Anne's Blog

In San Pellegrino di Norcia, the Earthquake’s “New Homeless”

Date: August 29, 2016 - categories: , , - 12 Comments

On the last Sunday in August, my crowdfunding venture took to the wheels: Pino and I put on helmets, mounted his moto Guzzi and headed southeast into the mountainous Valnerina (Nera River Valley) towards Norcia, only about 16 kilometers from Accumoli (epicenter of the August 24th earthquake).



We had to take a detour to Norcia due to falling boulders on road after a recent after-shock. Our detour route took us along a winding road, climbing up forested mountain gorges through breath-taking scenery, up past Preci, on to Visso..then to Norcia.





We stopped in Norcia for espresso, parking the motorcycle outside the medieval walls, crumbling in sections, cordoned off. Fire department ladders were being raised to the top of a city medieval entrance, like a groping long arm. We wandered the medieval alleyways, nearly-empty now (tourists have fled). All churches closed, each one wounded by the August 24th earthquake, silent, awaiting assessment by engineers.

Norcia, post-earthquake











From Norcia, we headed towards Ascoli Piceno, doubting the road would be open. It was closed – as was the road to Castelluccio di Norcia, gem of a medieval hill town overlooking the Piano Grande (Great Plain). Earthquake damage there, too.


Castelluccio, pre-earthquake

We turned back at the sign indicating roads closed, took a side road flanking the mountain toward San Pellegrino.
We had never explored this tiny medieval town.
We won’t be able to do so for quite awhile

Fire trucks at the entrance of the village were the clue. We soon discovered that San Pellegrino (population 1000 in summertime, far fewer in the winters) is the only zona rossa town in Umbria: cordoned off, entry only possible to residents with hardhat, accompanied by hard-hatted vigile del fuoco (“firemen”).

San Pellegrino, now a zona rossa town, cordoned off






This entire medieval village crumbled and all residents are now either in the tent camp near the village – or living elsewhere (many in nearby Norcia) with friends or relatives. Even before I took off my helmet, I connected with elderly Maria, 87, in her own “helmet” (hard hat), about to head up to her house with her vigile escort, “to get some things I need, to feed my chickens..but I live in a tent now….” They soon passed under the red and white-striped cordons and headed up towards the rubble…








At a picnic table nearby, Pino and I talked to Anna Maria, her mamma Anna and grandparents, Paolo and Patrizia, now living in the nearby tent camp, too. Carabinieri volunteers are at the entrance to the camp, assuring entrance only to the villagers – but they happily took me on a “tour” when they knew I’d be writing notes to bring in aid to the “new homeless.”

Pino talks to Anna Maria and her family – now homeless, outside of their village, San Pellegrino, cordoned off




Entrance to the tent camp


Carabinieri at the entrance


Inside the tent camp, residents try to make it feel like home

Other volunteers from various groups were busy on an array of tasks, each eager to aid the “new homeless,” physically and mentally: “we have to help distract them,” volunteer Marcello told me as he planted flowers. “These colorful flowers line the way to the tents; we brought them down from devastated balconies in the village. The villagers pass, they note, they stop to water the plants: a task for them.” And then he added with a wide luminous grin, “yes, flowers first..then our children…then our wife..and then….. who knows?”


It was near lunchtime and a cheery group of volunteers chatted as they peeled potatoes outside the camp kitchen. A rich tomato sauce with meat sauce was bubbling in huge pots nearby on a camp stove. One of the potato-peelers promised to send me bank information for San Pellegrino restoration. When he does, I’ll post it on my site.








…and may the “new homeless” of San Pellegrino soon return home.

Outside San Pellegrino, devastated by the Aug 24th earthquake:












Click here to find out how to help earthquake restoration
See San Pellegrino’s earthquake damage here
Click here to see Prime Minister Renzi’s visit to the San Pellegrino tent camp
Read about a favorite spot in nearby Castelluccio
Read one reason Norcia is so noted
Click here to read about Preci
Click here to read about Visso
Read more about benefit dinners for Amatrice


  • Tom Leffingwell says:

    Thank you for your informative post. It helps me better understand the extent of this disaster. Thank goodness for the stone mason in this time of resurrection.
    Tom L.

  • Beverly Oliveri says:

    We continue to pray for all as we look forward to our upcoming visit to beautiful Assisi.

  • Carlin Knight says:

    Hi Anne, I was in Scheggino during the first Berkshire Choral Festival (and with my daughter attended one of your cooking classes in Phoenix the following year). I have been so worried about Scheggino and all the wonderful people who live there. I can’t seem to find any information about the effect of the earthquake on the town. Do you have any information?

    Thank heavens you, Pino, Assisi and your properties are all right. But how devasted you must feel to see the damage and hear about the poor people who died or were injured. Please know we are keeping you, your family, and Umbria in our hearts as the rebuilding and restoration continue.

    Love, Carlin

  • Thanks for doing this, Anne and Pino. I remember you saying years ago that Norcia was one of your favorite Umbrian towns. Prayers for a speedy restoration and recovery for all. I’ll be back in Sulmona in two weeks, missing my bella paese very much. A presto — Linda

  • Cara says:

    Thank you for your story. I was in norcia in 2011, beautiful area. Thank you foe bringing additional attention to the devastation and to the people affected.

  • Carol Arnold says:

    My husband died in July 2014. However we had planned to to spend our 50th wedding anniversary in Umbria. In March of this year I decided to stick to the plan. Now I am so glad that my dearest and oldest friend who was born in Southern Italy will be with me. And we will celebrate that the loss of life was not more, and that the Italian spirit is alive and well. We will also contribute what we can. Thank you

  • Cheryl McCrite says:

    Anne, thank you for posting the update and pictures of you and Pino. We were wondering how things were at your home …. Such a sad event. Prayers to all in the area.

  • Sally Bevilacqua says:

    Your blog is terrific. My heart breaks for all the loss and now homeless since the earthquake. Bless you and Pino for helping in such a meaningful way
    ( food !! ) and keep us informed. Is there a way to directly donate to the townfolk?

  • suzanne and jack says:

    Anne we thank you for reminding us that the earthquake’s devastation continues to effect so many lives. Beautiful Umbria. How sad. Our thoughts are with you and the families of Umbria as the rebuilding commences. We Brava for your crowd-funding to assist. We will be back next year.

  • John A. Iennusa,Sr. says:

    It is very sad to see and read about the devastation that has taken place with the earthquake. Even though I was spared with Hurricane Katrina 11yrs. ago and the recent flooding here in Louisiana, I know what they are going through. I feel again sad that they have to live in tents with the winter time coming before housing will be ready for them. Here in the U.S., people complained about living in donated trailers but look what these poor people have to endure. My prayers are with them.

  • Thanks to each for your wonderful reply to how to donate directly: we are sending our funds gathered at our benefit spaghetti alla amatriciana dinner directly to the city of Amatrice’s fund for the rebuilding of the elementary school. Happy to share bank info with anyone interested.
    And have contact info for the Bishop of Rieti (near AMatrice) who can perhaps get funds right to needy families

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