A week ago today, at 10pm in New York and 4am in Italy, I saw the first messages on Facebook and Whatsapp from team members and friends in Italy. An earthquake had struck in the middle of the night in the mountainous region near the border of Lazio and Abruzzo. Many we know in Umbria, and surrounding areas from Rome to Naples, soon confirmed that they had experienced the tremors firsthand, but were thankfully OK. Our travelers were all safe and accounted for, and my initial concern quickly moved on to a sense of relief.
But soon I came to understand the degree of devastation that had struck several small towns, leaving entire historic centers decimated and a death toll that quickly rose from dozens to hundreds.
I learned about the destruction of the village of Amatrice, which just days thereafter was to celebrate its annual “sagra”, a type of food festival held once a year in towns all over Italy featuring a local dish unique to that area.
While I had never personally had the chance to visit Amatrice, sagras have long been one of my most beloved Italian traditions. They are magical experiences full of food, dancing and revelry, bringing together family, friends and visitors from neighboring towns and regions. For Italians, they are a celebration of what is most important in life.
The particular sagra that was to take place in Amatrice was their sagra degli spaghetti all’Amatriciana, a famous local pasta preparation (one of my longtime favorites) named after the town and ubiquitous in restaurants throughout Rome, alongside cacio e pepe. That this kind of tragedy unfolded during what was supposed to have been a week full of joy and celebration is unimaginable and heartbreaking.
But the Italian people are strong, and full of resolve and an unrelenting sense of community. And our entire team at Ciao Andiamo has been so touched by the outpouring of support – from personal notes and messages of concern to tremendous on-the-ground relief efforts. In fact, donations have been so overwhelming that many donation drives have reached their capacity and have had to be put on pause.
If you would like to help out, there are still a number of ways to do so, including a monetary donation to the Italian Red Cross, which is helping provide meals, emergency services and emergency items to survivors.
Grazie to you all for your love and kindness, and for keeping our Italian brothers and sisters in your hearts and prayers.
Jon and the Ciao Andiamo Team
Image Source: http://www.daninseries.it/prayforitaly-i-tweet-solidali-delle-star-per-il-terremoto-in-italia/