“Are you going to Manarola?” I asked, as the first mate ushered passengers onto the boat. “Not today,” he replied. “Just Vernazza.” Becky and I looked at each other and shrugged. “We will go to Vernazza. But we don’t have tickets.” “Well,” he said, “Give the captain a kiss and it will be okay.” 🙂 We had barely situated ourselves on the boat for the less than 10 minute journey from Monterosso to Vernazza when another member of the crew brought us a handful of sweet little yellow grapes. So we steal boat rides and are rewarded with a snack?!?! Only in Italy.
The wind tousled our hair and drank in the sun, spitting grape seeds over the side of the boat into the sea. Before we knew it we were navigating a tiny gangplank bobbing in the choppy breaking water, disembarking at what some consider to the be the heart of the Cinque Terre, Vernazza.
In October 2011 deluge rains had caused flooding and landslides across the region and one slide in particular nearly destroyed Vernazza and Monterrosso. When we first visited in April 2012, six months after the disaster, only two restaurants and one gelateria were open while the community continued to dig out. Now, nearly a year after the slide, the recovery is remarkable. Nearly all of the businesses were open and the tourists are flooding in. Becky and I were both actually quite overwhelmed with emotion to see how much this beautiful town changed. We grabbed gelati at Il Porticciolo, home of the most incredible cinnamon (cannella) gelato I’ve ever tasted, sat on a bench near the main piazza and took it all in.
On our last visit, nearly every door to businesses and homes were boarded up, although most were brightly painted with murals. This was my first impression of Vernazza, beauty and art overshadowing the ruin. Today, only a couple of doors on Vernazza’s main street remain boarded but the city is no less colorful.
© Jennifer Konopasek and GoodTravelerKarma, 2014.