the night the earth really did move

So what about our short stay at our Italian home? Well it was nice to be back there; the weather was lovely, the house looked ok, our power supply had been restored and although we were scheduled to get quite a bit of work done we were looking forward to the break. Surely we’d be spared any dramas this visit.

Well after we’d arrived and unpacked we spent the rest of the first day cleaning the kitchen and getting a few things washed and the house aired and warmed up. C is fastidious about making the place fresh to live in after we’ve be away for a while. We still needed some gas to be supplied (so we couldn’t put on the heating) but neighbour P had ordered some for us and we were expecting (praying for) the guy to turn up the next morning.  But as we’d had the windows open all day and the sun really did have his hat on, the mustiness had all but disappeared by the time we showered and hit the sack that first Sunday night. We’d left Switzerland early Sunday morning and it had been a long old day. We were whacked out but happy to be home. We’d have to get into the bulk of the cleaning etc the next day but it was good to know we’d made a huge start. I was not just asleep but solidly unconscious before my head hit the pillow.

The next thing I know was C shaking me awake. It takes a second or two to come round and the bed was somehow shaking and moving across the floor. It was pitch dark and C had thought the movement was me having a bad dream but it wasn’t. As our eyes adjusted to the moonlight we could see the walls seemingly wobbling and the heavily-timbered ceiling above us creaking and moving. We felt the deep rumbling through our whole  bodies. For a few seconds I was struggling to think clearly and make out what was happening; it was a totally strange sensation almost like you’re drunk and the room’s spinning or you’re in the middle of a nightmare and find yourself in a totally alien or surreal setting. But within moments we were wide-awake and frighteningly it dawned on us that we were experiencing an earth quake. Christ almighty, it was scary. I jumped up and got the bedroom lights on and then we could see that the whole place was literally shaking. They say you should stand under a door lintel but instinctively I just shouted to C to get out and we headed down the stairs, fumbling for the keys for the door and out into the dark and away from the house.

C swore she heard a crashing noise come from upstairs and I thought it could be bricks from the chimney or perhaps the whole stack falling. Either way we needed to be out and away from danger. We stood outside looking at the house for a while until the rumbling abated. It only lasted for a few minutes but it seemed much longer. We checked the time; it was 3.35am. Not the nicest welcome back to Italy; I remember thinking to myself that it didn’t mention this on the tin when we bought the place.

It was a few minutes before we could really focus. We were both quite shaken. The full moon was actually bathing the whole house in a clear light and I did a quick survey around the property and all seemed to be fine. I expected to find a few dislodged roof tiles or chimney bricks  and cracks in the walls but all looked fine. I looked across the fields to see if neighbour P’s house lights were on but they weren’t, nor was her Afghan barking which struck me as odd. In fact it was eerily quiet; I’d expected all the dogs in the valley to be howling, but there was no animal sound at all. Perhaps we were experiencing an isolated quake I thought…

I was conscious of the danger from aftershocks but  no further rumbles seemed to happen for 20 minutes or so and I couldn’t forget that C had heard something crash so I was keen to check out the house for damage. I had a quick look round but could find absolutely no sign of damage anywhere in the house. Incredibly. In the spare room above our bedroom I found a large plastic set of toy golf clubs that the kids play with spewed over the floor. I assumed that is what C must have heard.

After a cup of tea we decided to return to bed. A bit crazy I guess but it seemed like the house was as solidly built as it looked and after the adrenlin rush had worn off we were still dog-tired. Plus we’d just spent two long days in the car and  and much as I like the Golf, I didn’t fancy sleeping the rest of the night away in it too. That said it wasn’t easy getting off again. I think I dozed fitfully and got up around 6.30 and went downstairs to see if there was anything on the tv news. It was only then that we learned of the terrible situation in L’Aquilia, the location of quake’s epicentre, some 150km from our home.  We hadn’t experienced an isolated shock after all.

The early morning reports showed a scene of pretty severe destruction and up to 20 confirmed deaths. By the time our gas supply guy arrived (hoorah!) at 10am he told us that 50 people had been killed. Of course over the next few days the full scale of the devastation became clear  and of course the terrible loss of life – some 300 people in total. We look back and think how lucky we were even though we were scared witless at the time.

There’s never a dull moment in our Italian life eh! As for the rest of the stay – we experienced a number of aftershock rumbles but nothing really dramatic. We did manage to completely clean the house top to bottom, sort out the garden to the front of the house, re-decorate R’s bedroom and our bathroom, fall out big time with Telecom Italia and had an interesting  territorial conversation with out Italian neighbours about property lines and access arrangements. Plus we had a great time. Oh and the shower started leaking water into our lounge on the last evening….sigh.

La dolce vita seems close still but just over the next hill eh.

Ciao amici.



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