I was in Vernazza last May, updating the Cinque Terre chapters of my Italy guidebook. At 10:00 one night, after a long day of research, I enjoyed wandering through this magical town, playing with my iPhone video camera. Watching this now, after the deluge, I'm struck by the delicate nature of the town's main drag and how it was so lovingly tended. Reviewing this, I see I walked the route of the angry river of mud. Vernazza was hit hardest in the Cinque Terre — in part, I imagine, because the town is designed like a funnel with a narrow pinch at the bottom of the downhill-sloping main street just before it opens up at the harbor. This narrow point would have caused the torrent to back up, burying the town above it in a destructive mudflow. I never could have imagined that the street I was walking on would, just a few months later, be under 6 to 12 feet of mud and rocks. That night, it was pristine Vernazza. No mid-day tourist mobs — just a stray cat, the village wanderer, and the boys at the restaurant winding up a hard day of serving great food. At the end of my stroll, Chef Claudio at Gambero Rosso joins me in marveling at how Vernazza is indeed "molto bella". Then he says ciao and grazie...sending his best wishes to all the Americans who keep this town employed. As the rubble from last week's heartbreaking disaster is being cleared away, we look forward to doing that again.
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