Muddy Waters: a guest post from a FutureLearner in Genoa

Earlier this month, severe flooding hit the Italian city of Genoa. Sharon Walker – a translator and English teacher from the UK, now living in the area – wrote an article about it for our “Introduction to Journalism” course, which she’s taking to fulfil a long-held ambition to study journalism.

Having received positive feedback from both educators and learners, the article is published in full below. She says: “It has been such an uplifting experience. I have had some really encouraging comments from other students and that’s been wonderful.”

Muddy Waters

by Sharon Walker

Flooding in Genoa is the subject of a feature article by FutureLearner, Sharon

Last week Max Saveri, a Genoese firefighter, was celebrating his 48th birthday. This week he’s been saving lives in the mud.

Late on Thursday, 9 October 2014, Genoa was submerged in a dark, icy slush as the Bisagno River burst its banks. Everything in its path was carried away; motorcycles, shop-doors, cars and people. Antonio Campanella, 57, lost his life. The first on the scene were firefighters.

Max is a deep-voiced, family man. Passionate about football and tatoos. Proud to be Genoese. Dedicated to his job and his city. The news hits him hard. His cousin, Lauretta (Little Laura), was killed in the floods of 1993. Max says angrily: “Over 21 years have passed and nothing has changed.”

Genoa flooded in: 1970, 1992, 1993 and 2011. Funding was approved for reinforcement work on the river banks. It never began. Red-tape blocked the money. Plans were made and thrown away. Nothing changed. The city known as “La Superba” (The Proud One) was again under thick, stinking mud.

So what do these outraged people do? They start shovelling. Thousands arrive, many of them students. Known as “Angeli del fango” (mud angels), they work relentlessly.

Max is there every day. Dragging people from mud-immersed vehicles. Draining water from houses and shops. Tirelessly shovelling mud and rotting debris. On Facebook he thanks those offering coffee, roast chickens and focaccia bread. He’s proud when Genoa CFC footballer, Luca Antonini, joins the mud angels. Strongly against racism, he posts photos of “Angeli” from Senegal, Ecuador and Albania.

Prime Minister, Matteo Renzi, and Liguria’s Governor, Claudio Burlando, promise to free funds. The Genoese people are sceptical.

Thank you messages arrive every day for Max and his colleagues. So does he consider himself a hero? He says: “No, it’s my job.” In dialect he tells me: “Mi son nasciû Zeneise e… no ghe mòllo!” – “I was born Genoese and… I’m not giving up!”

You can join “Introduction to Journalism” until 9 November or read an article from another learner on the course: “David” by Shawn Basheer. Alternatively, you can see similar courses starting soon in our Creative Arts & Media category.

Category Using FutureLearn

Comments (22)


  • Andres Franco

    It’s a very good story, very dynamic while keeping on track of the main subject. Congratulations!

    I hope to learn a little of journalism by taking the course at Future Learn.

  • Paul Hopkins

    Yet another flood story – and not near here. But blending elements of the story with the personal angle – Max – gives it much greater appeal. A.good starting point for our six weeks.

  • Ingrid Valdés

    I enjoyed this article. Short, precise and direct. Congratulations and continue you dream!!

  • moammed

    feeling like i am watching it right before my eyes>

  • Arthur Francis

    Excellent piece of journalism – Can almost smell the stench of mud and dying people and feel the raw anger of the firefighter Max Saveri facing his own personal hell and futility of the battle against government red tape and neglect to address a recurring problem over 21 years.

  • folarin

    feeling like i am watching it right before my eyes. hope to be a good writer like this after my future learning program. thanks Sharon.

  • Donna Fuerst

    Really impressive and moving. Am grateful to have the opportunity to read this article. Well done .Look Forward to learning more from good writers like you. Sharon!

  • True Religion Kids

    Tammy this a wonderful blog submit! It is so nice when persons appreciate all that you do.
    True Religion Kids

  • jake

    brilliant article, a lot of emotion around the people involved, i really enjoyed it and im hoping to do something in journalism my self some day so this is a good landmark to set my standards too, thank you so much 🙂

  • sonia

    I agree it was a winner of article 🙂 he did power full lead through the end, touchy.

    firefighters, railway porter and a number of unsung heroic job also. coincidence, today is a national Father’s Day at my place. save daddy! #goodjob

  • Miriam Rudge

    Incredible work Sharon! I particularly like that you quoted in dialect in the closing before translating to English. 🙂

    • Sharon

      Thank you so much Miriam. It’s very kind of you. 😉

  • Barbara

    Thanks :o)

    A Genoese FutureLearner

    • Sharon

      I enjoyed writing it Barbara. Unfortunately, we in Chiavari are now in Muddy Waters.

  • Pat Harrison

    what lovely article – restores your faith in human nature

    • Sharon

      Thanks Pat. I’m glad you enjoyed it. And, yes, the community spirit was incredible.

  • Rene

    Well done!!!

    Excellent article. I look forward to reading more articles.

    • sharon walker

      Thanks Rene. So nice to receive so much support!

  • Steve Johnson

    Very well written, could have been in any newspaper, also very thought provoking.

    • sharon walker

      Thank you so much Steve. Cheers!

  • marialisa

    A most touching article written in a perfect discription of what the people of Genoa went through and how their power of helping each other in their disaster is discribed so well by Sharon…..

    • sharon walker

      When he read the article, Max was really proud, but said: “It could have been written about any one of my colleagues.”