When death comes to stay: One Italian village’s story


SALETTA, Italy: Nowhere was hit harder by the earthquake that brought death and devastation to a remote corner of central Italy this week than Saletta.

And if you listen to the locals, the tiny mountain hamlet is never going to recover from the wounds it has suffered.

In a region which already has its fair share of abandoned villages, that is now the future beckoning for this one, they say.

Fewer than 20 people live full-time in the picturesque hamlet. On Wednesday, with the population temporarily swollen at the height of Italy’s summer holiday season, 22 people died.

Stefania Nobile, a petite, white-haired resident, survived. But she doubts the village will.

“The place has been razed to the ground, there’s nothing left, nothing,” she told AFPTV.

“It’s a tragedy, there’s nothing left and we don’t think it has a future,” she said of the tiny locality which lies just north of the tourist town of Amatrice.

“Who would come and spend money here to rebuild?

“It’s a shame because it’s an amazing area with a beautiful park, people who came to visit from northern Italy and Tuscany for walking holidays.”

‘It’s over’
Marco Beltrame, a lanky 28-year-old who lost his aunt and uncle in the earthquake, agrees.

“The hamlet is dead,” he said.

“No-one’s going to think about Saletta, they’ll only think about Amatrice because Amatrice is big. Saletta will disappear like so many tiny places. It’s over.”

Beltrame said he might easily have been among the victims.

“I was supposed to have come up that night but didn’t at the last minute.

“When I heard about the quake, I rushed here. That house there — the one that’s nothing but a mass of twisted stones — is my aunt and uncle’s house. They never left it, they didn’t make it.”

Saletta is the kind of place that could easily disappear. It essentially consists of one road loosely associated with a handful of houses dotted about higher up in the hills.

The only apparent communal space is a wooden bus stop, where a handful of survivors shelter from the baking sun while civil protection workers busy themselves sorting provisions in a field on the other side of the road.

Residents mainly grandparents
A bit further on, a man was glumly tidying bits of rubble at the entrance to his half-destroyed property, his deflated body language suggesting he was wondering if it was really worth the effort.

In a nearby vegetable patch, the tomatoes have ripened nicely but no one will ever taste them.

In the garden of the B&B Saletta, washing hung out to dry before the quake was still blowing gently in the breeze.

If Saletta had a focal point, this was perhaps it and now it has gone, along with three people who were trapped inside the half of the building that collapsed.

According to local accounts, one of the dead was a young man who had come up the night before the quake to join his girlfriend and her parents on holiday.

Such bad luck is hard to bounce back from, Stefania Nobile says.

“The inhabitants here were mainly grandparents whose families came to visit from the big cities, especially Rome, in the summer months,” she said.

“There could be as many as 250 people here at the height of summer, but fortunately many had left.

“Of the permanent residents, everyone knew everyone of course. There were elderly couples, really good people.

“I don’t think any of them survived.”



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