Posted on April 6, 2009
3:32 am, Rome
Che palle, the neighbors bought a damn rocking chair to calm their six-month-old and they are going nuts, I thought as I woke from a bad dream about a boat. Then the windows began to flap furiously, remind me of the Santa Anna winds. Next thing I know, I was shaking the Professor and shouting, “earthquake, terremoto, the windows. . .” The Professor rolled over. Note: The Professor has been known to sleep through Mini-E nightmares and Baby X’s anger fits.
Terremoto? I texted my cousin who called me back immediately. “Sono terrorizzata. . . I’m standing in the doorframe in my underwear with my cat. I’m glad you felt it too.”
I did. It was like being on a boat in choppy weather, except I was in my bed and it wasn’t moving. The palazzo was. When it stopped, it was a typical post tremor scene– shrill car alarms and some lingerers chatting outside. Just as I’ve done in Los Angeles, I waited, relaxed and went back to bed, this time, waking up to learn that Abruzzo had been devastated.
Two summers ago, Charlotte, the husbands and I drove around the medieval hill towns of Abruzzo, stopping on the way at L’Aquila for the Fontana delle 99 Canelle (spouts), and torrone. The capital city of the region was quiet, clean and baroquely pretty. We only stayed for a few hours as our goal was to visit as many of the small borghi as we could, like Santo Stefano in Sessanio and Rocca Calascio. In the most unjust summarization, Abruzzo’s hills are peaked with medieval towns that look at each other across the hills. These towns are charming and lonely, population is leaving or dying out, and in some cases like Rocca Calascio, simply uninhabited.
On one of the hottest August days in Rome, we wore sweaters in the hills. We ate almonds from the trees, caught white flashes of an Abruzzese sheep dog running through the streets, tasted the region’s best honeys and stumbled across a summer barbecue, an annual meeting for thousands of families, along with shepherds and sheep. I fell in love with the mountainous part the region (there is also a lovely coastline) and after reading today’s news, I am far more shaken by the aftermath in Abruzzo (nearly one hundred people dead in less than 24 hours and 15,000 people homeless) than I was by the swaying of my palazzo. As I write this al volo, I found this flickr group, Bell’Abruzzo, dedicated to the beautiful towns, seaside, valley and hilltop. Please do what you can.