Stepping onto the terrace, I became mesmerized by sights and smells. After a long, seemingly endless winter, I was once again in Vernazza, an exceptional place where even after the events of last October, much remains the same: the church bells and rhythmic waves; the green of the hillsides; the blue of the water and the pastels of the buildings contrasting and yet complimenting one another.
I came to Vernazza this morning for a public meeting, hosted by Mayor Vincenzo Resasco, detailing Vernazza’s strategic plan for reconstruction, updates on the progress made thus far and how Vernazza is preparing itself for the reopening of its tourist season.
An announcement made at the meeting, and one that Save Vernazza is pleased to have helped facilitate, is that architect and urbanist Richard Rogers will be providing his expertise in the rebuilding of Vernazza by overseeing Vernazza’s “urban regeneration” project. Lord Rogers is the 2007 Pritzker Architecture Prize Laureate, recipient of the 1985 RIBA Gold Medal and the 2006 Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement (La Biennale di Venezia). Over the course of his successful career, Richard Rogers has made a major impact on contemporary architecture, with key projects such as the Centre Pompidou in Paris, Lloyd’s of London and Terminal 4 in Madrid Barajas Airport.
On a personal note, Richard has a great affection for Vernazza and has been a frequent visitor for years. He believes that the reconstruction should be elegant in its simplicity in order to preserve Vernazza’s unique character as an authentic small town for both inhabitants as well as tourists. We are honored and excited to have the guidance of such a well known and respected professional and Vernazza will most certainly benefit from Mr. Rogers’ involvement.
Other topics of discussion at the meeting included the status of emergency projects currently underway:
- Sewage: completed
- Canal: includes roadwork as well as enlargement of the canal itself. This enlargement is necessary for what has been referred to as “200 year security” (enabling the canal to withstand future storms such as that of October 25, estimated to occur once every 200 years)
- Landslides: project focuses on securing the slides that directly impact the canal and reconstruction of the canal banks and bed in such a way as to decrease the velocity of the water.
- Water: continuing on schedule, approximately 90% of all homes with running water
- Aqueduct: continuing on schedule
- Electricity: continuing on schedule
- Via Roma: This week, temporary asphalting of Vernazza’s main street Via Roma will be underway. Next winter the road will be dug up once again and all of Vernazza’s electrical, telephone, TV, etc. cables will be run underground. Final work along Via Roma is expected to be completed in early 2013.
- Gas: By the end of June 2012, a temporary methane gas containment system will be in place to provide methane gas to Vernazza. Over the next 2 years, permanent pipeline will be laid to transport methane gas to Vernazza from the village of Volastra, a project costing approximately 2.2 million Euro and funded by the Protezione Civile.
Additionally, the town is organizing for the beach & harbor clean-up effort in which a group of volunteer scuba divers will assist and dredging of the sea bottom will be necessary. The estimated cost for this effort is 700,000 – 800,000 Euro, approximately 150,000 Euro already pledged by STL (Sistema Turistico Locale) of Liguria.
Also included in Vernazza’s strategic plan was a focus on sustainable environmental and social/economic development, specifically with regards to renewable energy, garbage & recycling, sewage, sustainable tourism and education & promotion of Vernazza’s territory.
The importance of safeguarding Vernazza’s territory was discussed at length and recognized as the key to sustainability for Vernazza, both environmentally as well as economically. Going forward it will be of great importance to Vernazza to attract the kind of travelers who create a relationship with the town, make a connection with the place, its people and its territory, thus understanding and respecting its culture, environment and heritage.
In keeping with this discussion and in alignment with our projects, Save Vernazza will be meeting next week with Vernazza’s key technical advisers to map out the best way to collaborate on and move forward with projects that educate through programs and volunteer efforts, assist in the rebuild of trails and focus on the reconstruction of the “muretti a secco”, the dry stone walls that integral to the terracing of Vernazza’s hillsides. Details of and updates on Save Vernazza’s projects can be found at our Rebuild, Restore, Preserve Vernazza page.
At the end of the meeting, I was asked to speak to the audience of residents about Save Vernazza. But in addition to speaking about the details of our projects, I felt the desire to also express my deep appreciation of and respect for Vernazza, its people and territory. This brought about within me an overwhelming mix of emotions by thinking of the October tragedy and the town’s courageous work to rebuild. I knew I had to do my best to keep from becoming emotional, so I focused on the faces in front of me. The faces that for the last 4 months have been dirtied with mud, stained with tears, and lined with smiles and laughter. The faces now giving me the strength to keep it together. The faces forever filled with determination and hope.
The weather is warming and the coming of spring gives way to a new hope. Less than 5 months ago the unimaginable happened, and no one at that time would have predicted all that has been accomplished in the time that has passed since. And yet, even after the unimaginable, much remains the same. The waves, the bells, the blues, the greens…the constants that made Vernazza recognizable even when she wasn’t.. Now as we slowly return to normal, the “newness” of Vernazza brought about by that tragic day is impossible to overlook. It is a blinding reminder that change is vital to Vernazza’s future.
Vernazza’s “New Beach”
In order to sustain the uniqueness and beauty that is Vernazza, tourism and territory must go hand in hand, for there is no future for one without the other. Vernazza now stands at a crossroads and years from now we hope to look back and take pride in the example she has set for the rest of the world, one of harmony and balance created by the coming together of the two in such a way one cannot imagine it ever being otherwise. Ruth Manfredi, Save Vernazza
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