Ohhh, Onna II

April 20, 2012 / Places
Onna, Abruzzo
(cont’d from here)

We left the “new town” area of l’Aquila and headed to the ghost town of Onna, tiny town on the Atero River about 10 kms. from l’Aquila where 80% of the homes were devastated, the other 20% had to be abandoned, and 41 of the 350 inhabitants lost their lives. A sign was posted in front of a pile of rubble: Lavori in corso (“work going on”) but as I walked the alleyways in the midst of deserted piles of roof beams, terracotta rooftiles, twisted remains of wrought iron balconies, wooden doors off their hinges, I saw no one.

The children’s slide in the village park and the nearby gazebo for picnicking families remain sad remembrances of village life. The limestone memorial from WWII is still affixed to a wall of the crumbled Comune, though the traditional laurel wreath of victory has fallen to the ground below. The only telephone booth of the town stands nearby, undamaged in the midst of so much devastation. Across the street, a prayer card hangs on the grated window of a collapsed house, empty vases – one broken – still on the window ledge. A teddy bear and a mineral water bottle sit yet another window ledge.

On the walls of one large collapsed house, the owner returned to paint his name on the walls, a sort of ownership claim: DeFelice was scrawled in black letters. Many doorways of Onna were arched and some limestone arches appeared as old as the 16th or 17th- century. The arches of Onna, at least, remain proudly standing in the midst of the rubble.

As I left the town, four or five men in hardhats were sitting on a bench, eating sandwiches, sharing bottles of wine and beer. They were their to guard Onna’s rubble – unfortunately not to rebuild.

(note: L’Aquila earthquake was April 6, 2009 – 309 dead – about `15% of all deaths in the small town of Onna)

Anne Robichaud

by Anne Robichaud

An authorized Umbrian tour guide, Anne and her husband Pino worked the land for many years in the 1970’s so rural life, rural people, rural cuisine are una passione for her. See Umbria from “the inside”: join her May 2017 ten-day tour centered on discovering Umbria, Anne’s Umbria.

See www.annesitaly.com for more on her Umbria tours. Do see www.stayassisi.com for news on the Assisi apartment – and Assisi countryside guest house – she and Pino now rent out.

Anne writes frequently on Umbria and other areas of Italy. Read about her annual U.S. Feb/Mar cooking classes and lectures, as well as her numerous Italy insights on her blog.

20 Responses to “Ohhh, Onna II”

  1. Anne Robichaud

    Georgia / lucky young man (the one you met in L’Aquila!
    This news out on April 6th:
    “Nelle previsioni di Sindaco e Amministrazione Comunale di qui a giugno la percentuale di lavori terminati potrebbe raggiungere quota 47% ie, “the mayor and town council say that by June, 47% of L’Aquila restorsation COULD BE concluded’ – same article then goes on to say
    ” È interessante notare come dei 38 interventi pianificati, solo 6siano stati portati a termine e solo 8 cantieri siano tuttora in attività”……ie” interesting to note that of 38 works planned by the city, only 6 are complete / and only 8 other job sites still active.”
    Speriamo bene.

  2. Penny Ewles-Bergeron
    Penny Ewles-Bergeron

    Anne, such a heartbreak for these poor people. We cannot imagine having our homes crumble around us, never to be rebuilt (‘pace’ anyone engaged in trying to do something along those lines) or losing so many loved family and friends. Thank you for bringing us the update, though it is a painful one to read.

  3. Giuseppe Spano
    Giuseppe Spano

    We all want what is right…we must read and act on God’s direction at James 2:16 16 yet a certain one of YOU says to them: “Go in peace, keep warm and well fed,” but YOU do not give them the necessities for [their] body, of what benefit is it? Please demonstrate your love.

  4. Valorie

    :-( I wish I could help. I have not stopped thinking about the devastation there since the earthquake happened. God bless the people l’Aquila and Onna. Valorie

  5. Christine

    Thank you for sharing this story, sad as it is. Those of us who have fallen in love with Italy can easily forget that hardships have always existed there in one form or another.

  6. Gian Banchero

    For those of us who live in earthquake zones the photos of Onna are very sobering, three weeks ago we in the San Francisco East Bay (California) had two healthy shakes that knocked down articles all over my house. Unlike people who live in tornado or hurricane zones (that have their seasons) we in quake prone areas are constantly aware that at any moment, day or night, that the earth might heave and rupture which makes us attentive to any strange sounds or vibrations. Yet even after decades of experiencing destructive quakes no one I know feels this is a reason to leave the beauty of our area, as with Onna our town, its hills, streets, sky and sun (even the constant mini-quakes) is the only home we know.

  7. Torre Newman

    Anna, thank you for this article. I have been wondering how things were progressing in the area of the earthquake these 3 years later. It seems things have come to a stand still. Perhaps there is better news in other areas. Please, any other updates you can do will be appreciated. I was all set to visit this very area in May 2009 but I diverted myself to the Tuscia area around Tolfa. Had a fabulous time but, my heart was still thinking of the people and villages who were in distress.

  8. Jack OConnell

    All too often, we who love Italy/Italians, tend to romanticize about the experience to our detriment. When such a reality as Anne has described so movingly, has taken root in our consciousness, we are the better for it. It “rounds” us out a bit; puts things into perspective without being maudlin. Thank you for this, Anne.

  9. I was in L’Aquila last October for a day. We were traveling about in our renmed Fiat Panda, while doing day trips from Pescara where we were staying for a week. We didn’t know about the earthquake. What a shock it was to see so much devastation still after a natural disaster from two years earlier. Army and police were patroling and keeping tourists from harm’s way I suppose. the hardest of all to see was a sign on a fence holding maybe 50 house keys from homes destroyed or badly damaged during the earthquake. It was alkl quite sad. We did find good food in the town, where an upstairs restaurant appeared to be thriving, unscathed. Why has it taken so long to get buildings fixed? Is the government helping? My heart went out to the people of that area.

  10. It was hard to say “like” to this note Anne. What terrible devastation! And to know that nothing has been done to rebuild is heartbreaking. Thanks for keeping this in our consciousness. My heart goes out to all the people of this community.

  11. Anne, you write so well. Your stories come to life. It is so refreshing to get a entirely different take on Italy and Italian life from you. I have learned so much from a visit with you a long time ago. Stories like this ground me in the reality of real people and real places, not those “touristy” destinations. Oh so worthwhile to read what you write.

  12. Linda Gasbarro

    Thank you for sharing this important story. My heart goes out to the people of l’Aquila. My family is from the small town of Ateleta, Abruzzo which is near l’Aquila. I remember reading in 2009 that Ateleta was affected by the earthquake as well but have not seen any updates on the area. If you are aware of any information in relation to this little near-by town, I would very much appreciate hearing about it.

    Grazie Mille,

    Linda Gasbarro

  13. Brian

    Thanks for the update. My family is from a small town not too far away, but luckily, far enough not to be affected by the earthquake. I have been trying to follow the progress of the rebuilding but it is hard to find updates. It is a shame so little has been accomplished in the last 3 years.

  14. Anne Robichaud

    Linda, if I find news on Atleta in Italian, shall I send?
    Brian, yes, all hope that work will take off soon and continue!


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