On the morning of August 24th our legs were shaking, our few words were stuttered out fearfully.
I’ll never forget that cold morning. The bewildered gaze of Silvia and her husband, the frightened girls, wrapped in blankets and then taken out into the car as if it was a game to help them to go back to sleep, all the time trying not to let them feel our fear. Mrs Anna and her daughter sitting on the lawn, wrapped in blankets as well. Anna with her swelling belly, and her husband, were quite quiet, while their friends were walking up and down nervously. Andrea’s family who had arrived the night before from Paris to spend a week in the Sibillini mountains. His wife, an artist, showing us her watercolours with a reassuring smile.
The few words and hugs…
That day some people understandably decided to leave, others decided to do another walk in the mountains and not to think too much. Our unhappiness was great when we saw them leave with a not-exactly pleasant memory of their holidays.
These people remain in my heart a little more than all the wonderful people I have known here throughout these years, although I did not get to know them well. Their eyes and their expressions stay with me and I have wondered many times if I were in their place, if during a vacation which had been looked forward to for the whole year and planned to the last detail something really bad should happen, I could ever forget it.
We are still in touch, they send me messages, they are following the situation, they tell me they want to come back as soon as possible.
That morning we turned on the TV which we had put on the ground outside so as we didn’t have to go in the house. We got the first information and saw the first images coming from Pescara del Tronto but we were unable to take in what had happened. On our mobiles we saw the photo of the ambulance which had been destroyed outside the hospital in Amandola and the top of the steeple of the church of San Francesco which was no longer there. We all seemed OK, apart from the fear.
That morning, we did not realise that the situation was so serious close by, that some houses in the neighbouring villages and in the centre of Montemonaco, and in nearby towns had been destroyed, that there might be cracks even at our house. We had not been back into the house and we not even thought to look at the walls, even in the following days. Then, only days later, we realised that there were some cracks, but fortunately nothing serious.
We were very lucky, we and our guests, not to be touched physically by the tragedy which happened only a few kilometers from us. On an emotional level, it was difficult to take it in and make sense of it. It was hard to find the words to explain it to the children.
During the days and weeks that followed, the earthquake damage grew worse. Our fear returned with every aftershock but we had escaped major damage so far. The beds were left unmade for many, many days. But we just had to try to forget about it and return to normality.
In mid-October we were visited by bloggers from the project of “ripartidaisibillini”, who were supporting people with businesses in accommodation and activities in the Sibillini areas adjacent to the epicentre but not directly affected by the quake. These activities, like ours, had seen a dramatic drop in visitors numbers and demands. With the stories and the images they collected and posted they were able to put over our desire to welcome back tourists and travellers.
Then the 26th and the 30th October.
Terror returned more powerful and arrogant, when it had seemed as if it was all over. Once again we were lucky, but those small cracks were multiplied, inside as well as in our hearts, and our house has become unusable.
That wonderful refuge for so many travellers, lovers of the mountains and of nature, who have over the years enjoyed our hospitality and spent many light-hearted moments here discovering the most fascinating corners of the Sibillini, from that terrible day lies empty and it will be for a very long time.
On 30th October in Montemonaco the famous Chestnut Festival had been planned, which attracts many visitors from all over central Italy each year. That day Daniela, Patrizia and their other friends had planned to be with us but at the last moment, after the shock of the 26th, they decided not to come. Luckily.
Even though we had never met before, these people have remained close to us and they even made us a visit, to show their support. We hugged each other without knowing each other. A gesture which we appreciated.
Since that day, like them, many of the people we hosted over the years have contacted us to see if we were okay and if we had suffered damage. We felt close to them even if they were far away. Also, a message in these times is important and it can change the feel of a grey day. Their support and their hope that we can repair the damage and be operative as soon as possible gives us great strength. It means that we left a small part of us with them, that our small place created with sacrifices and run with passion and sharing, has not been forgotten. That these places are not forgotten, but they have left good memories with those who passed through here.
Over the years even people from outside Italy appreciated our welcome. Lovers of nature, travelling, hiking, lovers of good Italian food, of our endless and colourful landscapes, the culture of our rural villages, authentic experiences, the many foreigners who we hosted were thrilled and amazed by this part of Italy which is outside the main tourist circuits, unknown to mass tourism, but also, and this is so important, we are able to share emotions and unique experiences with them.
And from abroad we have received the first concrete demonstrations of solidarity.
After my last post a few days ago where I spoke of our project to renovate the apartment of the Yellow House for guests, in order to partially restart as soon as it is possible, we received support for this project from our friend Eric and his entire family from Chester (UK), from our friend Jesse, from New York, who came to see us a few years ago, and Harry and Linda from San Francisco who came to Le Castellare four times. We are part of every one of their trips to Italy. From my friend Shelley, lover of the Sibillini, also from San Francisco. Our friend Geert from Belgium, a guitarist, decided to organize a charity concert to support our project, which will be held on May 20th in the city of Ghent, where he will perform together with a singer.
All of this is fantastic!
The positive side of this “misadventure” has been, and will continue to be, you, the people who are and will be close to us in different ways but each one is very special to us.
Thanks to all of you with all my heart!
The earthquake will not stop our desire to start again. So I want to tell you that the work on the new apartment will begin very soon and for you and for those who want to come here the door will always be open, we’ll always be ready with a “merenda” and a drink of “sbruilli” made by Pietro. Ready to tell you about the Sibyl legends and fairy dancers and still ready to help you to spend time in our Sibillini as soon as possible!
Nadia Buratti 13.3.2017