Several flocks of sheep are on the move near L’Aquila, roaming hills recently released from the grip of snow. Colorfully wrapped chocolate Easter eggs brighten the window of Fratelli Nurzia on the Piazza Duomo, and the fountain nearby quietly flows again. It didn’t this time last year.
Centro L’Aquila continues to be a city braced in patterns of wood and metal. Engineers, plasterers and plumbers are bringing L’Aquila back to life piano, piano. The cranes are visible, the swooshing of wet plaster audible but a friend living in the region told me that the estimated time for the restoration of centro is 25 years.
The Globo Center is hyped as the new place to meet friends and stroll, though many defy this assault on the traditional passeggiata and return to centro to walk the few open streets emptying onto the Piazza Duomo. Though signs of life on Corso Vittorio Emanuele are disproportionate to the many signs of protest and I Have A Dream posters, a bar and restaurant are doing business.
In contrast to the ghostly university building neighbored by closed shops, Ristorante il Guastatore sends warm light and music into the street from its second floor windows. Opened in October 2010, the restaurant/pizzeria piles its wood for the forno in the street near its entrance.
A, B, C, D, E. This is the code by which displaced residents in Abruzzo are identified. It represents their housing status and consequently their fate. I met a woman who, along with other people, has been residing at Hotel San Michele for two years with no end in sight. She lost her home and studio. A documentary film maker, she is now confined to a small hotel room with her books and a laptop. In the E category due to age and loss of livelihood and home, she frets over government money funding hotels rather than rebuilding efforts.
Because the earthquake damaged structures on both sides of Gran Sasso and as far away as Castrovalva near Scanno, villages sustained damage as well. My second cousin who lives in Mascioni falls into the B category. Employed and in his late 50s, he has been told that he can return to his home in a few months. Since April of 2009 he has been living in what Italians call a box. He partitioned a small garage into a two room dwelling he shares with his wife.
Rubble and cracks are obvious signs of disaster, but the structural changes in the lives of people I met are more subtle. A simple doctor’s appointment must now be made at the hospital. Obtaining a pension check requires hours of waiting at the post office. I was puzzled to see the same elderly people in the hotel lobby all day long until I realized they were not guests, but residents. A dedicated professor I spoke with is teaching at the University of L’Aquila without pay.
One of the best meals I had on my short visit to Abruzzo was cooked by Enrico Ferrauto at La Grotta di Aligi on Viale Rendina in L’Aquila. His buddy has a restaurant in Brooklyn and Enrico dreams of opening a place in DC.
I don’t know if Enrico wanted to work in America before the terremoto, but I do know that Washington could use some baccala con lo zafferano.