Grape harvest and wine festivals

Vernazza grape pickingIt’s that time of year again and the intoxicating bouquet of squashed grapes lingers in the air. Pickers complain of back aches yet sport a satisfied grin when the picking is all done.
In the Cinque Terre the harvest is over and most managed to get it done before a few stormy days menaced the area. But then if they avoided damage from the weather there were still some disgruntled comments of how wild boar had crashed through wire fences and run amok amongst the vines, a never ending battle.


Save Vernazza harnessed the help of its Busabout tourists who worked hard assisting local landowners, having fun and at times eating more grapes than what they put into crates, but no one was really fussed. ( Photo credits: Save Vernazza)

Cinque Terre Social Cellar


Many landowners produce only a ‘damigiana’ demijohn from a few strips of terraced land which they keep for themselves, while others sell to the local Agricultural Cooperative who readily produce the Cinque Terre white wine from a mix of bosco, alberola, and vermentino grapes.


Or leave the grapes to dry until November to produce the sciacchetrà desert wine, which slips down very easily after dinner.

In Tuscany the grape harvest continues under an Autumn sun and a lazy sky.

Cities and  villages celebrate with wine festivals, entertaining locals and tourists with elaborate processions, ornate costumes and traditional customs, and of course lots of wine to add even more gaiety to the day. In Florence the traditional ‘crazy‘ wine cart ‘carro matto’ of raffia Italian wine cartcoated flasks is slowly drawn along the main street by patient bullocks with proud locals from the Chianti Rufina area keeping a watchful eye on its stability as it leans and lurches rather precariously. Not a bottle lost or a drop of wine spilled!


Florence wine festival


So reassuring to see the timeless Festivals and the younger generations now taking on the ceremonial roles, ensuring that the age old customs and traditions continue in a festive spirit.

We look forward to the new drop….Cin cin!Flat bead with grapes and  as always my favourite ‘schiacciata all’uva’ – flat bread with grapes!Florence wine festival


Photo credit for Wine festival: Angela Magnelli











Even Paradise needs a Gardener!


Save Vernazza TeamSave Vernazza voluntourism project has started for another season in the Cinque Terre with 50 Busabout guides and drivers spending a morning getting their hands dirty and learning about the project so they can pass on the information to their clients.



It’s the Fourth Season of the “Turisti nei Cian” project which over the past 3 years:

  • 450 travellers joined 50+ excursions to provide direct assistance to save Vernazza’s fragile territory and to promote sustainable tourism.
  • 20 different landowners were helped to rebuild terracing and stonewalls (for which Vernazza and the Cinque Terre have been recognized as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO), restore olive groves, cultivate vineyards and harvest grapes.
  • Busabout guests donated over €6.600 to assist with Save Vernazza’s restoration and preservation efforts, including building five dry stonewalls and restoring land above the train station (to prevent further landslides onto the tracks).

Busabout Tour managers

While still a drop in the ocean in restoring damaged land after the 2011 flood, recuperating abandoned land terraces, or  recovering olive groves, the project has made a significant contribution to the community.Busabout Tour manager






Landowners were already smiling as they recounted the first day’s experience, as there is nothing better than being surrounded by enthusiastic young people giving a helping hand and enjoying the experience.

The Busabout staff  felt satisfied and at the end of the morning enjoyed a well earned lunch and laugh together.

The agency is part of the Treadright Foundation which is committed to ‘Sustainable Tourism, to keep this world beautiful!’


So if you are over this way and want to participate, check the calendar here and contact Save Vernazza – Irene di Martino project manager and sign up.    Email :   or  Whatsapp: +39 3485306953

Save VernazzaI guarantee you will find it a rewarding experience, the guides are young locals, the farmers all with a good story to tell and the lunch is super. You don’t have to be a Busabout client to participate in the Voluntourism project  and your contribution (€ 19) for the morning’s work and lunch covers equipment and expenses for the day. It is hard work and often hot so be prepared, but it will get you away from the madding crowds and give you an insight into the real community of Vernazza.

And as Save Vernazza’s motto says: ‘Even paradise needs a gardener!’


Save Vernazza – voluntourism project is ready to go again

Save Vernazza, non profit organisation, is ready to start its voluntourism program again and this year it includes a new activity – a wine and food tasting at sunset on a Save Vernazzafabulous terrace overlooking the beach. So for those who don’t feel like doing the hard work in the vineyards and olive groves, you can still donate to Save Vernazza by tasting local food and wine specialities while hearing all about them from the wine producers themselves…..of course there’s no stopping you doing both activities!

We had a test run with all the guides and coach drivers from the Busabout agency with whom we had started the voluntourism project last year – ‘Turisti nei Cheo wine producerCian’ (Tourists in the fields). First we spoilt them with the wine and Save Vernazza wine tastingfood event with Bartolo from Cheo winery, presenting 2 of his white wines, 1 red of which he is very proud and topping the evening off with the famous sweet wine – sciacchetra’.

Irene, our local bilingual guide and trained sommelier,  assisted and will be essential with some of the other wine producers whose English is not as fluent. It was an experience for the Busabout guides and drivers to learn about the wine making traditions, the difficulties in cultivating vineyards on terraces, the added benefit of extra sunlight reflected from the sea, the best wine to go with the local specialties like farinata, rice pie, and anchovies and……you must come along to hear the rest!

Food preparationGianni Franzi has kindly offered their terrace for the event, normally reserved for their hotel guests only, and I guarantee it will take your breath away……if not the steps leading up to it will!

Busabout Vernazza The  next morning at 7.30am we regrouped for the Turisti nei Cian project, helping landowners rebuild and restore stone walls and general maintenance in their vineyards and olive groves. It’s not easy work, just getting to the properties along the narrow trails is a hike in itself, but then these were a group of kids who had energy to spend and enthusiasm plus.



Busabout guidesBusabout drivers





Before starting a brief explanation about Save Vernazza and the importance of the work to locals, the critical state of the territory behind the village and a big thank you, as every helping hand is useful in this little community.Volunteers Cheo winery

Voluntourism Vernazza Cheo winery needed help in rebuilding their dry stone wall that had collapsed during the 2011 flood, Saverio needed  to weed amongst his vines, and Pensa had to shift rocks to begin a new stone wall. So armed with heavy duty gloves, buckets, picks and shovels and lots of water we set off for our various locations.Voluntourism


View VernazzaAnd after the hard work, a well earned picnic lunch of local specialities and wine of course! Lunch for Volunteer











So do join us in Vernazza, Cinque Terre, between now and October. The wine and food evening runs once a week, while helping in the vineyards runs twice a week and you don’t have to be a Busabout client to join in.

With volunteersSave Vernazza projects

For specific dates and bookings Save Vernazza project bookings


I look forward to seeing you here!