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.
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.
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
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