Tag Archives: abruzzo earthquake

Pizzera Grand Sasso – A Historic Pizza-by-the-Slice Shop Reopens in L’Aquila

A sign that this year Spring brings more than flowers to post-earthquake L’Aquila

Today I walking towards Piazza del Duomo along the only street something caught my eye – Il Grand Sasso was open again.

Pizzeria Gran Sasso, C.so Federico II, first pizza re-opening after the quake, April 1 2010

When I first came to L’Aquila the Grand Sasso was one of the pizza by the slice places on my map. Each one was different from the other, even though they came from the same rectangular black metal pans. Three of them – San Pietro, Marcheggiana and Gran Sasso were active since Silvia (my wife) was little. It’s a good sign, like the first flower of Spring, that Gran Sasso opened today
Gran Sasso’s opened in 1969 and has been run by the Sferrella family since 1974. The place is simple, they only make good pizza and baked single-portion calzoni. Nothing more but more then enough. Their pizza is a bit oilier than the others, and the crust is fluffier. I had my favorite of theirs: a square of white pizza with mozzarella, mushrooms and sausage.

Gran Sasso Mushroom & Sausage - L'Aquila 1 April

A great way to celebrate Spring. Now between Corso Federico II and the upper half of Piazza del Duomo four shops are open: Bar Frattelli Nurzia (coffee and homemade candy), Ottica Centrale (eyewear), Giolleria Armenia (jewelry) and the Pizzeria Gran Sasso (pizza by the slice!).

PS: I’m writing this from Piazza del Duomo. The sun has come down so my fingers are freezing. More photos to come.

– Joshua Lawrence

Pizzeria Gran Sasso, reopening in downtown L'Aquila April 1st 2010, a year after the quake

For those of you reading this on Facebook or elsewhere, it was first published on carbonara.wordpress.com

Emily and her slice of margherita, Gran Sasso reopens April 1st!


Sofia’s Letter – A Year After L’Aquila’s Earthquake

My daughter’s letter to Davide, the classmate who the Earthquake took away

As we near April sixth, the one-year anniversary of the earthquake that drove us from our home in L’Aquila’s historical center, I’d like to break with the normal subject of food-experiences in Italy and instead share the letter that Sofia, my daughter, wrote to a classmate she lost to the disaster. It was part of a school project and she was asked to read it aloud in front of Giustino Parisse, a journalist from L’Aquila who had lost both his children that night. He published it the next day in Il Centro, Abruzzo’s largest daily newspaper, and Sammy from Life In Abruzzo, an excellent English language website on this region of Italy where I live.
I’m only publishing Sofia’s letter here. For the rest of the article, to find out how you can help, and to just leave a note there too, please visit http://www.lifeinabruzzo.com/laquila-remembered-sofia-letter/ .

Joshua Lawrence


Dear Davide,

Almost a year has passed since that night. You know, I was really scared. Everything was trembling: our house, the beds, the furniture, my heart, everything. I made my way out of my house, hurting my feet as I walked over fragments of plaster from our walls and glass from the picture frames and lamps. A boom, a deafening roar filled the air, making it heavy, unbearable.

Every other sound seemed to reach my ears through cotton, distant, far away. Everything was falling: the buildings crumbled, people were jumping from their windows looking – in those crazed moments – for a way to escape from the invincible force that was selfishly dragging my city into the deepest of darkness.

I perceived these things so strangely, I knew what was happening but all the same a remote part of me refused to believe it was real. I jumped into our car with my sister. I didn’t know why, but I hoped that after I got in, it would all be over. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out as I had hoped.  

The earth kept on shaking, sometimes stronger, sometimes weaker, but trembling always. The night seemed endless and when the day reappeared from behind the mountains I could hardly believe it. I had no idea what was going on beyond our car, but I was sure that it was something horrible.

After we picked up Grandma and drove to Navelli, the news arrived. That news, the news that would make me cry every day that followed and when the tears stopped wetting my cheeks I would still feel that same heavy emptiness, ever present deep in my soul. The phone rang for thirty unending seconds before my Mum answered. She stayed silent as she listened. It was something bad, because the expression on her face changed suddenly, from distraught to terrible suffering.  When she hung up, I listened to her. I didn’t want to believe what she was saying; I didn’t want to believe that voice that kept telling me that you were gone, that you had flown to Heaven, that you had left us forever. I didn’t want to believe it, I couldn’t.

As my Mum hugged me and we cried, I played back all the moments I passed with you. School, class trips, the oral tests in class, the handball games, the playground in Piazza Pasquale Paoli and the games in Piazza Duomo, the walks along the Corso , the afternoons at the ice skating pavilion. Now that I think back on it, the two of us were not all that similar: you were a little arrogant and  sometimes overbearing, I was so proud and independent, but the time we spent arguing seems to me now so terribly sweet, so strangely beautiful.

When you were here I never fully noticed you strengths: you were sweet and sensitive, even though it was rarely seen at just a first glance; you were also cheerful and carefree, you didn’t care what others thought of you, you were simple in spirit and sincere in your feelings. I have your smile printed in my mind, your laughter fills my ears when things are difficult for me and they help me make it through.

I’m sorry you’re not here, close to me. I’m sorry to have to give you the bad news. All of the places that hosted times we spent together are no longer there. It’s painful for me to say our Piazza Duomo is now occupied by large white tents, our Piazza Paoli is now full of holes and our porticos are fenced off, our school is broken. The historical centre was closed for a long time and when they opened up part of it the scene was chilling. They are slowly opening the center, piece by piece, but there was rubble everywhere.

A month ago the people of L’Aquila began to complain, and these complaints lead to the “Wheelbarrow Revolt” and slowly they are freeing the city of the rubble. It’s important to me to tell you all this because I know how much you cared about this city, and I’m sure that you would be happier knowing that it has not been abandoned or forgotten.

Before I sign off, I want to tell you that the times we spent together have helped make me a person who reflects more on things and tries to help others. In a certain sense I’ve grown more mature. Thank you, because with you I spent some beautiful moments, enjoyed some really fun days and played wonderful games, Thank you for being part of my life and thank you for staying on the heart, soul and mind of those of us who experienced life with you.  Thank you for your laughter which raises our spirits when the pain fills our souls. Thank you for everything. Please remember the people who loved you and who keep on loving you forever. Many hugs and kisses to your mamma and your little brother too.

With enormous affection,

Sofia Lawrence
March 21st, 2010

Places, habits, memories

There’s a colleague I’ve been meaning to call for a while. Diego’s agency developed the visual image and promotional materials for Vinalia, an intimate restaurant with an amazing wine cellar and tasting bar that was just near Palazzo Margherita in the heart of l’Aquila. I had a lot of favorite places to eat and drink in L’Aquila, and Vinalia was where I went when I wanted something intimate, elegant and refined (and was in the mood to pay for it). Marzia Buzzanca, Vinalia’s mind, heart and soul was somehow able to transmit her rich knowledge of wine and her attention to detail, but also make you feel at ease and somehow in control. Of course she was playing with a stacked deck. It was all good. And the nights where dinners were combined with wine tastings guided by representatives of some of most renown winemakers in Italy and France became relaxed sumptuous dinner parties among friends.
I still have one of the last messages she sent out to Vinalia’s followers:

“All the bottles in the wine cellar are now on sale. Please look at the website. If you are interested please write me with what you want and where to send it now.
Please pass this on.
A big Hug”

When I started this blog, I started out with a brief piece on Vinalia, finishing with a promise to write again about what Marzia and her people were able to do. Now I have to work from blurry memory.
When I lived in Venice as a student twenty years ago I first began to feel that cities were far more than the sum of their streets and buildings and the people animating them. What counted was how you would interact with the people and places there – and your relationship with the city itself.
It’s not a question of not being able to go for wine in Vinalia or Il Bar Garibaldi or Fenice or Ju Boss, or go for an espresso at Caffé Polar or the Frattelli Nurzia. Or no longer being able to have a last minute neapolitan pizza at Bella Napoli for Friday lunch with my girls, or sneak a slice at one of a dozen different places around town, or even just reading the shared newspaper at the bar in Piazza San Pietro in front of Silvia’s university office.
The people behind what made these and other places so enjoyable are still alive and that’s what counts most. Many have already reopened bars and eateries elsewhere in town. When something this big and bad happens you discover that rebuilding your life comes naturally.
But what what was part of my life and thousands of others is gone. Thirty seconds was all it took to transform one of Italy’s lesser known but more beautiful historic centers, a place where tens of thousands of people would live, work, shop, study or just hang out with friends, into a vast, mostly inactive, construction site.
But I think my youngest daughter Emily was more eloquent. At the beginning of this Summer when she was saying goodbye to her cousin who had come to visit us at the hotel that housed and cared for us in Montesilvano. “Your are so lucky that you can go back to your everyday and habits”


Earthquake in L’Aquila-but we are all well

We woke up at 3.30 a.m Sunday night/Monday morning to a Earthquake that was 5,7 richter but brought down the entire antique city center, and, unfortunately, many new buildings as well. Me, my wife, daughters and extended family are all alive and unscratched. We were able to save the animals two days ago too. But almost three hundred people lost their lives, 1000 injured and tens of thousands are homeless, at least temporarily. I am staying with relatives almost 100 km away now where we can no longer feel the aftershocks. I thank everyone for their words, worries, prayers and offers of help. I’ve always believed in people, now I believe in them even more. Even if some “people” are the criminals who built the modern buildings that fell – Abruzzo is seismic but usually this magnitude does not bring down buildings if they were designed and built properly