VERNAZZA, ITALY - 1 JUNE 2017: A dry stone wall restored by Margherita Ermirio, a 32 years old local who has spent years abroad and is now the pillar of the battle to restore dry stone walls and preserve the terracing, is seen in Vernazza, Italy, on June 1st 2017.
She wants to show younger generations the backbone of the Cinque Terre landscape, and teach them why it’s crucial to maintain their dry stone walls, dovetailed to hold the soil behind and above.
Given its jagged coastline and manifold mountainous chains, Italy is believed to hold a record in Europe with an estimated 300,000 hectares of terracing, and 170,000 kilometers of dry stone walls— 20 times the length of the Great Wall of China.
Liguria, the narrow half-moon shaped region along the northern
Thyrrenian sea, has the highest concentration, and terracing is in
poor shape there. In Vernazza, almost half of the terracing is in
Terraced vineyards, apple and lemon groves horizontally run around the green slopes of the Cinque Terre. The stone walls have allowed such vital cultivation in the area and prevented land slides. Since the 1960s, the ancient walls have been largely
abandoned, posing hydro-geological threats to the same villages during
heavy rains and, in general, as time passes.
Since the 2012 flood - when tons of mud invaded the
village’s main road, shops and and homes, isolating the area and
taking three lives - Margherita Ermirio has agreed with the various land lords to take
over 6,000 square meters of land parcels that needed to be cleaned up,
in order to fix them and thus prevent land slides, but also to show to
the younger generations that agriculture is still possible in the