Like the 10km tunnel that bores through the Gran Sasso Massif from L’Aquila to Teramo the 2009 earthquake passed under the Corno Grande, rearing up through the substrata to inflict destruction on the ancient capital of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, Tossicia. With a flick of its tail it tore up to the little farm village of Bascianella, 49kms east of the epicentre. Its forked tongue tore up the thick old walls of our next door neighbour’s house, it slipped round our little alley’s corner and drove its talons hard into the foundations and walls of our vicini, 3 doors along. It’s a word I love in Italian, “vicini”, for neighbour; everyone close is your neighbour here. Its spines dug hard into the church, silencing its bells making it unusable for the villagers to gather, celebrate, commiserate and remember just like their forebears 2 centuries ago. Not too devastating on the scale of what happened to the small villages around the epicentre of the earthquake, but when a village comprises just 12 families, it is quite a toll.
Hand-tied is a good way to describe the after effects of an earthquake. Although you feel incredibly lucky that your house is still standing, you can never be too far removed from someone who physically suffered. Part of Abruzzo’s charm in being one of the least populated regions of Europe means that, sooner or later, you’re touched even indirectly by another’s misfortune.
Small family businesses close down due to lack of demand; the whirr of hope begins to fade and is replaced by the notion that L’Aquila and its surrounding villages are the 21st century’s Pompeii. It may be glorious to look at the ruins of antiquity, but watching over modern day ones with their timeless date of reconstruction and accompanied by a government drone of “one day soon” are less of an attraction.
Families who previously sold or gave their children family houses that have been handed down generation after generation are caught short in what they can gift to their children (the pastel coloured pref-fabs don’t work that way). Family collateral is tied like hands with a reconstruction date that, unlike so many of the affected buildings, is never truly concrete or built upon reliable foundations. It’s hindered by scams and corruption. Though the fraud is nothing close to the magnitude of the Italian Irpinia Earthquake when only ¼ of the $40 billion raised was spent on reconstruction, it does slow everything down.
People look to blame and the regional & national governments spend much needed funds on prosecuting scientists who didn’t foretell the earthquake. Crafty deflections are an art-form which seem to mask the reality of the fallout of the L’Aquila earthquake 3 years on.
In the middle of my maternity leave Helen Free came up with an initial idea of a not-for-profit ‘learn to blog’ workshop. ‘Hands tied’ became ‘Let’s Blog Abruzzo’ and a blogger conference to show that, although the region doesn’t have infinity ADSL, the digital divide grows less and the region could host a conference that would attract food, wine, travel and business bloggers. Their arrival would aid local businesses by facilitating networking , provide real column inches and links in praise of artisan foods, incredible wines and a landscape unlike Berlusconi’s G8 feast extravaganza to political journalists.
It felt right to actively promote one of Italy’s most ruggedly beautiful regions and its simple yet emotive cuisine beyond writing about it on my own blog LifeinAbruzzo. It is a simple way to help my vicini.
Let’s Blog Abruzzo can’t rebuild or restore houses directly but it can help facilitate demand and help renew tourist interest in the region to keep businesses and jobs open, at the same time raising funds for two community causes that in turn benefit both locals and tourists. Its landscapes, people, food and traditions fascinated Henri Cartier Bresson, M.C. Escher and Edward Lear; it’s time to discover what the fuss was about.
This post was originally written for blogAway - NGO workshops that explore, taste optimise