Beyond the quake: reconstruction in an Italian medieval town


In the picture above you see me in the alley in front of my family house in Abruzzo. I am emptying it in view of the rebuilding.  After the earthquake of L’Aquila on April 6, 2009 our house, the whole medieval block ti belongs to, actually, was a bit damaged. considered the scale of damage in the whole province, I am actually surprised our house had only a few cracks in the parts of the wall where the building material was different.

Most of the damage came from rain leaking from the roof, as with the earthquake the tiles moved around. but with a house built around 1400, I guess they knew how to cope back then with anti-seismic building techniques.

I am going to record what it means to start a serious rebuilding project in such a medieval town. Not only the house has been build in the course of the centuries, with all sort of different materials, and has lots of quirks typical of these areas and towns. As you see we have no proper streets getting there.

While in the past most transportation along these stairs and alleys was done with mules and donkeys, I have to do with a barrel.

The protections you see around were placed after the earthquake in order to avoid passers by getting a roof tile or rolling stone on their heads. They block the doors of a couple of our cellars, so i already know that I won’t be able to empty them completely before the works start. And living and working in Amsterdam, some 1600 km. from there, is not helping either in working efficiently. I will usually try to use the school holidays of my children to go there and getting some work done.

Still I find it very worth to document this phase in the history of a house that has been standing there for centuries. At the same way I will be sorry to remove the temporary supports that has been screwed in the most damaged outer corners, because they tell something important on this house, this place and the people who live(d) and work(ed) there.

I also think that what I will learn along way on the practical aspects of restoring, reinforcing and rebuilding the house can be useful for anybody having atypical buildings to take care of. As I am seeing it, it is a chance to bring our own signature to the layered history of this place, which is very special to me and the only one I truly call home.

piane con nuvole

This is the view from the upper balcony. Can you see, under, how narrow these alleys are? We will have to carry all the stuff in the house out, and all the building materials in again all by ourselves, with the help of some small vehicle (I hope). Another limitation is that you cannot place a crane anywhere.

vicolo del forno-architrave

This is another old house around the corner, showing clearly the scars left by the earthquake. This might never find place in fancy guides on lovely, picturesque, old Italian towns. And I believe it is a pity, because it is always interesting to get the chance to look behind the facade.

So keep following me in this because by taking care of our buildings, we are taking care of the lessons from the past that can help us shape our future.

Credits pictures: Fausto Rapinesi, 2015

+ All my gratitude to Fausto not only for the pictures but for our friendship, love for this region and understanding. Oh yes, and for helping me pack and carry loads of stuff.


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