Tag Archives: earthquake

Flying in with the morning light

Flying in.

Driving to L’Aquila this morning gave me hope. But then it always does, even before. From the hill town of Navelli where we spend much of the summer, past the devastated but once enchanting and hidden Castelnuovo di San Pio. The morning light tinging a slight burnt orange the slopes of Gran Sasso to my right somehow magnify the feeling that it’s more than just the infancy of another day. The road construction and heavy vehicles slowing me down seem just incidental as I move towards where I used to live.

PS. The gas station bar half way between S. Pio and Castelnuovo is a good, basic Italian roadside bar. The coffee is decent. But it’s the pannini – good local prosciutto or pecorino cheese inside low, central Italian focaccia – that make me feel so at home. They are worth stopping in for. And in these months of living away from home, they are comfort food


Dish Diplomacy, The G8 Eats In L’Aquila

President Obama arrives in L’Aquila today, and he’s going to leave a little heavier. And I’m not talking about his political weight, although that might increase as well. I’m talking about  the numbers on his scale in the morning.
As the G8 meeting of the worlds rich nations gets together in my Earthquake devastated adopted hometown in the mountains of central Italy, every local and national paper I skim though talks about the menu. The espressos and cappuccinos will be served by the staff of one of the better coffee bars in town, the Gran Caffe dell’Aquila located in the currently off-limits Piazza del Duomo, the main city square that until April 6th held an open air market daily for hundreds of years.
Saffron has been grown around L’Aquila since the Middle Ages, and it funded much of the art and architecture that made the City of Eagles one of Italy’s little known treasures. It’s therefore fitting that heads of state and the diplomatic corps will be eating pasta (rigatoni) with zucchini and saffron threads.
The menu for the dinner hosted tomorrow by Italy’s President – Giorgio Napolitano (Silvio Berlusconi is the Prime Minister) lists tasty but not very slimming treats. The starter is warm tomatoes filled with basil and giuncata (a fresh cheese) from the town of Rivisiondoli in the Abruzzo National Park, followed by a maccheroni alla chittara (a fresh, thick spaghetti like pasta typical of the region) with ragù all’Abbruzzese followed by veal in a dough crust with  summer truffles from the hills around the Sangro river. It will all be followed by an array of cheeses from Abruzzo and deserts from all over Italy.
The wine list is long, and includes one of my favorites – Masciarelli, who’s Montepulciano d’Abruzzo reds and Trebbiano whites can be found affordably in the US. I have seen their basic table version in Wisconsin at under $10, for example.
I will be writing more about saffron and truffles later on. Both have been cultivated or collected in Abruzzo for centuries and are considered rare, elegant and expensive foods. They are still expensive, but within the budget of normal human beings again.

E’ Nelle Piccole Cose – The Little Things

It’s in the little things – that I begin to touch what happened. Over a month has passed since we had to leave our homes at three-thirty in the morning, grabbing what we could as we rushed over the stucco flakes and other debris out of our house into the dark morning to find the hotel in front of us already down, folded like  a layer cake of cement and steel.
I have been so busy getting on with life – finding a place to stay besides our car farther and farther from home, going back for essentials – and the cat – with the firemen, getting on with work in Rome, and just getting on with life with the girls here in Montesilvano.
It’s the little things. Last night we were driving to Navelli, the family house there is in much better shape than our house in L’Aquila but the aftershocks continue and most people still sleep in tents at night. The girls missed their friends there and we needed to get some fresh clothes. A song by Irene Grandi came on the radio and we all started singing to it like in some cheesy movie and I started to cry – silently because I didn’t want them to miss a word.
The experts say that during earthquakes the best thing to do is duck under something that can protect you and wait it out. Which is impossible if you are a parent. As the floor rocked and everything shook and rattled and roared for almost half a minute, Silvia and I ran to the girl’s bedroom to get help them climb down from their beds. There’s really no room for thinking about what’s going on, being a father or a mother guides you.
A woman I saw on TV through the window of our cousin’s house (no one wanted to be inside so we watched TV from the garden), filmed in front of the pile of stones that was her house said something so simple yet full of truth.

“These are only stones, only bricks. I can put one on top of the other again. But my family and friends are the real bricks, and they are still here, and that’s what matters.”

And they are



Helping L’Aquila Soar Again

To everyone who loves Italy,

I grew up in Wisconsin but have been lucky enough to call L’Aquila my home since 2001. My wife, Silvia, teaches Renaissance history at the university here and my daughters, Sofia and Emily are in school. Fortunately all safe after the Earthquake less than two weeks ago although, like thousands of others, we don’t know when, or if, they’ll be able to live again in our apartment. This message isn’t about us – our car wasn’t destroyed and thanks to the hotels on the coast we have shelter and most things we need for the immediate future. I have work to get back to in Rome.

Reconstruction in the long-run and getting people into stable shelter and some normalcy will take time. To date a third of the buildings surveyed are unsafe to live in, and the historical center has not been included in that survey yet. Tens of thousands of people are in the tent communities in and around L’Aquila and many more are guests in hotels like me, or with relatives in Rome and elsewhere.

I have been told that the media in the US and UK have already moved on to other subjects (no Americans like me died or were seriously injured), although many grass roots groups – mostly connected to academia or the Italian-American communities are still very active.

With a few friends, both in the US and England, we noticed that we could help both the people of l’Aquila and the city and region that we love. We started with the first English-language group on the subject on Facebook ( L’Aquila Renaissance – Helping L’Aquila and Abruzzo , http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=66535648631&ref=ts)

We have also set up this petition in favour of L’Aquila and the villages and towns around it: http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/laquila-renaissance/signatures.html

For now the group tries to give information on how to donate form the USA (often tax deductible). The list is incomplete.

– NIAF – The National Italian American Foundation have created a Abruzzo Relief Fund & their online donation form is in English. Again here you can make a fast & easy online donation to assist in helping L’Aquila now and rebuild their lives, it’s tax free for those in the US.
Italian Academy Foundation (IAF) has established a L’Aquila relief fund. Additionally, the IAF headquarters in L’Aquila (Bisegna) is open to the victims of the April 6, 2009, earthquake who are seeking shelter. View the IAF website at italianacademyfoundation.org.
Catholic Relief Services http://www.crs.org/emergency/italy-earthquake.cfm
– The Sons of Italy Foundation (SIF) has created an Emergency Relief Fund. View the Order Sons of Italy in America website at http://www.osia.org.
UNICO Announces Initiation of Fund to Aid Abruzzo Italy Earthquake Relief. website at http://www.unico.org-
The American Red Cross https://american.redcross.org/site/Donation2?idb=514161456&df_id=1094&1094.donation=form1&s_subsrc=RCO_link

– Global Giving for Abruzzo – http://www.globalgiving.co.uk/pr/2700/proj2695a.html
– Red Cross UK – http://www.redcross.org.uk/donatesection.asp?id=93852&entrypoint=37220_mainItaly

While no one can argue that the human loss is greater than the cultural loss, I am also worried that during the reconstruction, the beautiful old city will be neglected.  If I had talked to be before the quake, I would have spent half the conversation trying to convince you, especially those living in or visiting Rome, to come look at this jewel that so few Americans see but is an hour and a half drive from the Eternal City. I hope to be able to push the city like that again soon.

As always, to make sure things work in the long term it will be helpful that people keep on experessing, through letters and email, to officials in L’Aquila, in the Italian government, and in the U.S. government, the Press and other “piazze” in favor of rebuilding the city and not expanding it. Many of us have seen the result of the “modern urban suburbs” created, some never finished, after similar events,  In the long term we hope that this group – and what may grow out of it, can contribute to the future of this city just as the world’s love for Assisi and Florence help their rebirth after natural disasters.

Thank you.

L’Aquila, April 16th

Joshua  Lawrence
L’Aquila, Italy / Madison, Wisconsin.

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

Cinnamon summer

Coffee Consciousness I

(Author’s note: Caffè Polar, like over 95% of L’Aquila’s huge and beautiful historic center, is still off-limits after last year’s disasterous earthquake that forced me and tens of thousands from their homes. I will keep you updated on the rebirth of both Caffè Polar and L’Aquila. Abruzzo 23 aprile 2010)

Cinnamon is one of those spices that bring back memories. Especially, freshly ground cinnamon. This evening I made a quick stop at the Caffè Polar, the tiny bookshop café, with a free hotspot (still not very common in provincial Italy) here in L’Aquila, the city in the Apennine mountains where I live. My goal was a short cappuccino and a newspaper break, but that change, as I stepped up to the bar to order and caught a whiff of that, oh so familiar spice. The young woman behind the bar was busy grating cinnamon over a small glass cup of espresso.  As she tops it up with panna (dense cream), I ask how she would do espresso and cinnamon cold. It is a warm day, after all. “I would make a

Caffè Shakerato,” is her response.

Caffè shakerato is the hedonistic Italian version of iced espresso. It consists of two shots of espresso straight from the machine, ice and sugar.  The ingredients are mixed in a cocktail shaker then poured into a flute or cocktail glass. In Milan, and a few other parts of northern Italy, Rebarbaro, (a semisweet bitter), or Biancosarti, (a vanilla-based liquor) are added before shaking.   It is great with a touch of freshly ground cinnamon.

What I like about the  best spices is how they can turn on your memories that play on all of your senses.   I’ll tell you how cinnamon transformed evening strolls on the Sicilian island of Panarea last summer, in the next installment how.

Cinnamon on FoodistaCinnamon

Espresso Coffee on FoodistaEspresso Coffee