The Men on the Mountain

When we discuss land restoration in Manarola, we recognize that it’s much easier to talk about these projects than to physically get up and do the hard-manual labor it takes to bring such plans to fruition.

Economic support of the foundation’s members, local businesses, and event donations are all essential in carrying out this noble project; however, money is not enough. These projects, which protect and ensure the survival of Manarola, are simply nothing without the working hands, strength, dedication, and eagerness to learn, which are all shown by the men who wake up five days a week to do the tough job.

However, who are these men? They are doing a wonderful endeavor for the village, and yet we know next to nothing about them. Why did they come here? Are they happy to do this job? Do they want to be here? Do they know they are appreciated? Are they even appreciated at all?

The Manarola Foundation would like to answer these questions by introducing these men through a series of articles during the next few weeks. In this way, the workers, who are all African refugees, step out of the shadows for the very first time. They are not only refugees, but they have families, feelings, and a story to tell.

The training program is organized through a collaboration between The Manarola Foundation, Caritas Diocesana, La Spezia, Sarzana, Brugnato, Cinque Terre National Park Foundation, Carispezia and the Aesseffe Agenzia Servizi Formativi. This union gives life to the training program offered to refugees such as these men in need of jobs, purpose, and a livelihood. It teaches them how to restore land and build dry stone walls, with the help of local farmers, which might later lead to more job opportunities.

Giancarlo Celano, the Manarola Foundation dry-wall instructor and project manager, has fostered a fatherly relationship with each of the men. Many of them feel like Giancarlo’s son, and in turn, Giancarlo has the patience of a father while teaching the men building techniques and encouraging them along the way. He shows them how to clear wild terrain, how to rebuild a dry-stone wall and how to use specific tools. This knowledge is invaluable since only a few people in Giancarlo’s generation still know how to construct these terrace walls which are vital to Manarola. Although unaware of the fact, Giancarlo has also taught these men how to genuinely love this unique land and take pride in it. Many of them feel immense gratitude for so many reasons beyond the opportunity to work. It is here, on the mountainside of Manarola, that we find a pure and simple example of “integration” that we feel deserves to be told.


So, before we continue, we want to make one thing clear. These men are not looking to be in the spotlight. We will not share their names; nor will we share every detail about their journey that got them here. We merely want to share a part of their story in appreciation for their hard work to make not only their lives better but Manarola better.