18 years ago, PB finished business school in Chicago and we packed our bags for a 7 week European adventure. During parts of the journey we had family and friends meet up with us. So many fun trip memories. I refer to this time period of our marriage (pre-kids, living in Chicago and the nomadic trip to follow) as the "salad days". Light, carefree, youthful, inexperienced- and it felt so right. One location of that long-ago trip, offers my mind a vivid snapshot of what the "salad days" looked and felt like- Vernazza, Italy.
Think pre cell phones, caveman email, non-existent social media, hotel reservations made by a phone call or fax and an Italian seaside village barely brushed by tourists. We were visiting the Italian Cinque Terre area (5 centuries old seaside villages strung together by rugged walking paths) for a few nights by word of mouth. We camped out in the unairconditioned attic rooms of Albergo Barbara in Vernazza with Joe and Marilyn. We hiked along the Ligurian sea, weaving through vineyards to visit the neighboring villages. It was enchanting and like magic the homemade focaccia and lemon granitas kept us fueled.
In the middle of my then and now, a devastating mudslide hit the village of Vernazza on October 25, 2011. Thirteen feet of mud slid down the hills created by heavy rains. The mud filled every crevice. Paralyzing heartache. I remember hearing the news. You can find video footage from it. Slowly over time, the town cleaned, rebuilt and reopened. They have many photos throughout the shops and train station. There's still debris and even rusted metals scattered along what's now named, "the new beach". It's mildly barricaded off, but one waiter asked if I went there to look after we had a conversation about life in Vernazza pre-muslide. Intrigued, the kids and I climbed trough the tunnel and climbed around for a few minutes before the sensation of feeling unsafe hit all of us.
I am certain that I've always dreamed of going back. Living in Nice placed me within close proximity. So, I emailed the same hotel. Got a 2 night reservation for 2 rooms- one room in the attic and the other for the girls and me. We took an easy 4 hour multi train journey on Thursday and hiked all day on Friday. We blazed 10 miles of coastal trail fueled on cappuccinos, focaccia and lemon granitas. Our group was blissfully happy. Carefree and breathing fresh air- it felt so right. My hippie child (I won't use names) was in her own youthful world. She was barefoot, dirty, making homemade bows and arrows, and spears for fishing. It quickly became a happy place for all of us and I am satisfied knowing that they now have the same love for Vernazza planted in them.
Interestingly, there's been an active American expat group helping with the restoration projects. Have a look if you're interested http://savevernazza.com/
Right in the center of the first photo, you can see the attic rooms and our room with the green shutters opened.