10 years after the L’Aquila Earthquake, the city and the surrounding small towns and villages within L’Aquila and Teramo mourn 309 victims, the loss of their family homes, their neighbourhood, for many their ancestral church and a future different from one they had ever imagined before that fateful clash of the African and Eurasian plates on the 6th April 2009.
This extract is taken from Pietre di pane, an anthropology of remaining by Vito Teti, a Professor of Cultural Anthropology at the University of Calabria. It was written about the depopulation of Italy’s small towns and cities but much could be applied post earthquake and our interpretation of a holiday or excursion in Abruzzo.
Restanza: The Courage of Those who Remain
“It takes an act of courage to accept that one’s land does not offer possibilities for the future and leave it . But we also need courage – let’s say gall – despite everything to decide to stay – or come back – and try to change things even when the system does not help.”
“Once there was the sacrifice of the emigrant and now there is the sacrifice of those who remain. A novelty in regard to the past, because previously out of necessity there was a tendency to escape from an environment that was considered hostile, closed and without opportunities. Today, the myth of elsewhere as a paradise is over. The ethics of staying can be seen as a bet, a willingness to get involved and to welcome those coming from outside. We now experience the situation of our fathers and grandparents in reverse. Once we left, today we are the ones who must welcome. Young people feel that there may be new opportunities, other models and lifestyles, and that these places can be made livable.”
“Regeneration requires dialogue, conviviality, communities to be leaders of proactive and sustainable change, a testimony in belonging to one’s own land.”
Visitors to Abruzzo should match the courage of the remainers when they plan their visit and be receptive to changes the earthquake brought with it; holidays that embrace medieval towns and the scrummy local food have their heart in the local people. Watch the award winning film ‘Io prometto – I promise’ that came out in 2018 that chronicled 4 women whose lives were turned upside down by the earthquake, how they manage to keep the dialogue going, and are ongoing leaders in proactive change as they fight for their livelihoods and communities not to be swept under the carpet. You can download the film securely here from Open DDB, the European Production Network.
Don’t avoid visiting the ancient city of L’Aquila or any small northern village in the province of Teramo that looked historically interesting but which is not fully restored. Some of the reconstruction and new construction may still be a work in progress, much too slow for many, but there is change and local people are making it happen. Sharing your visit on social media is one way of showing the world these areas are still open, changed but still offering plenty of great reasons to visit, as Rose’s visit to Fano Adriano shows.
There are many new projects, as well as famous ancient businesses, and iconic buildings re-opening that are worthy of a visit if you are willing and can see past scaffolding, bracing and sometimes a pile of rubble; their setting still remains nestled within the beautiful Gran Sasso mountains. Make part of your holiday in Abruzzo the reward of enjoying the enormous welcome and appreciation shown from a kindred spirit who is working hard to bring their community and smart city back to life.