October the 30th 2016, 7.40 am, an earthquake of 6.5 degrees Richter torn down the village of Castelluccio di Norcia, located in a plateau at 1450 m a.s.l.
Castelluccio is a hamlet under the municipality of Norcia, a little town in the Umbria region, and it’s known world-wide for the « fiorita », the annual blooming of its plateau. During the 2016 season (may/july), right before the earthquake, 250.000 tourists visited the plateau to admire this sight, setting the record of visitors. The other main source of incomes for the locals is the production of the renowned «lentil of Castelluccio di Norcia», an I.G.P. certified product.
After the earthquake the whole village was declared «red zone» (restricted area) as most of the old houses were permanently damaged and unsafe. The three roads connecting Castelluccio with the rest of the world were also impassable. The village remained isolated and uninhabited for the whole winter: the only people living there were a garrison of soldiers and a few shepherds who couldn’t abandon their herd.
The two economical activities supporting the locals risked to be totally compromised for the year 2017. In order to allow the seeding of lentils in march, the growers were brought up in the plateau by a military convoy. But the touristic season was still at risk. Fortunately, the local authorities were able to re-open the road connecting Castelluccio with Norcia right at the end of «la fiorita» allowing few tourists to reach the plateau.
But local tourist operators - hotel and restaurant owners - decided not to wait for a reconstruction that appears still far at the horizon. They joined their effort and set their activities under a tent, a temporary restaurant willing to offer food and beverages to the few tourists visiting the plateau this year. «We don’t expect any help from authorities» they say, «we just want to be able to do our job».
During the summer 2017 other locals dwell in the village, selling their home/grown products / mostly lentils and other legumes / using camping vans given by donors as operational bases. They want to keep Castelluccio alive during these dark times.
The common feeling is disappointment for the slowness of the reconstruction, as the rubbles are still covering most of the village. Somebody suspects that Norcia, the main city of the district, is boycotting the reconstruction to become the only possible base for those who will visit the plateau, diverting the takings of tourism in its favour. There’s actually a long story of rivalry among Norcia and its hamlet upon the plateau. Others point their fingers against their fellow countrymen who are using social media to attract donations which are then managed in opaque ways.
In this climate of confusion and suspicion a group of Castelluccians / mostly professionals based in Roma and other cities / founded the NGO «Per la vita di Castelluccio ONLUS» to be able to speak with one voice, deal with local authorities from an eminent position and convey donations in a transparent way.
This story features interviews and pictures of the main characters animating the life in the plateau of Castelluccio: lentil growers, shepherds, shop owners, restaurateurs and hotel owners, soldiers of the garrison. Brave people who found unexpected strength in adversity, learning how unity can make the difference in arduous time. «Before the earthquake we didn’t even find the time to share a moment together, we were to busy dealing with tourists, businesses were going great» says Tonino, a restaurant owners, «when you have to start again from zero you really appreciate the value of important things».