Some time after my eldest son drove in early Sunday morning my bed started shaking violently. And it wasn’t my secret lover trying his moves. The shaking went on. And on. It took quite a few seconds for me to realise.. Earthquake!
I ran upstairs to check the eldest in the attic who sleeps under the beams of the house. All intact. And saw youngest sitting up sitting up in his bed saying ‘That was an earthquake, Mum. Did you feel it?’
Heart-thumping terror. The siren in the villa above us continued to waa-waa-waa. And then nothing.
There was another strong tremor an hour later. Hours afterwards, I heard that friends in town had gone down into the street barely dressed. My daughter huddled under her cousin’s bed. I knew the epicentre was far away from us (around eighty kilometres it turned out) and that this area lies on a bed of water (la pianura padana) rather than more jolting bedrock, and yet many houses like ours are built with heavy beams and thick, tumbledown walls of stone and mortar, that have weathered centuries of icy winters and baking summers. Even the ancient beams of our house have slooped with age.
Then we saw the real damage on the television. People in small towns like ours, scattered along the plains south of the Po River. Wreckage, toppled buildings, despair. It turned into one of those odd, still days, where you feel you should be doing something, but what?
We eventually carried out our plans to go to the annual flower festival at a nearby Palladian villa that stands in a massive rock amphitheatre at the edge of the hills. It was raining and the mood was subdued. People moved from stand to stand in the noble setting. You could hear a continual murmur: about apartment buildings swaying, dogs howling, people in the streets. It made for a strange cohesion.
Each low wall is lined with a row of Palladian statues. That each statue is so perfectly composed (rumoured to be cleaned with oxidised water and a toothbrush by the scruffily dressed count) makes me think of what will last. This exquisite corner of land, sheltered by the rockface, with some of the austere village houses even dug from its flanks; the yellow calla lilies in a plastic bag in my hand, which will most probably not survive my random plant care this winter; my friends waving me over for a drop of villa vine with their deaf shepherd dog and a batch of umbrellas.
On an entirely frivolous note I would like to invite you to read my guest post with the fantastic (and wildly successful) crime writer Mel Sherratt www.highheelsandbookdeals.com. Thanks for having me Mel and do check out some items from my Italian shoes collection!