Between Christmas and New Year of 2011 we were in Abruzzo. We were on vacation in an enchanted place, the Sextantio Albergo Diffuso in Santo Stefano di Sessanio. In three, I, Michele and Arturo, wanted to enjoy the romantic atmosphere of the place and its surroundings and we had no intention to grieve with a trip to L’Aquila, devastated by an earthquake just two and a half years before.
We had never visited and did not know its now, mortally wounded. Then something changed. At the reception they found out that we both work in the world of communication and they have explicitly asked us to go to L’Aquila, to document the situation, to talk about it…
L’Aquila is silent, has no voice and silence kills
L’Aquila is silent, has no voice and silence kills more than all the city of Abruzzo, more than all the problems that still today, after more than seven years after the torment and not allow it to rise again. So, in a beautiful sunny day, we headed to L’Aquila. Because to understand you have to go all out to see its, L’Aquila.
It was given us an empty city, quiet, but not lifeless. The historic center of the city, after many years after the earthquake that has razed to the ground, is still propped up, and for many areas, off limits. A ghost town that never ceases to hope to, one day not too far away, live again. But it hurts to know that there is still quite firm. We arrived in the morning and we were immediately struck by the modern buildings of the area, many still standing, but gutted as if they were bombed. The glassless windows, wide eyes on the empty streets and squares…
Then, in the historic center, a bit ‘of life, among the soldiers who guard the gates of the so-called red zone, where the houses and crumbling buildings do not allow access. One of the first shops to reopen its doors, was the historian of Nurzia sisters cafe, along with a few other shops in Via del Carmine, the Bar Centrale and the Cantina of Boss in Via Castello.
Here we went for a bite to eat after having wandered a bit ‘for the city, lost in such silence, in front of the grille on which are hung the keys houses where the Aquila can not return, along with their stubborn hope of being able to do soon.
Through the windows we see the advertising signs and on the theater’s wall the manifesto of the 2008/2009 season: everything is still at 3.37 the night between 5 and April 6, 2009.
In a small square in front of the facade of a church, we see a short row of people. We find out that you can access the eighteenth century dome of the Basilica of San Bernardino, badly damaged by the quake, but returned to its former glory thanks to the synergy fielded by the Ministry for Infrastructure and Transport, the Ministry of Heritage and Cultural Activities (Superintendency Architectural and Landscape heritage for Abruzzo) and the Interior Ministry. In fact, as we directly explains the Superintendent that is presented to us by the guys who deal to accompany the visit, one of the church is the only shipyard in activity in a town completely rebuilt.
Left Arturo inside the church, we climbed on the scaffold through an elevator, up to the lantern of the great eighteenth-century dome and we were able to see up close the restoration made with an impressive and technological self-supporting scaffolding on the outside, which allowed the restoration and consolidation of the lantern as well as the works of dome and drum, and those inside the dome with reparation of big damages with fiber-reinforced mortar.
We went down into the street with the guys at lunch and together we went to get a snack in the wine bar of Mariano Massari, known by all as Ju boss (Via Castello 3, tel. +39 0862 413393), who represents in L’Aquila a “monument”, a symbol also of the re-start city after the earthquake. It is a wine bar, but especially the venue of the university of L’Aquila with a rustic and homely ambience, with a simple and vaguely retro atmosphere, enriched by a breakfast bar made of wood and leather. In the club, cheer and company have made forget all the rubble and desolation among the streets and squares of the city.
We look at these boys, salute them remaining infected by their enthusiasm and think: L’Aquila must not die!
Then, we went to Forte Spagnolo, the imposing castle built on the highest point of the city, which from a distance seems not to have been affected by the earthquake. However, as you will discover approaches that the earthquake did considerable damage here, especially to the connecting bridge over the moat and the upper floors.
Later, we moved to another symbol of the city, the Basilica of Collemaggio. Its facade with white and red stones with three rosettes and three portals has resisted the April 6, 2009, but the turn, at the transept, has not held up, and collapsed on itself. Covered with an iron temporary structure, the basilica however was not sure and then, after a first opening at which we could visit it, it was closed again in 2013.
Eni has earmarked EUR 14 million for the restoration of Collemaggio, and it is hoped that this year L’Aquila can regain their basilica in all its glory. An important step for the rebirth of the city. We’ll be back to visit and to tell.