Still saving Vernazza, Cinque Terre | Cinque Terre Curiosities

Still saving Vernazza, Cinque Terre

The Save Vernazza voluntourism project has started again for its 5th year in a row in the Cinque Terre. So far 990 tourists have given a hand in restoring and preserving the fragile territory in 116 excursions since 2013, as “Even Paradise Needs a Gardener”…..as the motto goes!

If you are travelling in the area and would like to be involved, check the work calendar and contact coordinator Irene di Martino: info@savevernazza.com And if your dates don’t coincide, contact Irene anyway and she may be able to set up a special “gardening” day for you.

And for those of you new to this blog and perhaps unfamiliar with the Save Vernazza organisation I have included their latest video here.

Yet while Save Vernazza and its contributors worldwide continue to offer their help and donations, some problems still facing Vernazza and the Cinque Terre in general need urgent attention from the powers that be – namely the Cinque Terre National, Park, The Councils, Trenitalia and the Liguria Regional Office. A game of ping pong regarding responsibility continues between them resulting unfortunately in no major progress on the issues.

Recent articles in the Travel and Leisure magazine and the local Ligurian newspaper Il Secolo XIX highlighted the problems of the Cinque Terre being on “Everyone’s Bucket List”

The Via dell’Amore the path linking the villages of Riomaggiore and Manarola is still closed from 2012 after the rock fall knocked 4 Australians off the path seriously injuring two.  And while the Mayor indicates he is currently securing national funds to make the path secure again, locals are dubious and believe it has been closed by the Police Commission until compensation has been resolved and the Council is reluctant to guarantee the security of the path in the future.

Tourist overcrowding has already begun, as I saw over the Easter period, from Cruise ships and bus and train daytrippers and no limits have been imposed, apart from the price increase in train and bus tickets and the Cinque Terre Card.

The high road connecting Vernazza to Monterosso  is still closed after the landslides of 2011 and what remains open between La Spezia and Vernazza has intermittent partial closures as minor landslides continue. The major use by tourists coaches reaching up to 25 coaches per day creates additional difficulties. At Easter only one public toilet was open in Vernazza as the other two are under renovation and will still be inadequate to Vernazza stationcater to the crowds, increasingly eating takeaway. Painted arrows on the station stairs attempt to regulate the traffic flow. The trail between Manarola and Corniglia remains closed after the landslide in 2011 and 2013 and unlikely to ever reopen putting additional strain on the public transport system. As locals exit the villages, preferring to rent out their apartments and live a quieter existence in Levanto or La Spezia, their terraced lands become abandoned and put the entire area at risk.

Gianni Franzi, a long standing restaurant owner in Vernazza says “The problems are many and the situation seems to have got out of hand. There are third-world roads, on which emergency vehicles must pass; the collection of waste creates huge problems and is not practical; there are too many ferries creating even a noise pollution. This massive tourism that crosses the villages without knowing the history, territory and the environment must be regulated. The mayor and the park have to listen to the needs and citizens’ suggestions. If we go on like this we do not build any future for coming generations.”  (il Secolo XIX  14/04/2017)Cinque Terre

I hope I have not put you off, as I believe the Cinque Terre is best seen by individual tourists who prefer to stay for a few days to appreciate the area but who now make up a small percentage of the 2.4million tourists per year.  We can only hope that our suggestions are being heard, as Save Vernazza is also very active in any public meetings.

Cinque Terre, Vernazza


 

 

Still saving Vernazza, Cinque Terre | Cinque Terre Curiosities

Spring fever in beautiful Pienza

View of PienzaAs Pablo Neruda said “You can cut all the flowers but you cannot keep Spring from coming”. I have just spent a few days at my artist friend in Pienza bathed in glorious Spring weather and fields of wild tulips and cherry blossoms. The gently rolling hills of Tuscany can not get any better than this area of Val D’Orcia and I am always pleased to be back.

The area has UNESCO World Heritage status: as it is an exceptional reflection of the way the landscape was re-written in Renaissance times to reflect the ideals of good Val d'Orciagovernance and to create an aesthetically pleasing pictures. The landscape of the Val d’Orcia was celebrated by painters from the Siennese School, which flourished during the Renaissance. Images of the Val d’Orcia, and particularly depictions of landscapes where people are depicted as living in harmony with nature, have come to be seen as icons of the Renaissance and have profoundly influenced the development of landscape thinking.

PienzaThat sense of harmony prevails and I could spend hours along the walls of Pienza absorbing these views in the changing sunlight. Or, as we did, take a stroll to the ancient Church of Corsignano with its decorative monsters above the doorway from the 12th Century, although parts of the church date back even to the 7th Century!

Complete harmony in nature. Pienza too is an absolute delight with its elegant Renaissance square and harmonious buildings, as Pope Pius Piccolomini had the money and power to transform his birthplace (Corsignano) into a Utopian dream city.

But that’s not all as the strong scent of the local food speciality, namely the pecorino cheese, wafts along the street and the delicatessens display other tempting delicacies like pici pasta, dry porcini mushrooms, salamis, local honey and extra virgin olive oil.

The quaintness of the place continues with unique shops selling exquisite linen ware, and the kitchenware shop is full of copper pots and pans, basket ware, handmade knives and unusual olive oil servers.

My artist friend Enrico Paolucci is hard at work on a special ‘owl’ commissioned for a birthday surprise so I am left to wander the studio taking photos of his new work ( a homage to his father, Aleardo) and make the most of his hospitality.

After work, dinner in a quiet spot in Pienza and a late night stroll to catch the magic of the moment. Pienza never loses its charm nor the Val d’Orcia, Tuscany, its harmony with Nature.

Still saving Vernazza, Cinque Terre | Cinque Terre Curiosities

Something to be proud of – Palmyra Arch

Palmyra ArchI could not contain my delight on hearing the Arch of Triumph, the copy made  for Palmyra, Syria was on display in Florence for a month. In timing with the first ever G7 Ministers Summit on Culture which Italy promoted on taking over the presidency of the G7.

With the premise “Culture as a tool for dialogue between the people…The international community will thus reaffirm its commitment to recover and preserve the heritage of mankind damaged by natural disasters, hit during conflict and attacked by terrorism and in combating illicit trafficking of cultural property. Among the objectives of the summit is the need for agreement on  a cultural component in peacekeeping missions promoted by the United Nations and to make the summit of Ministers of Culture permanent at the next G7.”

Florence is the perfect setting for such an event and the Palmyra Arch of Triumphhas become a true global symbol of the triumph of cooperation over conflict, optimism over despair and human ingenuity over senseless destruction.”

I am provincial enough to say I am so very Tuscan proud of the Italian capacity to conceive the idea and the craftsmanship that built it….it’s been in their DNA for centuries!

I leave you with more details from my post of 24/4/2016:

As I watched the building of the antique marble arch of Palmyra in Syria I could not be more impressed by Italian creativity and talent in using the most update technology of 3D printers to recreate a work of art destroyed in the civil conflict in Syria. While never to replace the original it is still heartening to see the use of the current technology in recreating such a masterpiece. Congratulations to the company -TorArt- which has succeeded in the project, working together with the Institute of Digital Archeology.
Fascinated as I am by the new technology ( see my previous blog on Makers) I am even more impressed by seeing it used to enormous benefits of us all.

And to think it is on my doorstep, by workers from Fantascritti quarry in Carrara, Tuscany, adds an extra note of pride for their ingenuity and craftsmanship. The arch went on display in Trafalgar Square London 19th April, and will go to New York, Dubai and then home to Syria.

Arch Trafalgar Square

Arch in Trafalgar Square Photo credit Lucy Glasser

Fantascritti quarry museumIt also brought back fond memories of various tours I had taken to the quarry of Fantascritti where a retiree of the quarry –Walter Danesi, had created an outstanding museum dedicated to the difficulties and hardships involved in extracting the most beautiful marble in the world. Marble that has created masterpieces, like Michelangelo’s David and more.

The difficulties can be seen here in the photos from the quarry museum, where many have risked their lives over the centuries and continue to do so. The last unfortunate accident on site was but 10 days ago when two workers were crushed under tons of marble and a third rescued as he remained suspended in the air. Not surprisingly the area of Carrara has been known to be a strong anarchist haunt as Man challenges the elements of Nature and the ongoing pressure of extraction to meet today’s demands.

Walter Danesi always had lots of stories to tell of his time as a quarry worker and gave a warm welcome to my tour groups and my family. He wrote a dedication in his book Walter Danesiwhich I cherish “To lovely Susi, with admiration, Walter Danesi”Walter Danesi book

 

 

 

 

 

 

So if you are ever in the area of Carrara, about an hour from Pisa or Lucca, drive up to the Fantascritti Quarry to see for yourselves the marvel of marble and the incredible effort that has gone into it’s extraction and sculpting. Be warned though, it is still a working Quarry and the truck drivers don’t take kindly to visitors on the long windy road…..understandably!