In the early hours of 24 August 2016, I was woken from a deep sleep in my house in Capena by an insistent shaking of the bed. Later, it turned out that half my Italian neighbours (better versed in earthquake lore) had gone outdoors. I just turned over and went back to sleep. Next morning, I woke to the tragic news of the earthquake in Amatrice. We had felt it even though the epicentre was 100 km away.
Over the following days, eye-witness accounts gradually trickled in from friends and relatives of the those affected. Heart-breakingly, many of those killed were children who were staying with their grandparents during the holidays while their parents continued to work.
Gastronomically, the town is best known for its pasta sauce, which is based on guanciale (cured pork cheek), pecorino cheese and tomatoes, and used in dishes such as bucatini all’amatriciana. Many towns and villages in Lazio, including my own, held special Amatriciana dinners to raise money for the relief effort.
Situated 150km (93 miles) from Rome, Amatrice is among the most easterly settlements in Lazio. Until 1927 it was part of Abruzzo.
The 6.2-magnitude earthquake caused widespread devastation and loss of life because it was relatively shallow. More than three quarters of central Amatrice was destroyed or damaged beyond repair. Of the town’s most historic buildings, only the 13th century civic tower survived almost unscathed, as shown in the photo below. In April 2017 Prince Charles visited Amatrice, where he entered the abandoned ‘red zone’ in the town centre and paid tribute to the victims of the earthquake.