When a biblical storm rolled across the Cinque Terre, northwest Italy’s string of five historic coastal villages, last October, the floods carried fishing boats all the way to Morocco—and almost wiped the prettiest village, Vernazza, off the map. The silver lining would be easy to miss, but the town has somehow found it: Resilient Vernazza has reinvented itself with the help of architect Richard Rogers. Townspeople began by repaving the central Piazza G. Marconi with ancient stones, reinforcing the main corso, and creating public sitting ­areas. They then moved on to restoring hiking trails (almost all have reopened), rebuilding a beach by the harbor that had eroded in the 1970s, and revamping formerly sodden businesses: Gianni Franzi is serving just-caught anchovies in the new central square (entrées from $10), and La Cantina Molo’s Alberto Basso is involved in replanting the trees used to make the Cinque Terre olive oils sold in his redone shop (Via Visconti 27). The best place to stay is La Malà, perched above the town, with sweeping views of the sea (doubles from $208). We caught up with Michele Lilley, co-founder of Save Vernazza ONLUS, Ruth Manifredi, the organization’s vice president, and Michele Sherman, the executive director, to find out what it was like just after the disaster—and what the future of the village looks like.

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