Twelve years on from the Abruzzo earthquake and the past is still as much a part of the present. Thinking of all those lost, driven away, who stayed, the many still unable to return to their homes and all whose lives it changed. With love con affetto agli Abruzzese. Forte e gentile. From the other side of the world, you are still thought of. 💛
Abruzzo earthquake, 3.32am, 6th April, 2009.
* According to Primo Levi (1853–1917), ‘forte e gentile’ – strong and kind, best described the beauty of Abruzzo and the character of its people. It has since become the motto of the region and its inhabitants.
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 – so many of the places that 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
Around 800 years ago, Benedictine workers built this structure in Fossa on top of a 9th century AD Roman-Byzantine temple. And that was already on top of a crypt where for centuries BC and up until 391 AD, the Vestini tribe honoured Vesta (pagan goddess of hearth, home and family).
It’s survived more than 17 earthquakes over many centuries as well as WW2 bombings close by.
While humble outside, painted inside its walls is some of the oldest, most precious art in Abruzzo. Gothic-Byzantine frescoes that depict scenes like the last judgment (said to have inspired Dante to later write the Divine Comedy after he visited Fossa in 1294) and the pagan agrarian calendar so central to a rural community and to show stories for those not fortunate to learn to read.
Recently it reopened, a decade on from its damage after the 2009 earthquake. Beliefs aside, it’s significant to see its art restored, not just for those at present but for generations to come, for it’s a story of the area’s people and even the tiniest villages high in the mountains have their own potent stories.
(Santa Maria di Cryptas, Fossa, Abruzzo.)
On the anniversary of the 2009 Abruzzo earthquake today, I’m thinking of the 309 people who lost their lives and the many thousands who continue to reside in temporary housing seven years on.
This recent article from the Irish Times sheds some light on where reconstruction efforts in L’Aquila currently stand…
Seven years on, shadow of earthquake still hangs over L’Aquila.
As well as the damage to the Abruzzo capital, many surrounding small towns also continue to be affected in the aftermath including the villages where my family comes from and the house that has belonged to the family for generations. Many of these once lively villages remain almost ghost towns while it is assumed they have been rebuilt.
Stiamo pensando di tutti voi.