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The Abruzzo Earthquake – An Expat’s Story

Earthquakes are frightening events, which the owners of the Casa del Amorino apartment down in Introdacqua, near Sulmona, know something about.  Indeed, they found themselves right in the middle of the earthquake which shook a substantial section of the Abruzzo region in Italy on the 6 April, 2009, leaving the regional capital l’Aqulia badly damaged and many thousands homeless.

This is Jenny and Gareth Williams’ first hand account of the experience, which Jenny kindly forwarded to me, after I wrote to find out how things were going.  Despite the traumatic tale you are about to read, I am very happy to be able to report that Jenny and Gareth’s jewel in Introdacqua, was unscathed, and is open for business.

It is also a tale of a husband protecting his wife, and there are no comments from me.  The story speaks for itself.  The Williams’ account is at times chilling, but has a happy ending.

Jenny and Gareth’s Tale:

The Earthquake

Casa Dell'Amorino
Casa Dell'Amorino

It started a few days before the major earthquake. There were a few minor tremors, but nothing to worry about, just the slightest movement causing china and glasses to rattle in the cupboards. Although we had always known this area was susceptible to earthquakes we dismissed our fears with the thought that the last major earthquake had been thirty years ago.

The night before the earthquake there was no indication of the catastrophe that was about to happen. At about 4.15am we were awoken violently by what I can only describe as a feeling that a team of strong men were standing around the bed and shaking it from side to side; everything in the house was rattling; I was absolutely terrified by the cacophony of sound and totally confused as to what was happening. My husband Gareth knew immediately that it was an earthquake and very bravely leaned over to protect me. Later I ungratefully  pointed out that if he had been knocked unconscious by falling masonry I would have been pinned underneath him. It was over in a matter of 25 seconds and it ended as quickly as it started leaving an eerie silence in its wake; even the dogs had ceased their endless barking. Trembling we put on all the lights to inspect the house and my first thought was I want to go home back to England. If there had been an Airbus parked outside the door I would have got on it in my nightie.

Remarkably the house was totally untouched nothing had moved not even the pictures on the walls. We could hear our neighbours calling to see if everyone was okay and when it went quiet again there seemed little else to do but go back to bed but we knew sleep would be impossible.

It was the next morning when the phone calls started  we became aware of the scale of the disaster. We turned the television on and were horrified at what we saw.  All through the day we were inundated with phone calls and emails inquiring if we were okay. All day the death rate kept rising. The whole of Introdacqua was in shock. Everyone seemed to know someone in L’Aquila.

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However, Introdaqua was completely untouched but as a precaution the Easter festas were cancelled. The church services were held outside as they thought the cupola may have suffered some damage; thankfully this was unfounded and the church is in use again.

We felt aftershocks for the next two weeks. These were very frightening as we were unsure if this would precipitate another large earthquake. Needless to say, like many others, I did not sleep very well. But at least we had a roof over our heads unlike so many people in L’Aquila. The villagers rallied; young men went to help the rescue work and the Commune (local council – Alex) arranged collection points for food and clothing.


Just as we thought everything was getting back to normal and people were starting to sleep in their own beds instead of in cars and tents, the Italian government decided to send the army in to erect tents in the village. This understandably, caused minor panic as people began to worry that the government knew something we didn’t. However, they only provided twenty tents which slept ten and as there are three thousand people in Introdaqua it would have been very cosy if we had been evacuated. Needless to say they have now been dismantled and the local football team has its pitch back again.

The rebuilding of L’Aquila continues but it is a slow process. It will be a long time before things return to normal there and for some people it never will. But as my neighbour said these people are tough they have lived through many hard times and they will live through this.

Everything here is now back to normal. The village is as beautiful and unchanged as ever. None of our pre-booked guests cancelled. Everyone who stays in our holiday home loves it and the village. To quote one of our guests “We have only ever been on package tours before.  But this has been the best holiday we have ever had; please can we come again next year”. We must be doing something right.

By Jenny Williams of Casa del Amorino, Introdacqua, Abruzzo, Italy


Many thanks to Jenny and Gareth for having shared their experience with us.

More information from Blog from Italy on Jenny and Gareth Williams quiet corner of Abruzzo, Italy:  Medieval Tranquility at Casa Dell’Amorino, Abruzzo, Italy

Details of the 2009 Abruzzo earthquake can be found on Wikipedia:  2009 L’Aquila earthquake

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