The ghost town after the earthquake…


This is the most recent footage of Fossa since the Abruzzo earthquake of 2009. It is called, ‘Town Disappeared Overnight’ by Broken Window Theory and shows the ghost town that it tragically is today. I admit, I did find it hard to watch at times – the place where generations of my family lived for centuries and many parts of the village where I’ve walked and lived and of course written about in both my books. It gave me goosebumps to see and I felt bewildered, sad, captivated and protective all at once. For this is not just a curiosity, it is where people’s lives were lost and for others where life, as they knew it, ended.

I look at the streets overgrown and neglected and at the same time I see in my mind back when they were well-kept and clean and full of people, cats, dogs, cars and vespas. Incredibly, at 18 minutes into this 20 minute footage, my family’s house with its little balcony fills the screen. It is deceptive because from that side wall the destruction inside the house is concealed. If you have any link to Abruzzo, I warn that this footage may be hard to watch as those filming go right into the most intimate parts of homes, which may just happen to be yours or of someone you know. That said, the young men filming have done so with respect, have only entered houses where the doors were already open and have concealed the name and whereabouts of the village. (Considering my own family’s house is one of those looted since the earthquake, I appreciate this.) By the end, they also appear to be overwhelmed by all they’ve seen.

I’ve always held hope to return to the village and my family’s house even if it is still a ghost town. However, most of all, I hope to see it and the other towns affected by the 2009 earthquake once again as they were. Vibrant, full of people of all ages, cooking aromas, vespas going past, cats asleep in doorways, women shelling peas, tvs blaring, kids playing football in the piazza, birds chirruping among the lanes and the church bell clanging, everything that was beautiful and glorious about Italian village life. xx

To watch footage… click here

For more about Fossa, how it once was and the earthquake…

Mezza Italiana

Joe’s Fruit Shop and Milk Bar


Filed under inspiration + history, italy

12 responses to “The ghost town after the earthquake…

  1. Brian

    Thanks for providing this insight Zoe. It raises the heartache of personal and inter-generational memory with the integral and un-avoidable relationship of tangibility in the process. Hauntingly beautiful and soulfully sad at the same time. Brian

    • Hello Brian, yes, I found myself ricocheting through many different emotions while watching this. It is true, one one level it is incredibly sad and yet, on another, so beautiful in a curious way. I found myself thinking I was glad my Nonno wasn’t alive to see what had happened to his beloved Fossa, but then, his causing me to come to love it too elicited in me such similar emotions he may have felt. Zoe x

  2. Glenn Ingersoll

    My family, too, is from Fossa. My grandparents on my mother’s side were born in Fossa and emigrated to the United States. Not long ago I visited Fossa, found family, and walked the very streets depicted in the video. I saw the abandoned house of my great grandfather. Molto triste.

    • Hi Glenn, as well as those who emigrated to Australia, I also have relatives from Fossa who emigrated to the United States, perhaps at a similar time to your grandparents! From what I know, they ended up in New York and Pennsylvania.
      It is indeed quite an experience to walk through Fossa as it is now and I imagine how it must have been to see the abandoned house of your bisnonno. So many emotions. They’ve rebuilt the town several times over the centuries after earthquakes, am holding onto hope they will do so again. Warmest wishes, Zoe x

  3. Luciano Di Marco

    Gut wrenching. My father’s family are all from there Zoe , as are my in-laws. I’m sure their names will ring a bell with you , Eligio Di Marco , Domenico Mariani and Sofia Di Marco . Thanks Zoe

    • Hi Luciano, yes, it’s hard to comprehend it is the same vibrant village that we know so well! I hold hope that it will come to be so again, one day. (And knowing the Di Marco surname well in Fossa, it’s possible that we may even be distantly related in some way at a guess!) Tante belle cose, Zoe x

  4. Piero De Amicis

    Totally devastating , my father’s family home was totally destroyed. I lived there as we travelled through Italy, what a wonderfull place it was.
    Everyone either knew or wanted to know you. Had some great times on the piazza.

    • I’m truly sorry to hear about your father’s family home, Piero, yes, my family’s home remains uninhabitable since the earthquake, perhaps unlikely to ever be able to be repaired. You are right, it was such a wonderful place with a really beautiful community of people. Like you, I had some great times there and of course, wrote about them. I never could have imagined what would later unfold with the earthquake. Gentile auguri, Zoe x

  5. Piero

    Thanks for those lovely words, my zio and zia also from Fossa are laid to rest beside your relatives at a Melbourne cemetery.

  6. James Gillespie

    I have just finished your book Mezzo Italiano, and I apologise for the long comment. It was handed to me to read from my partner’s family who’s farther comes from Vasto, and generations back, San Buono in Abruzzo. I enjoyed your book and it took me on a journey through Abruzzo, meeting the people and especially living in Fossa. I was so shocked after finishing the book and researching via the internet that the town still remains a ghost town. It is so sad, all that history, connection and community just gone. I hope one day you get back to Fossa and find it slowly coming back together. I hope your family house is mended and walls repaired, and just like us as human beings, scars and broken bones are a part of our individual history but the strands for dna are deep.

    • Hello James, it is lovely to receive your message – thank you. Vasto and San Buono are both lovely locations in Abruzzo and hill towns like Fossa too. Yes, unfortunately Fossa largely remains a ghost town, which is very difficult for all those with a connection to it, especially it’s permanent residents who haven’t been able to return. I feel for them very much. And my family’s house remains as it was the day of the earthquake since it is in the ‘red zone’, and added to it’s injuries, looters broke in at one point, which felt hard.
      It’s quite beautiful how you spoke of the house being mended, of scars and broken bones and history and what runs deep. That will stay with me – thank you. I’m currently working on another book and just happened to be writing this week about those connections through DNA and how you may feel familiar and connected to a place you may never have been before due to ancestors having lived there for centuries. Some very interesting science starting to emerge.
      Thank you again for your perceptive message, much appreciated. Zoe xx

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