There won’t be a next time.
Amatrice has been on my “next time” list for the past two years. We have talked about visiting the town for a Sunday lunch because of its famed amatriciana. But at a distance of approximately two hours from Rome, it was just beyond the range of our driving limits for a day trip.
“We’ll get to it next time,” we told ourselves on the few occasions we were on the highway returning from trips in Le Marche, Umbria, and Abruzzo. But some other hill town appeared in the distance, distracting us yet again.
Amatrice was always there on the map, flirting with us from the far corner of Lazio. One of the Borghi Più Belli d’Italia, the city had a compact downtown with some 15th century churches; a view of the Gran Sasso massif; and, of course, it was the source of one of our favorite pasta dishes.
Only in Italy could a town with the pedigree of Amatrice end up on our “next time” list. And now there won’t be a next time.
I don’t mourn just for the historic buildings, though it always sad to lose hundreds of years of history in an instant. I mourn for a small town’s livelihood.
I have visited so many towns like Amatrice up and down the shaky spine of Central Italy. I can imagine the way Amatrice once bustled on weekday mornings, with town folk stopping in the bakery for bread, the pharmacy for prescriptions, the bar for a caffè and a chat. I can see it on a Sunday (even though I never went there), full of day-trippers milling about the squares waiting for the lunch hour.
I also think about the people who have been lost in the earthquake, the mothers and the nonni and the chefs who held in their heads the secrets of making a perfect amatriciana, as well as the tourists staying in the Hotel Roma, the “Temple of Amatriciana,” in the city for the annual festival dedicated to the famous dish. As many as 35 visitors in the 40-room Hotel Roma perished in the quake.
One of the most poignant meditations to be published after the earthquake comes from Beppe Severgnini. In Italy’s Fragile Beauty, he writes:
Amatrice is the centerpiece of picture-postcard Italy, for those who find Tuscany too obvious, Rome too noisy and Venice too crowded.
And in the space of just one summer’s night, Amatrice is all but gone…
We all forget — visitors and residents alike — that Italy is a stunning but shaky land.
Foto Di Natsag di Wikipedia in italiano – Opera propria di chi ha caricato in origine il file, Pubblico dominio, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=6861950