“…the eastern Ligurian Riviera between Cinque Terre and Portovenere is a cultural site of outstanding value, representing the harmonious interaction between people and nature to produce a landscape of exceptional scenic quality that illustrates a traditional way of life that has existed for a thousand years and continues to play an important socio-economic role in the life of the community.” (whc.unesco.org)
Since the abandonment of agricultural practices, particularly in the last fifty years due to changing economic conditions and the rapid depopulation of Cinque Terre, the land has begun to go back to what it once was before the construction of the terraces; there has been a build-up of soil over the terraces, and trees have grown back where there once were grapes. Along with this, there has been an increase of hydrogeological instability, meaning that there has been a significant rise in the number of landslides and terraced walls collapsing.
The villages of Vernazza and Monterosso were partially destroyed by mudslides only a few years ago, for the risk of hydrogeological instability is a phenomenon that is unfortunately omnipresent in the entire state of Liguria. This risk takes on an extraordinary revelance to the inhabitants of our villages where a landslide can threaten our very existence. This is definitely the case for Manarola where the once totally cultivated Collora hill (made famous worldwide by the large illuminated nativity scene created by Mario Andreoli) is now in a state of deterioration and is progressively getting worse due to fewer people cultivating and maintaining our terraced stone walls. In fact, in many places the stone walls are beginning to collapse or are threatening to collapse. The community of Manarola has felt impelled to create a FOUNDATION named the Amphitheater of the Giants whose sole purpose is the collection of funds to recover and rebuild our terraces in our valley.
The primary purpose of mitigating the risk of landslides for the inhabitants of Manarola dovetails perfectly into the need to save a piece of our land of extraordinary beauty where one can walk on paths overlooking the sea. With just one look, people understand how unique this path really is, created by the people of Cinque Terre hundreds of years ago who understood the delicate equillibrium between humanity and the sea. In Cinque Terre, this equillibrium has found its ultimate expression.