RECONSTRUCTION | Rediscovering Central Italy starting from Amatrice

rendere evidente la devastazione del post-sisma
The historical center of Amatrice after the earthquake

The high number of earthquakes in 2016 is irreparably linked to the seismic sequence that began on August 24 with a 6.0 magnitude shock, which devastated the historic centers of Amatrice, Accumoli, Arquata and Pescara del Tronto, causing 299 victims and incalculable damage to the cultural and artistic heritage of Central Italy. With the earthquake at 3.36 am began a seismic swarm in a very large area, which affected 4 regions (Lazio, Abruzzo, Umbria and Marche) and 7 provinces (Rieti, L’Aquila, Perugia, Terni, Macerata, Ascoli and Teramo).

Many were the problems that the operators of the Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Tourism had to face, in a vast territory between the valley of the Tronto river, the Sibillini mountains, the Laga mountains and the Alto Aterno mountains, areas characterized by harsh climatic conditions and often lacking of adequate infrastructures.

Four years after the first quake, the pain for the victims has not disappeared, nor the void left by the huge damages inflicted to the cultural heritage of these towns, which have seen the collapse of their churches, their historical buildings, their bell towers and all the symbols of a jealously guarded historical memory. The landscape of these places has been changed forever, with consequences not only in the artistic landscape, but also in the environmental, economic and social one. Even though the earthquakes have razed the physical places to the ground, they have not been able to wipe out the tenacity of the local populations, who have learned to get back up and resist the recurring natural calamities, testifying resilience and attachment to their land.

The cultural heritage of Amatrice

Amatrice deserves to be remembered for its archaeological evidence and for the flourishing artistic and architectural production that enriched every glimpse of the country, which became part of I Borghi più belli d’Italia in 2015. The Amatrician basin is located in a strategic area, as it is crossed by the Via Salaria, which connects the Adriatic area with Sabina and Lazio. In ancient times, the high valley of the river Tronto, in which the current municipalities of Amatrice and Accumoli are located, was an integral part of the Augustan Regio V, called Picenum.

The archaeological evidences document a massive exploitation of this territory, especially in the Roman age, and the most important ancient settlement is represented by the complex located in Torrita. The first excavations that interested the archaeological area took place between 1954 and 1956; at the beginning the structures were interpreted as pertaining to the vicus Phalacrinae, the birthplace of the emperor Vespasian, later identified in the municipality of Cittareale (RI). Recently, the complex of Torrita has been interpreted as part of a rustic villa or, given its location at the crossing point between the Velino and Tronto valleys, as a post station (mansio), which must have been at a short distance from the route of the Salaria. On the basis of building techniques, the structure has been dated between the beginning of the first century BC and the third-fourth century AD.

After the seismic event and thanks to the preventive archaeology interventions demanded by the competent Superintendence, some remarkable archaeological discoveries have been recorded in the locality of Palazzo, in the close proximity of the area of Grisciano, fraction of Accumoli. The investigations, which began on June 20, 2018, have brought to light wall structures, covering an area of 1000 square meters and constituting a fundamental monumental evidence of the Roman age of the territory. The hope is that the retrieved heritage can be enhanced to give new strength to the cultural identity of these areas.

Archaeological area of Torrita (Amatrice)
The devastation and the face of the town after the earthquake

Since the first hours of August 24, 2016, the town of Amatrice becomes the emblem of devastation: the historical center, as well as the hamlets of the town, appear completely destroyed. The priority is to save as many lives as possible. At a later stage, plans also begin to be studied to safeguard the historical and cultural roots of the earthquake zone.

In the first week of September there were the first rescues: the works kept in the Civic Museum ‘Nicola Filotesio’ of Amatrice were extracted from the rubble and initially stored inside a lorry with air-conditioned rooms. Around August 30, 2016, the Deposits Unit identified and set up a temporary depot in an industrial shed owned by the Scuola Allievi del Corpo Forestale dello Stato in Cittaducale (RI), an area a few kilometers from the earthquake sites. In this way, an extremely functional space comes to life, continuously supervised by the Ministry. At the same time, the basement was restructured to create a laboratory for emergency intervention and restoration of the works.

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Complex of the Church of S. Francesco in Amatrice after the seismic event
Cittaducale (RI) Depot

In May 2019, a framework agreement is signed by the Office of the Special Superintendent for the areas affected by the earthquake of August 24, 2016 of MiBACT, together with the Soprintendenza Archeologia, Belle Arti e Paesaggio of the provinces of Rieti, Latina and Frosinone, the Soprintendenza Archivistica e Bibliografica of Lazio, the Fondazione Varrone, the Municipalities of Rieti, Amatrice, Accumoli and Cittaducale and the Diocese of Rieti, for the promotion of reconstruction and restoration activities. The aim is to achieve a new usability of the cultural heritage hard hit by the earthquake and at the same time to convey a message of hope, commitment and rebirth.

On January 13, 2020 at Palazzo Dosi, in the city of Rieti, the Varrone Lab was inaugurated: it is a laboratory dedicated to the restoration of works recovered from Accumoli and Amatrice. A very important event for the process of rediscovery and enhancement of the cultural heritage of these areas. The Superintendence of Archaeology, Fine Arts and Landscape of the provinces of Rieti, Latina and Frosinone identified 48 assets, kept in the internal deposit of Cittaducale, that required particularly incisive restoration work. For others, which were in a good state of conservation, it was decided to carry out maintenance and cleaning operations. This path will find its “happy ending” in the exhibition that will soon be inaugurated at Palazzo Dosi.

In Amatrice, meanwhile, a very particular museum has been created, which tries to fill the material absence of the works, exploiting the infinite possibilities of virtual reality, augmented reality and videomapping. It is a multimedia pavilion that shows digital reproductions of various objects of historical and artistic interest, which can be viewed thanks to the MuDA AR app.  The hope is that the areas hit by the earthquake will be rediscovered for their beauty and return to the center of attention not only for the tragic events by which they were devastated. This will be the purpose of the column that will begin in the new magazine of ArcheoMe from February 2021 that, on a bimonthly basis, will tell us about Amatrice and other lands affected by tragic earthquakes. 

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