Master Gardeners, Italian style

Vegetable garden next doorIf you have ever lived next door to an Italian you will know how prolific they are in producing vegetables – front garden or back, it makes no difference.

My next door neighbour is constantly passing me generous bags of veggies, so despite my lack of a veggie garden, am munching my way through oodles of zucchini recipes as they sprout overnight and never cease! Or he leaves me home grown peaches and apples on my terrace at dawn, not to wake me up. Being a vegetarian makes him even more keen to be sure I have plenty…..meaning enough to feed an army of friends!

Nowadays all the talk is about, 0 kilometre produce, eco sustainability, the sharing economy, recycling, seasonal choices of vegetables when Italians have been well ahead of the times with this approach to life….if they have any square inch to cultivate.

The farmers have come a long way from the dangerous pesticides of the past and spraying sulphur till they came home looking like a green Martian! Now enclosed tractors and masks are the norm and many of the dangerous pesticides are no longer available in Italy or in Europe.Cinque terre vegetable garden

When hydroponics seemed fashionable for producing a lot in a small space without soil, Italians have been true Masters in producing quality and quantity in confined spaces for centuries and continue to do so.

The terraces at the Cinque Terre boast many a good veggie patch in the most confined spaces.

From master gardeners to farmers, this Italian Summer has been a real struggle with drought conditions and consistent heatwave temperatures of more than not 40+C  since the beginning of June.

Olive trees have lost their fruit and their leaves point skyward to lessen their heat exposure in an effort to stay alive, and while they are very resistant trees it is an extreme test for them. Grapevines also look haggard although for some it may be a top quality year, low on production but high on quality. Grape picking started early and up North in the Pinot Grigio area it has already finished. Bees are producing less honey, fig trees are losing their leaves and their fruit remains undeveloped and as the drought continues many crops are ruined.

Fires have broken out throughout Italy, creating enormous damage to farmers with loss of livestock and crops. National Parks have come under threat both from natural fires and dreadful pyromaniacs, with close to 89,000 hectares ( 220,000acres) of land burnt, an equivalent of ‘124,000 football stadiums’ as they said on the TV News!

City folk look at the news as they turn up their air conditioning or fan themselves under the shade, incredulous that the heat does not wane and sceptical of the possibility of water rationing, more expensive fruit and vegetables and no new Extra Virgin Olive Oil in November!

So it’s a tough old time this Italian Summer, one that is not unfamiliar to other countries as climatic change persists and we fail to find solutions.

Basil in a barrow

 

Still if you are coming over and would like to be an Italian gardener, do join us in the Cinque Terre on the Tourist in the Wild project – Save Vernazza as “Even paradise needs a Gardener”

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The Old and New of Milan

Milan Navigli canalA weekend in Milan, exploring the new and enjoying the old as we stayed in  the area of the canals – Navigli. I think it’s the only place to stay as it has a layback feel to it, a residential atmosphere that kicks on into party time of an evening as the canals are lined with bars and cafes. But the noise can be shut out as most of the apartments hide inside courtyards locked behind mega doors.

In the quiet of the morning we explored the old laundry area alongside the Opposite the old laundrygrand canal. The florist offered an amazing insight into the side street and its past of laundry workers who resided in the area and worked non stop on providing services to the well to do of Milan.

Laundress

She also specialized in Kokedama– often called poor man’s bonsai. A ball made of wet Akadama soil and Keto (peat). The plant is set into the ball and afterwards the moss is wrapped around it.  Aluminium wire or nylon wire fixes the whole bundle, and it is sometimes used to suspend the Kokedama in the air. She had all sorts of plants in kokedama – orchids, ferns to succulents. As well as a lovely selection of handmade soaps with delicate perfumes.

The old laundry

 

The old laundry exposed the ancient stone slabs used to beat the washing clean under the shade of the roof.

In the same street, hidden courtyards with artist studios and handmade products.

In contrast the curves and fluid lines of the new skyscraper area of Milan around Piazza Gae Aulenti, viewed from the ground was pretty remarkable…..

from above, on the 39th floor of the Lombard Regional office, quite awesome!

More enticing sinuous lines in the Mudec cultural museum together with a beautiful exhibition of Kandinsky.

God Save the Food restaurantFollowed by a great lunch in a trendy, very vegie restaurant, jovially called “God Save the Food” where the beetroot humus and wok vegies were delicious! Served up by a very friendly Tuscan waiter who was homesick, and tired of the frenetic pace of Milan. In fact the constant noise from traffic, Metro and general buzz is not something I would ever get used to.Navigli Grand Canal Milan

 

Still while our real reason for the visit to Milan was something quite different – an Enrique Iglesias concert not to be missed – discovering the old and new of Milan during the day was just as enjoyable.

 

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Nothing beats a Moka pot

Moka coffee pot

My new Moka pot for one

In a moment of distraction, I burnt out my Moka coffee pot….Oh No!!!

The handle literally melted off the side and while the rest was still intact, it was definitely time to buy a new one. No replacement base would do as it would ruin the coffee flavour since it had gurgled out of water for far too long. So as I popped down to the shop to get my new one, I thought how Italian I have become!

My Moka pot has been my coffee maker at home ever since I arrived in Italy and it is definitely my favourite coffee machine. No new fangle dangle devices can compete, not even a flashy George Clooney Nespresso model….unless it comes with George!?!

While the rest of the world, and a large part of the Italian world, has embraced coffee machines so they can enjoy an espresso or cappuccino at home, quite a few of us have clung to our Moka. Why?

It makes a great espresso, or added to hot milk a wonderful breakfast caffé latte. Comes in various sizes from, just for one, for 3, 6, 9 and a mega 12 person Moka which I have only seen in the Bialetti shop. Takes 5 mins to make on a gas or electric stove, and for the most part the Moka is indestructible, with easy to find replacement parts like filters, and gaskets etc.

Moka Bialetti 1940's cartoon

Bialetti’s 1940’s cartoon on how to use a Moka

Bialetti would have to be biggest brand, and in fact is the inventor, which in the Italian post-war depression was a great convenience for all people who could no longer afford to go out. Renato Bialetti is the  moustached cartoon figure that appears on their logo.

 

There is still an Art in the Making’, as in everything Italians do.

Fill the base with water to just below the heat valve, heap the coffee in the funnel just a touch, squeeze tight and place on a low flame not bigger than the pot and turn it off just as it starts to gurgle. If sharing the larger pots it’s best to give a quick stir in the top so the coffee consistency is uniform for everyone. Use only warm water, NO SOAP, to clean it and it will serve you forever.

Florentine Moka pot

Just about everyone now has a modern coffee machine, which I found out the hard way when I went to my friends wedding in Finland. I took, what I thought to be, the perfect gift: a Florentine (Brunelleschi style dome top) Moka pot with trendy illy coffee cups. I was very happy with myself until I walked into their home and was offered a cappuccino from their coffee maker!

In fact at the Milan Expo on food in 2015 I discovered that the Finns are the highest consumers of coffee, followed by Germans, Brazilians with Italians only rating fourth! Although that should come as no surprise since I think Italians do most things in moderation and think they own the coffee legend.

And while I do love a cappuccino and a good espresso, I save that desire to when I am out at the bar or restaurant as something of a special treat. Now that’s Italian!

I have already seasoned my new little Moka pot, working it through 3 coffee rounds before taking a first sip. Ahhh, just lovely! I will treat it with due respect and continue to enjoy this fabulous Italian invention and great tradition.

My Moka pots

My Moka pots for 1, 3 and 6

And if Italy is in your next travel plans, check out my post on Italian Coffee etiquette so you too can feel like a local when you get here!


 

 

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Merry Xmas and Happy New Year!

Xmas FirenzeIt’s that time of year again, and the days seem to disappear in a rush.

There is just a smidge of snow on the mountains near home, not really enough for Santa and Rudolf to sleigh down on, but I think he arrives via a smartphone App these days! And while I have seen a few letters to Santa publicized I think the rest are probably emailing or whatsapping! How the world changes. We are also hoping Santa may have solution in his sack to our current government crisis….??

Yet Florence still has its reassuring traditions – the Nativity Scene is back beside thenativity scene Florence Duomo along with the Xmas tree and Xmas lights adorn most of the streets in the centre giving the place that special magic.

The wonderful panettone and pandoro cakes have been in the supermarkets  now for ages – which makes me wonder how much preservatives must be in them? But I succumb every year and my pandoro star will get it’s good shake of icing sugar and a little warming in the oven when my first Xmas guests drop by.

And the faithful guardians of our city keep a watchful vigil on us all.

So I thank you all for reading my posts and am open to any suggestions you may have or things you may be curious about in Italy but didn’t know who to ask. Ask me via the comments box or email anytime.

Gourmet cooking school and foostoreFor any Melbourne readers I add a little plug for my niece’s Gourmet kitchen cooking school. If you’re stuck for a gift idea she has lots of interesting kits, gourmet delicatessen items, Xmas hampers with a difference, recipe books and gift vouchers for doing a cooking class on all sorts of wonderful foods – Thai, Spanish, Pasta making, Japanese etc and currently helping many make delicious macaroons for Xmas. Check the website here or drop by at 20 Margaret St, opposite Moonee Ponds Station.

I hope this year has been a good year for you all and wish you a Very Merry Xmas and a Happy, Serene and Healthy 2017!

I am off to Cuba in January for a few weeks so will leave you with just a taste of what the atmosphere may be like in the video below…….you never get too old to dance!!!

Gente di Zona with Marc Anthony – La Gozadera

 

 

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It’s raining sweets in Cinque Terre

Bridal couple toss benediga

Foto credit www.fotografi-matrimonio.com

I was rather intrigued by a recent post from the Mayor of Vernazza – Cinque Terre about an old custom that started around the 1800’s – the benediga. It appears to be almost unique to Vernazza, and I remember some years back being surprised by sweets that rained from the heavens onto the Main Street of Vernazza as a bridal couple tossed them from a balcony above.

Enzo Resasco ( Mayor) writes : “This is one of many traditions that has remained unchanged in Vernazza and it would be nice to tell the many tourists who visiit here.When there is a wedding or a baptism, after the religious ceremony, the bride and groom or the godparents, from a balcony that overlooks either the square or along the main street of the village, throw “the benediga”…..

Often, the many tourists are suddenly caught up in the middle of a crowd of children, women and men from the village who bend down to pick up candies, chocolates, nuts, confetti raining down in torrents from the sky. Immediately it is difficult for them to understand what is happening. In their eyes you can see the wonder and perhaps a hint of fear, of seeing people gather, shouting and shoving, for this manna from the sky.”

Tourists gather confetti

Tourists gathering the loot!

Foto credit: http://vernazza-corniglia.com

Investigating further another Italian, Guido Allegrezza writes:
“A benediga worthy of respect, must “weigh” a total of at least 45 kg, evenly distributed between sweets, chocolates and confetti ( sugared almonds). In the past, when poverty was a daily reality, the benediga saw the launch of nuts and almonds festively wrapped…..Throwing  45 kilos of candy and confetti can take 20 to 30 minutes, depending on the skill of the couple or godparents parents…..” and if ever caught up in this melee  he suggests to be wary of the elderly who while not at a soccer match tend to fight for the sweets with almighty fury, elbows out and baskets and sacks on the ready. Locals scream and wave their arms then dive on the goodies as they fall – something of a pagan ritual, a homage ….,”he benediga gives concrete expression to the sense of belonging to the community,” a festive celebration of a key moment in the community….and a temporary belonging to the tourists surprised by the event!

The Mayor is very concerned about maintaining traditions and not letting economic interests of tourism override the social fibre of the community. He writes:

“The biggest mistake we can make with our tourists is to make them feel as if they were still in their own country. Street signs type Fast Food, Take Away, Sangria, Happy Hour. This is not what they want.

They want Italian spirit. They want to live the rhythms of Italian life and our rhythms are special. Sit on a bench or at a table in a bar along the main street or square or the Ventega, in the evening at sunset with a Cinque Terre Doc. They do not want the supermarket, do not look for any “Gardaland” effect. They want the small shop or the weekly market knowing that to be served will mean a queue and maybe waiting for the seller to finish his conversation with the old lady of the place.”

The Mayor is fighting something of an uphill battle to retain the authenticity and uniqueness of Vernazza overrun with mass tourism and slowly depopulating, changing its face…or at least putting new make up on.

 

Foto credit for Yesterday: www.vernazza-corniglia.com


 

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Summer in full spin – Florence

And Summer is in full spin in Florence as around 500 cyclists braved the 30+degree heat to do a marathon cycle in one of the most panoramic piazzas of Florence – Piazzale Michelangelo.

 

Michelangelo’s David was aghast and had to turn away before he fainted, while us lazy onlookers enjoyed the tension, the rousing cries, and the stamina of the cyclists pounding away to the beat of the music. What a way to go!

Florence Merry-go-round

 

For the families there’s the classic Merry-Go-Round in Piazza della Repubblica that never seems to go out of fashion. And the wonderful bubble maker who delights the kids from the world over.

Florence rickshaw

To take you on a tour around town is Matteo ( and others) with his electric rickshaw from Velotours, for a quick jaunt of 20mins or a full immersion in the labyrinth of Florence while hearing its history and legends.

Past popular pork snack bars, now an all time favourite for tourists in Via dei Neri – All’ Antica Vinaio or La Prosciutteria, although I cannot understand why one would queue for a sandwich and wine to eat sitting on the pavement! Or rest tired feet under one of Florence’s most dramatic statues – Perseus while listening to a sentimental busker.

Then as dusk falls look for a place to have an aperitif – a spritz is still the most popular cocktail, although on a hot Summer day a chilled beer or wine goes down well too.

Florence Reale Cafe

Florence boasts new bars this season, one of which is right next to the train station and looking very snazzy. – Reale Firenze. I understand it’s run by the promoters of the Central Market food mall and soft music wafts across the fountains as the sun goes down.

A contrast along the Arno river is the Wood bar with recycled warehouse crates and benches, and the music is lively.

And nearby, still on the river, is the open air dance venue of Summer Suites, so if you are around on Tuesdays that’s salsa night! Free dance workshops and it rocks on until dawn.

And while some clubs are new, some things never change – like the Red Garter club, which has been the haunt of American students ever since I came to Florence 30 years ago and is still going strong by the looks of the crowd spilling out onto the street. I have to admit I have never been inside as under 21yrs pour down alcohol like water enjoying the freedom of Italian regulations….not like back home!Florence Re Garter clubHowever if you’re after some peace and quite, head for the hills outside Florence as it’s been shooting Summer moonstar time, and quite dreamy waiting to make a wish on the forever elusive meteoroid burning up on it’s way to earth!

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Bridge of love – Florence

 

Florence Bridge preparation

Bridge of Love in preparation

A mix of luxury and love has created the new Bridge of Love installation over the Arno River in Florence. Designed by Florentine  Claudio Nardi Architectssymbolizing the desire to give hope to people living in severe hardship. The work stands as an element of public awareness on the refugee crisis and is part of the program of events of World Refugee Day 2016.’Un Donation scheme

 

Promoted by  Luisa Via Roma fashion designer to coincide with the Pitti Uomo fashion week it has easily enticed International VIP’s and jetsetters to participate in a rather expensive Gala evening at €1000 donation per head for an Invite, followed by an  encouragement to contribute on a regular basis to the United Nations Refugee Scheme.Bridge of Love evening

 

 

‘Beauty that is ethereal but yet tangible, emotional and habitable, both to one’s body and one’s sight. White clouds lying down on the water surface, traversed by mist and profume, by the light from the very sunrise till sunset, by breeze and by sound’.(Claudio Nardi Architects)

 

Just stunning the way Italians can make tent-like constructions on plastic rafters sound so amazingly stylish and elegant!?

Bridge of Love

 

Bridge of love Design

Project design:credit Claudio Nardi Architects

The opulent Gala evening of dining and ‘Underwater love’ entertainment will leave these white clouds then open to the public for the exhibition on the ‘interpretation of water as a symbol of destruction and renewal, hope and solidarity”.

The Bridge seen during the day appears less ethereal and romantic but as the sun sets it takes on a rather heavenly appearance afloat in the midst of a glittering Arno. And while the Gala evening oozed wealth and frivolity, some of that was gleaned off to help Refugees, so in the end it has been worthwhile. Besides local Florentines always protest fiercely when the Council rents out their public monuments – ie. Ponte Vecchio,  Ponte Santa Trinita, Uffizi, Boboli Gardens for such events,  so creating a new Bridge was a better alternative.Bridge in Evening

Florence San Niccolò towerIt’s in a favourite area of mine, near Clet’s studio and just below the Piazzale Michelango at the  San Niccolò tower. One bridge down from the Ponte Vecchio.Florence Arno river

 

And while the Arno River may appear innocuous today it certainly raged out of control on the 4th November 1966, engulfing Florence. So the Bridge of Love exhibition also incorporates the memories of the flood 50 years ago.

Florence water level 1966

 


 

 

 

 

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Shop till you drop – The Mall, Florence

The Mall shopperSpring is here and time to change the wardrobe and perhaps use the excuse to go shopping at The Mall, Florence one of the most popular designer outlets. Oddly enough it’s only 5mins from where I live yet I rarely go unless my overseas visitors are curious. It’s perhaps the only time many of the shoppers ever get to see the beauty of the Tuscan countryside. With around 3 million visitors each year it is not surprising that The Mall has continued to

The Mall Prada

Prada – The Mall

expand despite the economic crisis. The little local village of Leccio has incorporated the rather trendy architectural shopping blocks, though most shoppers rarely get out of The Mall precinct, since it has more than one restaurant and café area and the bus services and many private NCC taxi drivers take customers to the door.

These days the major clientele are Asian – Chinese, Korean and Japanese who come in droves, often in their own Tour coaches.

It has been a boom for the area however giving a lot of new work opportunities both inside the outlets as well as in the new constructions and surrounding landscaped gardens in need of constant maintenance. Regular bus services and additional taxi services are also a benefit to locals. And besides when it gets gruellingly hot in Summer we can all escape there into the air conditioning!The Mall expansion

 

Other outlet areas have opened close by – the Fashion Groove home to Geox shoes, Timberland, Calzedonia and others, Dolce and Gabbana at Primo Piano and the Fashion Valley.

But it has not all been a rosy picture as the closure of Fashion Valley can testify. Murky green ponds, dirty statues heighten the dismal effect of closed shop windows now in the Fashion Valley. The only place still open is the Asian restaurant – La Fenice which obviously has a special deal going as Coaches bus groups there daily for lunch.

Still a visit to The Mall is worthwhile, even without buying, as the ‘idyllic Tuscan countryside’ as described in the brochure is very relaxing on the eyes from the rooftopNike gym shoes restaurant of Gucci. And I must admit even I succumbed to a bargain in the Nike Outlet, after all how could I go past new gym shoes for only €29.50!!

Little do visitors know that they are just below the beautiful Castle Sammezzano which we hope will one day be open to the public to visit.

Tuscan countrysidePs And besides it’s safer to be out of the city these days considering what happened when the water pipe burst in Florence near the Ponte Vecchio last Wednesday!!


 

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An Aussie in Oz

Melbourne Portsea beachAs an Aussie back in Australia, I was delighted and surprised by so many things that are still so peculiarly Aussie. Even kangaroos grazing just outside Tullamarine airport on arrival!

It was hard not to make comparisons at what some locals take for granted.

First day on the tram to the city, I Public transport staffwas confronted by a large roadworks sign and three (not one!) transport staff eager to explain the problem and the proposed bus alternative which for the inconvenience would be free of charge for the entire week to 10 days. Free!!?

“Good morning, how are we all? Good? And who’s wearing that lovely coconut perfume? Is it you dear? I’d keep using it, ’cause it smells just lovely. My name’s  George and I apologize for the roadworks and will get you into the city as soon as I can…….” That was the banter the bus driver greeted us with….can you believe it?

In Melbourne there are groups of volunteer tourist information staff in booths or literally on the street corners, with engaging smiles and ever so keen to be helpful.Tourist Information staff Even more delighted to pose for a  photo for an ‘International blog!’

While it’s hard to identify tourists as no one is traipsing around behind a guide’s flag, some tell-tale signs did appear with the queue outside the Hopetoun Tea rooms….that must be in a Lonely Planet guide book.

Kangaroo road signRoaming the countryside I relished the road signs and even saw a kangaroo near one but not in time to catch him on film.  Did manage to catch what looked like multi coloured kangaroos crouched grazing, only to find they were ‘pick your own strawberry people’ munching into scrumptious strawbs. Strawberry pickers

 

 

 

I overdid photos of local flora and fauna – galahs, cockatoos, kangaroos, kookaburras laughing, Flowering gumand oodles of gorgeous flowering gums.

 

 

Will WolseleyWineries with fantastic views, layback music from Disco Rockers, great wine and even pizza made by an Italian! Wineries with the quirkiest names – Jack Rabbit, Ten minutes by Tractor or named after the owner, Will Wolseley Winery, or simply Italian at T’Gallant so I didn’t get homesick!

T'Gallant winery

T’Gallant winery

 

 

T'Gallant winery

 

 

 

 

 

Wolseley winery

Empty beer cans being put to good use on the vine posts so the anti-bird netting doesn’t tear. A rather nifty idea. Fortunately Italy has no need for the nets or the beer cans and dare I add screw tops!

 

Australia’s equivalent of the Nike slogan ‘ you can do it! ‘ encompassed in Blundstone boots tagged ‘Let nothing hold you back’  still a great Aussie icon produced in Tasmania!  Blundstone boots

Endless beaches, magic white sand, surf  tossing kids about and tugging at my bikini as even I braved the cold water to take an exhilarating tumble. Beach umbrellas serve as cover to the hoards that spilled out of the Portsea pub on Saturday afternoon, not as a line over sun lounges on a typical Italian beach scene.Portsea pub

Sorrento

Sorrento

 

 

 

Aireys Inlet

Aireys Inlet

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Night markets boasted food stalls from the world over and International buskers crooning and swooning onlookers.Sth Melb night market

Even one of my favourite buskers Matsumoto Zoku were entertaining Melbourne yet Matsumoto Zokuagain in Bourke St.

 

 

 

 

Aussie laments of too much traffic ( 3 cars in a queue is too much??) and no place to park (there’s space for at least two Fiat 500’s and a Vespa in there!) fell on my deaf ears. Still a worry the road rage, and somewhat pig headed determination to not budge an inch, makes me feel Melbourne drivers could learn a lot from Italian drivers …..except for George!

Hiking in the wilds around the Great Ocean Road I felt very pampered by the superb designer wooden benches and eloquent wildlife information plaques, orderly paths and well equipped look out points. The so Aussie sounds of the bird life woke me in the mornings and the crashing of waves rocked me to sleep.Sorrento Surf Life savers clubAireys Inlet surfer

 

 

 

 

 

I enjoyed many of the Tennis cup matches, if only on Tv; loved to see the surfers out or at least studying the waves, and abseilers scooting across the bay or hovering above the water (was I seeing things?) on the new Flyboards.

Criket coolerBowled over to see a great Aussie combo of cricket stumps and cooler in Bunnings. Only Aussies couldVegemite think that up!  And comforted to see Vegemite is still Australian made and bought a big jar  to take home.

 

Luna ParkAussies, lap up your good life, you have it made!

What did this Aussie miss from Italy ?…..slow dining, a  good extra virgin olive oil and a bidet!!?

Melbourne city

Melbourne sunset

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Cinque Terre work horses of today and yesterday

Carrying loads on headThe Cinque Terre in the past was another world, a world of survival and subsistence where everything was done by hand and hard work. The day was organized around a farming program – vineyards, olive groves and vegetable patches supplying daily needs and firewood for heating. It was not unlike elsewhere in Italy, except for the steep rugged terrain, which made every day a strenuous one just to reach the family’s terraces. Carting grapesHard manual labour had created the terraces centuries ago with dry stone walls that if put together today would be twice the length of the Great Wall of China! Now that’s impressive!  And in fact  the reason the area is a World Heritage site under UNESCO.

The ‘work horses’ of yesterday were a very strong, resilient population handing down that tradition and their knowledge and skills from generation to generation.

At Manarola near the station and on the walkway down to the sea, old photos are displayed of the work horses of yesteryear who consistently maintained the cultivation until the late 70’s.

Today much of the terraced land is left untouched, abandoned and uncultivated with serious consequences which we all witnessed during the flood of 2011. As many of the dry stone walls collapsed, dirt and debris came down the valley blocking Vernazza under meters of mud.

Vernazza flood

Vernazza flood -Photo credit to Andrea Barietta

Now tourism has attracted so many of the locals into commercial enterprises leaving only the elderly to do what they can to maintain their land. It‘s an ongoing battle, and damn hard work with serious implications for the future of the territory. As land and housing is divided up in inheritance, some no longer know or care where their land is, let alone have any inclination to maintain it. After all it is no longer needed to provide the essentials of life when you can find all that in the local supermarket!

Today there are new work horses, an army of MINI everything to accommodate the lack of space for manoeuvre. Worksites look like Toyland with baby bulldozers and caterpillars to cart building materials, work implements and even the daily shopping to  areas which are accessible only via hundreds of steps and increasingly difficult to access. And while tourists explore the trails little do they realize that these trails were not built for them, but were the original mule trails taking locals to their land, and connecting each village. The monorail that winds it way through the vineyards today is a saving grace, instead of balancing baskets of grapes on heads or shoulders.

Helicopters have become the work mules, carting sacks of new stones to rebuild walls, new fencing and netting required against landslides and/or to keep out the wild boar, that do major damage in the area. In fact I had never seen so many helicopters in my life till I came to stay at the Cinque Terre!

Ape truck

Ape pick up truck

And then not to forget the faithful Ape pick up truck that is a constant workhorse all over Italy. Mini in size, economical to run, and seemingly indestructible. However it can only cart goods as far as the road will take it, while the rest of the trail up to the terraces needs strong arms and legs. I Electric truckhave seen one of the new Mega Electric trucks in the area, although the steep hills are a real test for it.

The ‘work horses’ of yesteryear are now just a memory, and only a few of the elderly resist, maintaining their land At work

as a hobby. There are various initiatives to help rebuild and restore the territory both volunteer and non and we continue to look for solutions to the problem.

So think about it when you are over to visit  in the Cinque Terre and enjoying the spectacular views along the trails, as while the new machinery has certainly made a big difference there is still a lot of hard manual labour going on.

And of course if you ever want to give us a hand on the Save Vernazza project just email: workwithus@savevernazza.com


 

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