I was staying just 2 hours from Amatrice when the recent earthquake shattered the lives of those who lived both there and in the surrounding villages. I have to confess that it felt strange to wake up in the beautiful landscape of Umbria completely untouched and unaffected by the tragedy that was taking place just miles away. Whilst rescue teams were digging to find survivors in the rubble and whilst hundreds had lost their homes, I was continuing to tour the Umbrian region, sampling the best that it’s towns and cities have to offer tourists.
Days on from the 6.2 magnitude earthquake, we now know that the tragedy took the lives of 292 people as well as leaving 2500 without homes. Saturday 27th August marked a day of mourning for the Italian people, and as the funerals for those that lost their lives have taken place, it’s impossible not to be moved by the heartfelt scenes and human stories of those affected. Our thoughts and prayers go out to every single one of them.
My immediate thoughts have also turned to what both myself and others can do to help in the aftermath of these tragic events. Many in Italy have already helped by donating blood, blankets and other essentials. However, what can we do internationally in the days, weeks and months that follow as the people of Amatrice, Accumoli, Pescaro del Tronto and Arquata del Tronto re-build their homes and lives?
1. The first (and probably most obvious thing) is to donate. The British Red Cross are taking donations to use to help the victims of the recent earthquake in Italy, whilst La Stampa, the daily Italian newspaper, have also set up a fund to raise money for the victims. Save the Children are also working to specifically set up safe places for children affected by the earthquake.
2. Share a plate of Amatriciana. An idea originally set up by an Italian food blogger, this initiative has spread around the world. Amatrice is famous for it’s Pasta Amatriciana, a dish that has been around for centuries. In fact, last weekend, the town should have been celebrating the 50th anniversary of it’s food festival centred around the delicious spaghetti amatriciana, a pasta dish with a tomato based sauce flavoured with pecorino cheese and guanciale (cured pork cheek). Many Italian restaurants worldwide are now donating funds from this dish to the victims of the earthquake that struck Amatrice. In the UK, the most well known chain to support this is Jamie’s Italian.
3. And finally, please don’t be put off travelling to Italy. The Italian people need your support more than ever. Unfortunately, we have heard reports of holidaymakers cancelling their travels in Umbria. Of course, we can understand traveller’s concerns. However, this region – the ‘green heart’ of Italy, was actually relatively untouched by the tragic events. Umbria was frequently mentioned in news reports perhaps giving the impression that it had sustained significant damage and yet the only town in Umbria affected was Norcia. The latter was also struck by 2 earthquakes in 1979 and 1999 and a result, most buildings had been re-built or reinforced to resist earthquakes and so, I am pleased to say that damage last week was minimal. If you need any advice about travel plans, please talk to the Umbria tourist board, the Lazio tourist board or the Le Marche tourist board.
Certainly, in the initial hours and days following the earthquake, there seemed to be a significant amount of confusion as to which towns had been affected. In the immediate aftermath of earthquake, I heard of some news agencies in the USA reporting of villages and towns being affected when they had not been touched and were miles from the tragedy that was unfolding. It’s so important that the news coverage accurately accounts for events and it frustrates me that some parts of the world media have given viewers and readers completely misleading and factually incorrect information. Surely, it’s tragic enough that nearly 300 people have lost their lives, without the media feeling the need to further fuel the tragedy? As a result, we also felt it right to take a moment to try and clarify the area affected to ensure no confusion. In fact, the four towns affected – Amatrice, Accumoli, Pescaro del Tronto and Arquata del Tronto – are in Lazio and Le Marche not in Umbria. Tuscany was completely unaffected. For perspective, Florence is 200km away from the epicentre, whilst Rome and Ancona are both over 100km away. So, please, don’t be put off travelling to Italy. The people need your support more than ever.
Of course, if you have any concerns about your travel plans, or want advice on areas to stay, please don’t hesitate to contact the Bookings For You team. We would be very happy to provide any support or advice you need.