The city of L'Aquila is the capital of Abruzzo and until April 6th, 2009, had a beautiful historic centre with cathedrals, piazzas, an opera house and a bustling area of shops, bars and restaurants. But everything changed when a major earthquake struck three and a half years ago damaging huge areas of the city including most of its historic buildings.
We took a walk through some of the ruined areas yesterday and it 's sobering to see how much of the centre had to be abandoned. Blocks and blocks of stone three and four storey buildings stand empty with doors locked or boarded up and arches and windows reinforced with wooden beams.
The shops are damaged, with broken windows, fallen-in ceilings and boarded up doors. The whole area has a ghostly empty feeling.
There are only a few people around, with the exception of the restoration crews. In one of the main piazzas there are few wooden huts selling souvenirs or soda pop, and some small groups of young people walking around.
You can see that a huge effort has gone into cleaning up rubble and reinforcing buildings but not much in the way of repair is taking place except for a couple of big churches. Apparently they do want to restore the entire historic centre; it will be taking many decades I think.
After more than three years there's still streets and streets of scaffolded buildings waiting, and some hearbreaking shrines to those who lost their lives in the quake (over 300 people). I can't imagine the cost in human terms or in dollars of such a catatrophe. It makes me wonder why I am so blase about living in an earthquake zone.