L’Aquila, the beauty that survives in Italy after the earthquake

The province of L’Aquila, or L’Aquila in Italian, is the capital of the Abruzzo region, towards the southern center of Italy. This region extends through a mountainous, somewhat rugged and wild territory, from the Apennines to the Adriatic Sea. It consists of several provinces, such as Chieti, Pescara and, of course, L’Aquila, the second most populated of Abruzzo.

The territory of Italy is located on the minor tectonic plate called Adriatic, but bordering with 2 other major ones, such as the African and Eurasian; especially towards the central area and in the southeast, very close to that limit, as it is in continuous movement. Therefore, it has the tendency to suffer earthquakes, as has been seen during its history; from ancient times to the 18th century.

Another example of this we also see in the 20th century, as just in a little more than a century there have been 17 earthquakes that have left fatalities, specifically from 1908 to 2016.

Our topic today focuses on the recovery of the city after the earthquake of April 2009, in L’Aquila; in that early morning there was an earthquake of 6.3 magnitude on the Richter scale. It left 309 people dead, about 1600 injured and 65,000 locals left homeless. 

L’Aquila is a city full of history and monuments, which has been reborn, perhaps a little slowly, especially in the historic center, where you can still see the workers working on the reconstruction. But, although the wounds are still visible, tourists can once again visit its beautiful places, which are worth visiting.

Why is it important to preserve its monuments and architecture?

The city of L’Aquila is located just 2 hours from Rome, if we go by car. It contains many of the medieval nostalgias that are worth preserving, such as its walls, which are still standing. It is also located the Forte Spagnolo, a castle that was built by the Spanish as a bastion and later used by the French in the nineteenth century, and then, during World War II, was used by the Germans. 

It is also located the Fountain of the 99 cannelle; that is, the one that contains the faces of each of the characters that founded this city, in 1200, according to legend. The noble families, both Renaissance and Baroque, have left their legacies related to the Papacy, since Abruzzo has always had a relationship with the Papal State. 

We have then the Basilica of Collemaggio, located outside the walls, in which Celestine V was crowned Pope and not in the Vatican, among other buildings. Actually, since the city of L’Aquila was founded, there have been many reconstructions; not only thanks to earthquakes, but also to the different wars; but it has always recovered. 

Why has its restoration been so slow?

It is said that this restoration has brought many controversies. In 2010, a film director had already denounced, through a documentary-type film, the dark plot that was being woven between the head of Civil Protection and the Prime Minister of that time.

Then, in 2013, the management passed from external to internal hands. It seems that there have been certain infiltrations of mafias to compete for the award of the works, which have been neutralized by the Anti-Mafia Prosecutor’s Office, according to regional newspapers. 

Another aspect to mention is that the renowned specialists in the field of seismology, the Commission of Great Natural Risks, were charged in 2011 to 6 years in prison for underestimating and underestimating the risks of a possible earthquake in the Abruzzo locality. Even days before the 2009 earthquake, 6 of the 7 involved were acquitted.

They had been charged in 1st Instance with the crimes of negligent injury and multiple negligent homicide. Of course, the reactions of the neighbors of the city who were present at the hearing were indignant. To complete the slowness, in 2016, 7 years after the earthquake of L’ Aquila, a new tragedy of similar intensity is relived in Amatrice; a different scenario, but which equally caused disasters.

Subsequently, in 2019, a study prepared by the Italian Senate Securities Office published that the figure for restorations after the 2009 earthquake had exceeded 17 billion euros. A figure that is not adequate, even without adding the amount allocated for 2020 and 2021.

As we have seen, the Italian infrastructure in this area in the heart of the country is very fragile, and the necessary measures have not been taken knowing that the area is a geological powder keg. Both modern and older buildings have been affected; some think that Italians have lost their memory of so many tragedies, and the cost of restoration is getting higher and higher. 

Which are the places that have been restored in L’Aquila after the earthquake? 

Many of the buildings on the outskirts have been restored. Also in the city center, although there is still a long way to go, as you can see the cranes and scaffolding that continue to restore the spaces, to recover the liveliness that existed before the 2009 earthquake. In addition, several stores have opened their doors.

Among the recovered monuments we find, for example, the Basilica of Santa Maria di Collemaggio and the ancient fountain of the 99 cannelle, which is a typical symbol of the city. Also, the Spanish castle can be seen from the outside, as well as the Porta Bazzano, which opens onto the ancient walls. Likewise, the old houses along the Masciarelli Coast show their colorful facades.

So, from 2010 to date, 13 years of reconstruction have passed. And, although more than 50% of the city has been recovered, cranes and scaffolding do not go unnoticed; showing that there are still places to be restored, such as churches and buildings of great artistic value.

The most popular attractions to visit today are the Basilica of Santa Maria di Collemaggio, the Museo Nazionale d’Abruzzo MuNDA, which can be seen in the photo, also the Fontana delle 99 cannelle, the Basilica di San Bernardino, the Centro Storico of the city of L’Aquila and the Forte Spagnolo.

What other activities can we do in the area?

We have outdoor activities, such as the Villa Comunale, which is located to the south of the historic center of the city. It is a beautiful garden area that is transversely interrupted by a long pedestrian avenue. 

There is also the plateau or Altopiano delle Rocchel, formed by karst plateaus at 1400 m above sea level. Ideal for skiing or snowshoeing in winter. In addition, there are walks, hiking and cycling or horseback riding in the other seasons, among its landscapes and beech forests. In the month of May the plateau turns white due to the blooming of the beautiful daffodils. 

Another outdoor place to visit is the Oasi Delle Orie, a park in the municipality of Amatrice. It is 3 km long through chestnut woods and centuries-old oaks, until you reach a stream, where an amphibian typical of the area reproduces. Towards the east side of the Oasis is the Sacred Wood, made up of beech, oak and chestnut trees.

Posted in Europe, Italy, Spain.