The city of L’Aquila (the Eagle, in Italian, aka the Queen of the Apennines) is now a two-faced place. It should be called L’Aquila bicipite (the double-headed eagle), because eight year after the devastating earthquake that almost destroyed it, the town has still to put its pieces back together.
Under the Basilica of San Bernardino or around the Bright Fountain – the only two architectural treasures which have been restored – buildings are still in ruins; the white canvas of the construction sites still wrap the palaces making them look like ghosts and gates keep on blocking the access to abandoned roads and alleys. But behind this desolate view, on the outskirts of town, there’s a number of brand new quake-proof houses nurturing hopes for a different future. State-of-the-art buildings, like the Architects building or the futuristic ANAS headquarters, were born near old restored buildings, like the eighteenth-century Palazzo del Governo.
A new Italy is taking shape: a country that is hardly working: many youngsters don’t want to leave their territory even in such bad times. They’re creating new activities to fill the holes left by the earthquake and the faults of the politics: Gino, the luthier, who make violins in the centre of the town when all the other masters left; Luna, working at the Polarville bookstore with the founder Giuliano and making it a meeting point inviting artists and making exhibitions; and Mario, with its recording studio, or Olly, boosting L’Aquila’s atmosphere with the delicious smells coming from her bistrot. Many little worlds transforming the city of L’Aquila in a surreal movie set, a non-place lit by the cold lights of the construction sites but warmed by the smiles of those who know they found their way. Thanks to them, even containers are no more temporary shelters, and the red lights are not just emergency alerts.
Those are signs of a generation that stopped to worry about time and started to taste life again, as there are no homes, towns or places worthy their names if they’re not lived by people able to write their story everyday.