking up to what seems like hurricane speeds. We begin to worry and I help my father mop the floor as water comes inside the gelateria. The water level quickly rises so much so that I grab a bucket to scoop up the water to no avail. We decide to put away the gelato so that we can close. I take off my shoes, which are wet, and my father puts one of the solid shutter doors inside the door frame to block the water which is now brown and quickly gushing into the gelateria. I run over to give him a hand, leaving the gelato in the case. We decide that we need to move the heavy potted plants out front to keep the water flow clear and away from the door. All of a sudden Dodi, our friend and business partner, arrives and moves the planters away from the sides of the door. It is a futile attempt considering that in a matter of minutes the water level increases from a few centimetres to a half meter torrent which now leaves us with no way to exit. Zen, who had fallen asleep in Carly’s arms after his gelato, awakens 30 minutes later only to see my father, Dodi and I fighting to keep the doors shut, the water level half-way up the door. We are all desperate and scared as the water continues to rise. Carly and Zen are terrorized and screaming, Carly repeatedly asks if we are going to die.

The ice cream refrigerator display case begins to float. It seems like a scene in a film. The water is now black, full of dirt, heavy and unforgiving. I am holding the door against the fury of the water, arm in arm with my father and praying for a miracle in order to escape. My wife and son are crying with fear and it seems impossible. Outside the sound of the rocks and debris is deafening. We see small trucks going by, large trash bins, car bumpers, tables, patio umbrellas and the roar grows and grows to a thundering level.

We tell Carly to go to take shelter in the back laboratory where she can’t see the destruction and to find a high place to climb to. HUGE MISTAKE. After a few minutes we hear a desperate scream from Carly as one of the freezes has been lifted up by the water and is now blocking the door to the laboratory. Total panic. I yell to Dodi to go help them while I fight with my father to keep the door closed. To my horror I see that Dodi is unable to free the doorway and yell to him to come back to hold the door with my father. I hurl myself into the water and swim with all my might to free my wife and child. I try in vain to push the freezer away from the dark laboratory door. I tell Carly to move out of the way and suddenly I am able to lift the freezer and throw it against the wall. I worry about the electric current in the water. I tell Carly to pass me Zen and then Carly is able to exit.

There is an overpowering odor of gas in the air and Carly is yelling that everything could explode. I remember that there is a full tank of gas in the shop. I shout to Dodi to close the valve of the tank floating near him. He grabs hold of it and the moment becomes dreamlike with Dodi floating, my father chest deep in water and Carly and Zen screaming. We hear an acute, indescribable whistling sound, which we later learn to be the towns’ main gas tank that had been ripped off the hillside high above Vernazza and down into the town while continually spewing gas. The refrigerators at the entrance of the store start to move and then capsize. I hear my father scream “Zen! Zen!” as he struggles to keep hold of the door at its weakest point. I see him for the last time at that door, with Dodi, in a final attempt to block the fury of the flood.

I turn to grab hold of Carly and Zen and put them on top of a big refrigerator that is floating. I hear Carly’s anguished yell, “My God Vale! Your father is gone! The water took him away!!!” I turn and can’t see him anymore. I see Dodi dive under and after a few seconds resurface covered in mud and dirt, gasping. I yell to him “Where is my father?!” Dodi, in shock, now finds strength in my son (as he later told me) to keep hold of the door. Carly continues to repeat that my father is gone, terrorized. I tell her that we don’t have time to think about it. I can’t even believe the words coming out of my mouth, but I know that I need to focus. My father just tried to save our lives and I couldn’t give way to desperation and panic. I make sure Carly and Zen are safe and lay on top of the white refrigerator. Dodi secures the doors as best he can with wood and the red Coca Cola refrigerator. The water level continues to rise and thoughts of drowning invade my head. I think, “my poor father… do we have to die like this…I beg you God please stop the water, please give us a miracle!” I move slightly and Carly slides off the refrigerator with Zen. I jump in and try to swim but sink instead, my feet not even touching the floor. The water level is almost to the ceiling now. I try to climb back on top of the refrigerator and Carly passes Zen to me but I don’t know why. I take him and raise him up high with my right foot on one refrigerator and my elbow on the second refrigerator. The refrigerator starts to move and I am losing hold. I see Dodi leaning against a wall I do not recognize. The dividing wall between the gelateria and neighboring cantina is crumbling and reveals a staircase goes up to the height of our ceiling. Dodi tells Carly to move to his side as he has made a step for her to keep her above water. I see a shelf above them that is sticking out of the ceiling and I ask Dodi if we can get out through the door would we be able to enter the stairwell of the building next to us and climb to higher ground. Dodi says it is not possible. Then miraculously, I see the water level subsiding. Within 10-15 minutes we are able to touch ground. The water level outside the store, is still high, but the force considerably less. Carly and I scream to Dodi to run for the door to our left. Dodi opens the door, looks out and tells me to pass Zen to him, and all together in a line we swim to the neighboring stairwell. I turn quickly to look down the street and the scene in front of me is terrible. I search in vain for my father and yell “Dad, where are you?” I hear a yell and turn back again towards the stairwell and see Gianluca helping Carly, Zen and Dodi climb to safety. For the first time in an hour and a half I feel safe. When I reach the others I hug Dodi and we share a moment of disbelief and for a moment begin to cry. We are taken further up the stairwell, assisted by Mauro who helps us get out to the higher back alleyway.

I no longer feel my feet but I run toward the piazza with the news that my father has been sucked away by the torrent, hoping that somehow someone had saved him. No one has seen him but the townspeople hurriedly begin to search for him. Zen is dried off by neighbors and Carly runs to the school to get India…it seems like it’s 7pm or 8 pm, but it’s only is 3:45pm. We are advised that all citizens and tourists are gathering at the City Hall because the situation is getting worse. We quickly go and are taken in by the warmth of the townspeople of Vernazza.. We receive blankets and dry clothing and Carly rests with Zen.

Little did we know that in 10 minutes time the second and strongest wave would arrive, bringing with it cars, rocks, trees and everything imaginable. Destroying all in its’ path and burying the town of Vernazza in over 4 meters (over 13 feet) of mud.

We are alive and we thank you Dad! Thank you for holding the door to give me the time to save my family and get them to safety atop the refrigerator. Thank you for calming the water giving us the opportunity to escape. I know it was you, your spirit, blocking the water and breaking the fury of the flood. I am thinking this as I realize that we have survived the impossible.

The phones do not work, the electricity comes and goes, and the first news of the tragedy begins to spread. Susie takes us in and makes us feel safe that night. We don’t sleep well and I keep thinking how strange it is that after my father was taken by the force of the flood waters, those very waters calmed.

When I hear the whistle of the train in the thick of the night it brings me hope and that hope brings me back to the morning before when the goose was sucked down by the water. I think of my father and I imagine the worst. I think of his sacrifice and find solace in hearing Zen’s breath while he sleeps. Thank you Dad. Thank you Dodi. Thank you all for having been able to maintain the calm in the moment of tragedy. Thank you Vernazza for your warmth and affection. I look into the emptiness of the dark and the images from that afternoon run through my head. I cry and I am angry for what happened to my father; for how he suffered and for how he was ripped from his family, from his grandchildren that loved him so much. Carly and I hold each others’ hands, the rain falls and we are alive.

Thank you father.

Pino, sarai sempre nei nostri cuori

This story was written by Valentino, Pino’s son.  It is published by Save Vernazza ONLUS at his request.


Vernazza Oct. 25th, 2011: My Experience By Joanne Archer (external link to Rick Steve’s website).


Tom and Julie’s story from Maple Valley

What will linger forever in my mind is that the only thing more beautiful than Vernazza is the soul of its brave and generous residents.

Our stay in Vernazza began late in the afternoon on Oct. 23rd. It was our first visit to Cinque Terre and like many had gone there on the advice of Rick Steves. My wife and I were celebrating our 30th anniversary with a 2 week trip to Italy. Our highly anticipated 4 day stay in Cinque Terre was to be our “vacation within a vacation”.

During the 24th, we hiked from Vernazza all the way to Riomaggiore, stopping at Corniglia and Manarola along the way. What a spectacularly beautiful area! Around every corner of the trail we were treated to new and enchanting views of the lovely Cinque Terre. The lower trail from Corniglia to Manarola was closed so we took the steep trail up from Corniglia to Volastra and rode the bus downhill to Manarola. At Riomaggiore, we enjoyed the best meal of our 2 week trip through Italy at Ristorante La Lampara. Caught the train back to Vernazza and hung out with the locals for a glass of wine at the Ananasso Bar. We felt so welcome there.

On the 25th we decided to stay put in Vernazza since it was raining so hard and most of the trails were closed. We walked the town in the morning and stopped for a most entertaining coffee and lunch at the Blue Marlin. What fun! (Later on we heard from other travelers that many people were trapped that afternoon in the Blue Marlin by the rising waters. The owners literally broke down a wall in the back to provide a safe escape.) In the afternoon we took refuge in the train station gift shop to wait out the increasingly strong rains. When it became unsafe to stay any longer, we were escorted to safety across the tracks and over a 12 foot wall by the station manager and a local resident. I think these 2 heroes literally saved our lives by providing a safe way to leave the flooding train station. There was no way we could reach the room we had rented in the upper part of town but eventually we were taken in by a kind lady named Margarita and given dry clothes, food and a place to stay. The next day we ventured out to see a devastated town. My god it still takes my breath away and puts a lump in my throat when I bring the images to mind of the damage done. I think it was around noon that we were taken by boat to La Spezia.

Tom and Julie
Maple Valley, WA USA
View Tom and Julie’s photo journal: Our Vernazza visit during the floods


We will return to Vernazza again and again. Our hearts are with all the people of Vernazza.

I was in Vernazza October 25 with my husband, brother and sister-in-law. They had never been to Vernazza and I wanted to share with them this beautiful village that I fell in love with 18 years ago and have returned to many times. We were enjoying a wonderful lunch of pesto pasta at Gianni Franzi’s on the harbor when the floods started, and we mistakenly thought the waters would recede so we stayed throughout the afternoon and then got trapped as the new river rushed past the restaurant with tremendous force. As the waters rose we moved from standing on the floor, to perching on the chairs, and then climbed up higher to the tops of the tables to try to get out of the muddy water. My husband and brother pushed with all their might to hold shut the door between the bar and restaurant to keep additional water from rushing into the restaurant. After about two hours, for one very brief moment, the water level decreased allowing the 50-60 restaurant guests and staff to rush out the front door to higher ground and safety. Moments later the river rushed even higher and the rains poured even harder- and we knew we had been extremely fortunate to escape when we did. After standing in the pouring rain for quite some time a kind family at the top of the hill allowed us into their home to escape the rain for about an hour (thank you so much for allowing 6 wet tourists escape the rain!). We were eventually taken to Al Castello restaurant where the kind owner Monica and her family provided us with shelter from the rain, along with about 150 other tourists and townspeople. They very generously prepared food and shared their wine with everyone and at about 10pm Monica connected us with Marisa from Gianni Franzi’s hotel. Marisa donated the Gianni Franzi hotel rooms to 20-30 of us who were cold and soaking wet. We never got a chance to pay Monica or Marisa and we will forever be indebted to them for providing us with shelter that night. I made a donation today to honor all the people of Vernazza with especially warm and greatful thanks thanks to Monica and Marisa for their kindness that evening. We will never forget it, and we will return to Vernazza again and again. Our hearts are with all the people of Vernazza.

Deanna
Seattle, WA USA


We left feeling deep respect for the people of Vernazza. We wish them Godspeed in their recovery. They radiate God’s grace already.

The rain grew heavier as we nibbled cheese to the sounds of Puccini arias and the ducks quacking in the stream below our ground floor apartment windows. We were relaxed; reading passages from The Elegance of the Hedgehog and fiddling with a miniature travel puzzle. The apartment was only three years old with walls of ancient rock framed with perfectly run white plaster; a cantilevered bathroom vanity surrounded with opaque glass; hardwood and marble flooring below the translucent glass tiles of the countertop backsplash in the up-to-date kitchen. We crossed a footbridge each time we left “our home” at the bottom of the four story building to get to the street running down through the village into the harbor. We were scheduled to leave in several days, after a languid sunny month in Vernazza, one of the five Cinque Terre villages on Italy’s Ligurian coast.

About an hour after we noticed rain accumulating outside our entryway, our host knocked on the door, asking us to quickly pack a small bag and move to a room on the floor above. From our heightened vantage point we watched as the babbling brook became a raging river, first filled with rocks and mud, then with cars, vans and buses from the parking lot farther up the road. The village’s ruptured five hundred gallon propane tank was swept into the harbor after covering the lower village with a yellow haze. By nightfall the footbridge had been destroyed by vehicles and rocks washing over and beneath it, and the building’s entrance porch with the only exit door from the four sleeping rooms on the floor we now occupied was sheared away, leaving us stranded unless we leaped into the maelstrom to be swept toward the sea.

The entire roadway became the river. We were in typhoon-like weather. Landslides from the mountains surrounding the tiny valley filled the original river bed and earthen dams seemed to burst periodically as pressure mounted, sending down mud, rocks and water at speeds too fast to estimate, with noise too terrifying to forget. The cannonade of rocks bombarding the building’s foundation and lower floors shattered our nerves. Waves of mud and water crested as much as a foot above our second story room’s window sill. Water inside our room kept rising.


Don & Phyllis
Spokane, WA USA


The conviction that I had not 5 minutes before left me as quickly as the blue water in front of the bar turned to brown.

It was a gloomy October Tuesday and despite the drizzle I awoke happy knowing that it was the last day of our work week. Marco had asked me to change shifts with him that day but I said no, it being Michela’s night off we were planning a fun evening out.

I arrived to work a little before 9:00am and there were already several tables occupied. It was just Sandra, Davide and myself that morning as our cook had the day off. It was Davide in the kitchen, Sandra at the tables and myself at the bar. Breakfast went well, eggs and bacon for almost all as it was 90% foreign tourists that morning. As the breakfast crowd started to thin out Massimo showed up. It was supposed to be Carmen’s shift, but given the specific date (the 2 year anniversary of daughter Camilla’s death) we understood why Massimo was there.

Usually there is a lull in patronage from 11:00-12:00, but as the rain continued to fall the clients continued to arrive. The Blue Marlin being the only bar with ample seating inside, there was around 25 clients plus us four employees. Michela arrived for a light brunch with the two dogs and then went home to prepare lunch for Isabel, as she was expected to be returning from school at 1:30pm.

The drizzle from the morning had turned into a steady rain. The clients we had were quite content to linger inside the warm bar and listen to music as opposed to venturing out into the rain. Midday brought with it a harder rain and increased water levels in the street. I have seen several centimeters of running water in front of the bar before so i wasn’t that worried. Most of us were actually taking photos or videos.

That tranquility quickly evaporated as the water level continued to rise and increase in speed. The tables and chairs outside the restaurant started to slide slowly downhill. At that point Massimo and I went outside to stack the tables and chairs close to the wall to keep them from being swept away (some of us still taking videos or pics). In my infinite wisdom I took off my shoes and put them in our locker room to keep the dry (I found them two weeks later, not dry). So there I was, soaking wet and shoeless, jeans rolled up to my knees and in a t-shirt.

The steady rain turned to torrential downpour and no one could believe the amount of water coming from the sky or the violent river that was rapidly forming before our eyes. The mood in the bar changed from the enjoyment of watching the power of nature to the fear of becoming consumed by it. Voices started rising a bit and questions were being asked. “Has this ever happened before? Is there an upstairs? Is there a back door? Are we safe here?” I was telling everyone to stay calm and we would figure something out. Even with the water about 30 centimeters high i was convinced that we would be ok if we just stayed in the bar. We were mopping and bailing the water out of the bar at this time and I was singing to myself Johnny Cash’s “Five Feet High and Rising”.

The conviction that I had not 5 minutes before left me as quickly as the blue water in front of the bar turned to brown. A whirlpool was forming 15 feet in front of the bar with scooters, trash cans (I distinctly remember the dolphin shaped trash bin from the playground floating by) and soon after an ape (a small 3 or 4 wheel pick up truck). We could smell gas and by this point the water was about 40 centimeters high and increasing in speed. I told Massimo what he already knew, “dobbiamo uscire di qui!” (“we need to get out of here!”). Seconds prior, someone was asking Davide if the angled part of the ceiling had stairs behind it. The answer most thankfully was yes.

Some 20-25 years ago the Blue Marlin had an upstairs dining room that was accessed by way of a staircase just to the left as one entered the bar. Over time, the upstairs was sold to make for a storage area for the restaurant Trattoria da Sandro across the street and the archway that led to the stairwell had been bricked up, a coke refrigerator now standing in its place.

As water began to infiltrate the bar (even though we had bolted shut all four entrance doors) Massimo remembered the old entrance and asked me to help him move the refrigerator. There behind it stood the old brick wall, luck for us made of the hollow brownish brick kind rather than the solid red brick, which is much harder to break through. The fuse box for the upstairs storage area was placed in that wall, not hung on the brick but nailed to a piece of wood. Massi grabbed a nearby framing hammer (one that he had been meaning to throw out for months and thankfully never had) and began to chip the brick around the wood. The fuse box came loose and we placed it on top of the refrigerator. Massimo then continued on the hole, placed a chair in front, and we had our make-shift escape hatch.

.


Jeffrey Hewitt
Vernazza


The people of Vernazza rescued me, and showed me that there are truly wonderful, selfless people in this world.

When a traumatic event happens, and people ask you afterwards to tell them about it, you (at least I) give them the “Readers’ Digest” version. Those elements may certainly be the most dramatic and the easiest for others to relate to. But they are not what keeps you up at night afterwards. It’s the fearful thoughts that you had in those moments, those unspoken, difficult-to-articulate concepts. Those impossible to say out loud thoughts that plague you in the night. Some of them may even be irrational, but that does not matter. In your dreams they are as imminent as the dawn…or the nightfall.

Last October, I accompanied my mother on a Mediterranean cruise in honor of her 80th birthday. My father had died the year previous and I felt compelled to celebrate my mother’s life in a very special way. Hence, I left my husband and family at home and embarked on this adventure with her. Fortunately for me, my mother is a fairly seasoned traveler and quite adventuresome given that she is 80 years old. However, with that age comes some significant physical limitations and after 10 days traveling in close confines with her I was ready for a day to myself to explore and do exactly what I wanted to do. So, because the ship was docked at Livorno, Italy for 2 days, I felt that this was the perfect opportunity to take the first day to explore a region that I had heard much about from friends and always wanted to see for myself — the Cinque Terre.

Mom was quite happy to spend the day relaxing on the ship because we’d had some very busy, physically exhausting days up until then. I told her to expect me back for a late dinner at about 7:00 p.m.

Arising at 6:00 in the morning, I spent the first hour in the gym completing my regular routine. I had been getting up at 6:00 and working out for about 1½ hours each day since we had begun our cruise. Then I quietly showered, dressed and left the ship at about 8:00 a.m. to take the bus to the train station, and then the train to La Spezia and on to Riomaggiore; (the first town in the Cinque Terre traveling from the south to north). I suppose that I should explain that the region of the Cinque Terre is a rugged portion of coast on the Italian Riviera, comprised of five villages: Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore. The coastline, the five villages, and the surrounding hillsides are all part of the Cinque Terre National Park and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. A walking trail, known as Sentiero Azzurro (“Light Blue Trail”), connects the five villages. Vernazza was founded in the year 1000 AD. As I was to come to appreciate — the Romans sure knew how to build structures to last.

10:00 a.m. — When I arrived at Riomaggiore the weather was overcast, so the first place I stopped was the tourist bureau. They informed me which trails were open for walking, and I bought my trail pass. I started out on the first part from Riomaggiore to Manarola which is a very easy stroll. But, just as I was starting, around the first corner a thunder and lightning storm rolled in. (You should know that, of the few fears that I have, lightning is in the top 3. During my time as an emergency room nurse I had 2 patients who had been struck by lightning. The one that survived had long term bizarre health consequences.) I chose what I thought was the sensible approach, to return to the train station to wait out this storm, which did pass after about half an hour.

11:00ish — Not to waste my one day of true freedom I quickly proceeded to walk the trail between Riomagoire and Manarola, then take the train to Corniglia. I walked up from the train to the town and found the trail head between Cornigia and Vernazza.

Noon — There were no signs that anything was predicted or amiss with the trail. Although I was by myself, I fully expected to cross paths with several other hikers because I had been told that this was a well-travelled trail by tourists. In Canada I would not even think of hiking alone in the wilderness. I am not, by nature, a timid person, and I am in good physical condition. Plus I had in my day pack an energy bar, water bottle and small first aid kit — which, to me, seemed appropriate for the hiking venue that I was taking on.

The weather was overcast with bits of blue sky showing but very pleasant and warm. As I started out on the trail the birds were chirping. As I hiked around several olive groves and other orchards there was an amazing aroma which I could not place. It smelled like it must be some kind of flower but I did not see any fresh flowering species. Perhaps it was the olive trees?

As I continued my walk the trail became narrower and less defined but I was not concerned because I had friends who had hiked this trail and described it this way plus I had a map that, while it was not detailed, did outline the trail and the road that traversed the Cinque Terre up above. I was having a beautiful hike in an amazing place and I was overjoyed to be doing that. The sense of freedom from all that constrained me was incredible. By golly, I felt so alive in those moments! Little did I know that in the very near future “alive” would be my very goal! Because this area is so lush with olive groves and orchards it was impossible to see out over the horizon. When it started raining there was no way for me to see the extent of what was coming my way.


Joanne Archer
Prince George, British Columbia


The main street was roaring and churning, washing a car and truck down under the train station and water and debris over the tracks and the train platform.

The day after we arrived, we had a wonderful day visiting the five towns and woke up to rain the next morning. The owner of the place where we ate breakfast (The Blue Marlin) suggested we might like to visit another town further up the coast so we were on the train station watching the rain when the announcement was made that our train would not be coming but the next one scheduled would be there. We watched the rain get heavier and heavier and the main street began to run like a river. A beautiful playground and area with flowers and trees began to get washed away and soon the main street was roaring and churning, washing a car and truck down under the train station and water and debris over the tracks and the train platform. We were beginning to get very concerned because there was no way to get off the train platform. Three wonderful Italian men began leading people across the tracks in hip high water and over a fence when a propane tank broke free and came barreling down the main road. It exploded just before it reached the train platform and the men began screaming to run. We ran through a tunnel (a total of 14 people) and they lead us over the train tracks in hip high water, over a fence, through someones apartment and down to the back entrance of the church. We were soaked through and through by this time and the priest and Frederico, a teacher from town who was on the platform with us got us blankets, towels and a case of water. The priest took the communion wine out of the sacristy and it sure tasted good. After a couple of hours there, watching the water come up the church doors, we were lead to another church on the top of the town which was set up as the emergency center next to the mayor’s office. (I tried to give the second bottle of wine back to the priest but he wouldn’t take it so I distributed it in the emergency center.) By this time the town had no electricity, no water and no gas so we mingled with the local people while kind men brought cookies, water and juices from where ever they could find them. The children were kept in school overnight because it was too dangerous to let them leave the building and the raging water made it impossible to get from one side of town to the other. The rain and water roared all night long and cars, mud, trees and debris washed down the road and into the harbor. Some people were trapped in stores and restaurants along the main street and had to escape out back doors and windows into peoples’ apartments. The place where we had breakfast had to take a hammer and break the wall in the back of the place so people could crawl out. Enrica, our landlady, sent her son to get us at the church and he lead us down to their home where we slept au natural after peeling off our wet clothes. After Enrica’s father offered us a glass of breakfast wine, we put on our wet clothes the next morning and climbed back up to the church with Enrica and her mother since they had no food or water and we tried to get some water and bread. The bread was all gone but we did get water. It’s amazing to me that all we ate in a 36-40 hour span was a couple of cookies and water and wine and we were never hungry the entire time.


Veronica
Ridgefield, CT USA


gas….gas….gas….same in italian as English….you could smell it everywhere

This blog was written a few days after we left Cinque Terre. We were in Vernazza the day of the flooding/landslide: Thurs. Oct 27. We arrived in Florence last night after a harrowing experience in Cinque Terre (CT) our first day 10-24 in CT was very nice. We hiked a section of the trail from Monterosso Al Mare to Vernazza…..overcast and light sprinkle but still lovely. that was enough of a hike for us, but we looked around Vernazza and decided to come back the next day Tues, 10-25 for lunch and then hike from there. So we came back the next day. It was raining a bit, but we thought it would brighten up. We stopped in for cappacino and dolce and waited out the rain…soon it started raining inside the place…..not a good sign…..oh well……went out took some pictures in a light rain, then off to lunch…..we headed up a side street to Ristorante Incadase Da Piva…..we were the only customers and we had a wonderful lunch. During lunch it started raining harder and harder, oh, well, we ll have more vino!! Soon a lady rushes in hysterical because the street a short block below us had turned into a raging river…..shh….shhh…..everyone calmed her down, no problemo, the lights were flashing on and off……at times we just had the generator light….no problem. We started looking out the door at the water rushing below….Whoo! typical?? i asked…..no, no..people began to get worried about their friend with a shop on the Via Rosa the street below us. Then all of the sudden they all start yelling in the restaurant and rushed out. My husband, Kevin says to me landslide!!!! let’s go QUICKLY!!(he had HEARD the landslide) We were the last ones out and we followed the restaurant staff and owner up and up people were rushing around turning off their gas….gas….gas….same in italian as Enlgish….you could smell it everywhere…..the gas main had broken in the street…so we all have rushed out of the restaurant following the locals up and up these tiny winding alleys through the residential areas….the gas smell is strong everywhere and people are really panicking-crying, yelling.


Joanne
St. Louis, MO USA


Our hearts go out to all those who lost everything.

We ( 6 friends from Toronto, Canada) were in Vernazza that horrible day in a restaurant at the bottom of the hill near the water. As the water rose very quickly and the gas lines snapped we were trapped inside and would have drowned. We escaped with the help of the staff in the restaurant and emergency crews who were able to saw bars off an air conditioning hole near the ceiling and we crawled through.We then ran up several flights of stairs and ended up in someones apartment where we stayed overnight until we were rescued. We were amazed at the generosity of the villagers who made us food and tried to keep us warm. A sad end to a wonderful Tuscany holiday. Our hearts go out to all those who lost everything.

Maureen,Charlie, Joanne & Donny, Barb & Larry
Toronto, Ontario Canada


May God richly bless the people of the Cinque Terre.

Of all days to plan a day trip to Cinque Terre, ours was October 25, 2011 — the day the towns would be changed forever. We were on a Mediterranean cruise, and we took a day trip with Papillon Services to explore the region we had only dreamed about. We had no warning that our dream would soon become a nightmare.
Our ship had sailed through intensely rough seas the night before from Villefranche, France, so much so that I wondered if we would be able to make the port in Livorno. I awoke as we were docking, the weather was overcast but calm, and the forecasts continued to call only for “some showers.” We embarked with our driver with no idea what we would soon face.
When we arrived at the Cinque Terre, we parted with our driver in Riomaggiore to make the trip through the towns by train. At each step, the skies darkened and grew ominous. When we arrived in Vernazza by late morning, the rains began. Within minutes, the rain was running down the main street of the town like a river. A shopowner took a photograph of us in our rain coats and umbrellas holding up a postcard of Vernazza on a sunny day. We thought that the worst was that we wouldn’t be able to see the region in all its glory. Little did we know that we had not seen anything yet.


SEF
TN USA


Our prayers are with you Cinque Terre.

My wife and our 1 year old son were there during the storm. It started raining around 11:30am and by 2:00pm the streets were flooded out and things got very scary. It rained so hard and so fast, it was like nothing I had ever seen before. When we woke up Wed. morning the town was covered in 5-10ft of mud and cars were everywhere. Simply put, the town was destroyed. Police officers asked that all tourist to leave immediately. We came by car, but had to evacuate by train. Our rental car was left in the town and we felt so helpless for everyone there. The locals were so great to us during the storm. We had no food or water and the locals helped us with everything including diapers for our 1 year old son. Though we only spent 1 day in total in Cinque Terre we have a huge place in our heart for it. I am not sure the media or public really know how bad it is. If you have the means to help then do so. These poor people have lost everything and it doesn’t seem they are being supported enough with the bare necessities and man power to help dig out.
Our prayers are with you Cinque Terre.

Noah
Denver, CO USA


At one point I really thought I was going to die

Myself, my brother and my sister in law were there for a day trip from Monrolla and ended up getting stuck for 24hours. I have traveled a ton and have experienced many things but never have I seen/experienced something like this. At one point I really thought I was going to die there,we were at the Blue Marlin restaurant eating lunch and decided to wait out the heavy rain before going back. Little did we know that the next 2hours would be the most frightening in my life. The restaurant owner, Massimo had to break down the wall by the electrical box and we had to go up stairs to the 2nd floor. The water continued to climb up and the receded right went we were started to freck out because there was no where else to go. Everyone was starting to relax even though it was still raining, just much lighter. Then it happened again…the loud crashing and river started raising again because all the water from the mountains was coming down and we needed to get out, right then the volunteer rescue team found us and took us up to the city center.

Rebecca
San Diego, Ca USA


We can honestly say we have been blessed with the privilege of visiting Vernazza BEFORE, DURING, and AFTER this tragic event…we are forever changed.

On October 25th, 2011, my husband (Preston) and I (Andrea) along with 5 of our friends set out to explore one of the most beautiful places in the world, Vernazza Italy, also known as the jewel of the Italian Riviera. We arrived in Vernazza around noon and strolled down the picturesque street to photo the beautiful harbor. We decided to eat lunch at Gambero’s when it started raining. Although the rain was really pouring down, we decided to head back uphill towards the train station in order to catch the train to Monterossa. Within minutes the water rose to a couple of inches as it ran down the steep hill. I was taking video of a small truck that was parked on the side of the narrow, winding street and noticed the water was raging up against the back of the truck with enough force to push the truck down the street. I thought it would be a wise idea to stop on the opposite side of the street and video an amazing shot of this truck being swept out to sea. Within minutes, we realized we needed to cross the street and move to higher ground. As we ventured across the street, the water rose from approximately 5 to 12 inches and instantly swept my feet out from under me. I found myself being washed down the street about 30 feet with Preston chasing after me. As the water rushed over my head, he grabbed the collar of my jacket and pulled me out from behind the truck. A few more feet and I would have been sucked under the truck and eventually down the street into the harbor. An Italian policeman helped us up to the steps and we proceeded to walk approximately 20 yards to the train platform (station).


Andrea
Harlingen, TX USA


Do you have a story to tell? Were you in Vernazza on October 25, 2011? If interested in sharing your experience with us please email info@savevernazza.com