CINQUE TERRE FLOOD: EMERGENZIA POGGIA // natural disaster, flooding, lightening, cancellations

Soaked to the core, I survived the monsoon in Cinque Terre.

What was forecasted as a rainy day, turned into the worst flooding Cinque Terre has ever seen on Wednesday October 25, 2011. Lightening showers turned into heavy rain. Heavy rain turned into non-stop pouring. “Non ho mai visto niente del genere” was the only thing the locals could say.

So when I told friends I was stuck in the flood with my family, the day prior to my birthday, I don’t think they quite understood the extent of the situation until now… so let me break down my day for you:

10:00: Even though there were sounds of thunder, my sister told me that we should try the short walking trail from “Riomaggiore to Manarolo” and then trains to the other cities. Not exactly thrilled about walking, I put a brioche in my mouth and tied my sneakers.

11:00: With an umbrella in hand, we purchased 4 park/train passes (10 euro each) and started the walking trail from Riomaggiore to Manarolo.

Lightening here and there, a little rain but nothing serious. I opened and shut my brand-new umbrella about 5 times before reaching the next town: Manarolo.

12:00: At this point it was raining quite a bit, so we walked through the tunnel, did a 360 view of Manarolo and hopped the next train out.

12:30: Instead of stopping in Corniglia, we decided to lunch in Vernazza (with the intention of visiting later… yeah I’ll tell you this much, Corniglia didn’t happen).

12:40: When we arrived in Vernazza it was raining… hard. I scouted which restaurants I wanted to review and well, 4 out of 5 were closed! Was it because it was off-season? Or was it because they knew something I didn’t?

Since Belforte and Trattoria da Sandro were involuntarily struck from my list, we went to Blue Marlin and ordered two pasta dishes as well as two plates of foccaccia for a mere 28,50.

13:20: Still a bit hungry, I told my family to wait at the train station while food curiosity urged me to find Il Pirata for delicious bakery treats (as depicted in TripAdvisor). Unfortunately that was closed. WTF. Something’s fishy and it’s not the anchovies I ate for lunch.

13:35: Our train got delayed 10 minutes. Expected.

13:45: Our train got delayed 25 minutes. Expected.

14:00: Our train was cancelled. Expected.

14:20: A train arrived. Unexpected.

14:30: Since we were stuck in the Vernazza train station gift shop for the past hour, it didn’t seem like a big deal whether the train was going to La Spezia (in the direction of our hotel) or to Monterosso (the last town we wanted to visit). However, when we arrived in Monterosso train station, we saw this.

Uncertain of the next step, all we could do was wait (the center of town was a little too far just to “make a run for it”). Trains were either delayed or cancelled; which left soaked visitors in the train tunnels or in the underpass among extremely large tour groups for shelter. Lights flickered on and off for about an hour before all five cities became captives of a 2-hour blackout.

15:40: Still at the station, waiting patiently in the cold, behind my umbrella (to block the wind/rain), we managed to catch a train out of Monterosso station prior to the blackout. A 10 minute train ride took almost an hour, but I much prefer safe than sorry.

When we reached our hotel, Locande del Sole in Riomaggiore (located at the top of the hill), our friendly hotel owner, Enrico (who is highly recommended on TripAdvisor for good reason) gave us a candle and hoped for electricity within the next 10 minutes… however 10 minutes turned into hours and that meant hot showers and heat were put on hold until the lights came back on. Due to zero-electricity, cold feet and a very sore throat, dinner plans in Groppo were cancelled and exchanged with an apple, some chocolate, and a bottle of Tuscan wine.

OVERALL: I’m still a bit shocked to have witnessed such a disastrous event. My family and I did not understand the extent of the Cinque Terre damage until we reached Monterosso; when we saw the beginning of what turned out to be a natural disaster, we decided to get the next train out.

Cinque Terre experienced a lot of damage- I’m talking million of euros. Pieces of wall were in the middle of the road. Streets became rivers. Cars became boats in the sea. And some people are still missing. If you’d like to help repair Cinque Terre back to beauty, click here for more information. And to see more aftermath pictures, click here.

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