Ohhhh, Onna

April 19, 2012 / Places
Onna, Abruzzo

We opened the shutters to the majestic snow-capped Gran Sasso (“big rock” and it IS). After breakfast, we headed to the new Comune (town hall/county seat) where Pino had to present a proposal for seismic restoration. I waited across the street at a new cafe’ – with modern minimalist lines – and talked with the Aquilani, stopping there for an espresso before or after one of their innumerable visits (over the past years) to the Comune. The earthquake occurred on April 6th, 2009, yet most are still in pre-fab housing. Only those with houses (now in ruins or leveled) can enter the city center and no car traffic is permitted.

A pretty dark-haried young woman, Arianna, served me coffee as I stood at the bar near dark-suited employees of the Comune holding rolled up documents in their hands – restoration permits, i guessed- as they chatted over coffee.
“When do you think L’Aquila” will be restored?”, I asked. Sipping reflectively his espresso, Gianni (not his real name – no one wanted me to use their real names) replied, “Mai” (“never”). He added drily, “L’Aquila sara’ destinata alla spazzatura..come Pompeii” (“L’Aquila is destined for the trash can, like Pompeii”)
“Where do you yourself live, now?”, I asked him. “Here and there….come zingari” (like gypsies”), he replied with a caustic smile.

The impiegati comunali (town hall employees) invited me up to their offices for more information. When I asked them for their estimate of the percentage of homes restored, one cited 10 %. Another chided him for his optimism, saying “closer to 5%”. Pino told me why: there are no funds.

(continuing tomorrow..)

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.

22 Responses to “Ohhhh, Onna”

  1. Penny Ewles-Bergeron
    Penny Ewles-Bergeron

    Brava Anne – there are some very harsh realities in Italy and they should not be shied away from even on this site that celebrates the beautiful and the joyous. L’Aquila continues to live a grim reality every day since the disaster. We should salute the courage of its inhabitants whenever and however we can.

  2. What a terrible tragedy this was – and is. Thank you for reminding us that things are not back to normal. Looking forward to what you will tell us tomorrow.

  3. Jack OConnell

    I could see you in my mind’s eye with coffee cup in hand…..good for you to draw attention to this. Brava, Annieo!

  4. Dear Anna,

    Thank you for covering this town. It is truly a tragedy which I remember. How can a place which was developed many centuries ago replace history? Your coverage of the region is realistically spot-on.

    So glad to know you arrived back in Italy safely. Have a terrific summer. See you next trip!

    Janice Peters
    Houston, TX

  5. Giuseppe Spano
    Giuseppe Spano

    I followed closely the events after the tragedy of the region Abruzzi, very little was made of it worldwide,yet it effected many lives. The res ponce however by the Italian people was noble and energetic. Although as to be expected the politicians and clergy denied any responsibility of knowledge of forewarning. Some things seem to never change,but the people will survive. Salute!

  6. Carolyn

    Thanks for an Aquila update, not very good news, but news just the same.

  7. Helen Ruchti

    Annually, the Italian government spends great sums of money repairing ancient ruins, like the Colosseum. Modern disasters like the Florence flood caused by the opening of the Vajont Dam in the north and earthquakes in the south and Sicily caused great damage. Not just in Abruzzi, but in other areas as well, people wait for government action. But it’s time for a coffee break or a leisurely meal…abbia la pazienza…domani…non preoccuparti…cosi via.
    Building in earthquake zones has its risks.

  8. Toni Galli Sterling

    Salve Annie,
    If you would like to talk to an Aquilani about life in L’Aquila, contact my cousins….Ordorigi and Carla….If you’d like to speak to them, I will send you their info via email. Thank you so much for featuring L’Aquila…..Please continue!!!!!!! Baci,

  9. Anne Robichaud

    Thanks to all for your notes and yes, a tragedy / Onna was destroyed and the photos are of Onna ….and you will know that after you read Part 2 domani – and yes, Toni, pls send contact info for your cousins…and would love to talk with them…and perhaps visit on our next trip there..
    Helen, i don’t think the problem is coffee breaks, leisurely meals or pazienza: in Italy, the State picks up the bill for destruction of homes caused by natural disasters, eg, earthquakes. Assisi was repaired rapidly after the 1997 earthquake and 80% of the town was retro-fitted. THe money has run out. Vernazza still damaged….Sicilian towns affected by mudslides unrestored..and climate changes will be causing more natural disasters. Trouble ahead.

  10. Mary D Vickio

    PUT IT UP FOR SALE – Italian – Americans love to save their heritage !

  11. Georgia

    We visited l’Aquila and the region a year ago and were shocked at how little seemed to have been done since the quake. Yet we met a young man later, in the late fall, from l’Aquila who said progress really is being made and the city is being restored. His parents were back in their restored home. He was certainly not the type to be exaggerating or hyping any government line. Recently one of the RAI stations featured the restoration of l’Aquila as if it were truly taking place. People saying their homes were better than before. Ordinarily I would be skeptical, but it coincided with what the young man had been saying.

  12. It’s a great pity Berlusconi, with all of his money and media connections, couldn’t have been a bigger help. He got the publicity at the time and said the right things but really didn’t do much.

  13. In March I visited L’Aquila and Vernazza, both heartbreaking. Vernazza was a beehive of activity. A long road still to go to recover, but it feels alive. L’Aquila was another story. It appears a ghost town; devastating to wander the empty streets, seeing those gorgeous ancient buildings’ deep gashes being held together with iron rods and screws. Three years have passed. I don’t know if it’s even structurally possible to recover. No words can really describe what it’s like to see it. The sadness is huge.

  14. Angela Melczer

    My father’s family is from Abruzzi. When my brother and I visited their little town it was a beautiful journey up through the mountains. Thanks for reminding me of it all and for bringing us up to date on what is happening there.

  15. Federica

    I go to Abruzzo every year, since I was a kid. I love the region, and its art, its tradition, its people, its food.
    Not many people are aware of how bad the situation is… after 3 years. But I come from Napoli, and Irpinia still bears the traces of the 1980 earthquake. I am doing my very small bit tho – I’m going to do a charity dinner to raise funds for FAI (they restored the 99 Cannelle fountain) and let people here in the UK learn a bit about Abruzzo too.

  16. It’s so sad to see how little progress is being made to help the people of L’Aquila restore their buildings. The economic crisis is used as the region, but one wonders whether the same would be happening if the earthquake had occurred in somewhere in the north. Thanks for reporting.

  17. miranda

    Where has all the money gone? All around the world people donated millions of dollars. Here in Australia millions of dollars were raised for the people of L’Aquilia. Where is it now? Thanks for your article. Keep up the good work to make people aware of the situation.

  18. Anne Robichaud

    Thanks to all for your thoughtful notes,
    Miranda, in times of a national disaster, la Protezione Civile takes over, ie, the “Committee of Protective Measures” and they must do all possible to assure the security of all citizens as rapidly as possible.
    The funds go to this commission and a fortune was needed to scaffold all the buildings (after inspection of each), check gas and waterlines, etc, etc and create housing for those who remained homeless / and still are

  19. Bill Merget & Diane Schwab

    Your so very rich narrative transports us to the sights, feelings and anguish of L’Aquila, Annie. Thank you for bringing their story to us as we plan to visit next month and provide some small amount of support.
    Bill & Diane

  20. Paulette Carnicelli Pidcock

    Anne ,
    These stories are heartbreaking. Having visited the area with my family – to visit with our cousins from Abruzzo, a couple years before the earthquake, i remember a beautiful L’Aquila. It is truly sad to see the devastation, but more so…to see the lack of progress. I will be traveling there again on Friday, the 27th, so I’m sure my heart will ache even more in real time. See you soon!


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