1) One year after the earthquake, or rather the earthquakes that hit Sarnano, at what point is reconstruction? What are the wounds still open, which, on the other hand, are the results achieved, that are hopeful and that restore confidence in the rebirth of the country?
The seismic sequence, and especially the shock of October 30th, 2016, caused significant damage to Sarnano: 1,200 uninhabitable housing units, three irreparably damaged school buildings, several public buildings and churches unfit, over 700 displaced people out of a population of 3300 inhabitants. Unfortunately, the reconstruction is hard to start again in a decisive manner: very few requests for private reconstruction have been presented to date, while only a very limited number has been approved for public works, for which the design phase has not even yet begun. Despite this is certainly not an encouraging picture, we have obtained some results in Sarnano that give us great confidence for the future of our community: first of all we have managed to keep all the displaced on the territory, taking advantage of available structures and second-hand homes, thus avoiding the exodus towards the coast. We have also been able to “save” our thermal baths, which represent (together with the mountains and our historic center) one of the most important driving forces of our economy, moving them from the old structure, which had been very seriously damaged, to a new modern one, functional and with great prospects of growth. Last but not least, the part concerning the reconstruction of school buildings – thanks to the intervention of important benefactors – is going on very positively.
2) You said that, in the process of reconstruction, you have always emphasized two priorities: schools and businesses. Can you deepen this concept and tell us how you have put this line of action into practice as first citizen?
In realities as small as Sarnano, schools and business fabric (here strongly dedicated to tourism) represent our lifeblood: both seemed, in the immediacy of the earthquake, irretrievably compromised and this worried us strongly, because losing schools and the prospect of seeing our economic activities close would mark the definitive sunset of the territory. This is why since the very beginning great attention has been placed on these two themes, and the expected results are coming. On the front of school reconstruction the three buildings are being rebuilt from scratch: the kindergarten has already been rebuilt thanks to donations from Friuli Venezia Giulia Region and its population. The secondary school is undergoing reconstruction, donated by the Andrea Bocelli Foundation and the Only The Brave Foundation; the primary school, which will be rebuilt with public funds, is during the tendering phase of the works. On the business front, which in Sarnano means tourism, the delocalization of the Baths of San Giacomo in record time, together with an important support to all the tourist-cultural activities of the territory, has allowed us to maintain a good tourist influx, despite the understandable difficulties related to the post-earthquake situation.
3) How much did bureaucracy weigh on the reconstruction? How much has it slowed down, how could you overcome it, at least partially, and what changes in your opinion, on the part of the State, would be important – considering the Marche experience – to improve the efficiency and speed of public response to such calamities?
First of all, a necessary premise: this earthquake, for intensity, duration and territory involved, has no equal in the modern history of our country. In such a context it was almost inevitable that the times would not be short. That said, however, the bureaucracy is playing a very important role in the slowness of reconstruction. There has been too much attention to formal issues, while the substantial ones have often slipped into the background, in addition to the fact that there was no involvement of mayors and local administrations, which could have offered a valid support to the decision-making process, instead it was all centralized. Moreover, considering the many critical issues of our nation, not only from the seismic point of view, but also considering the entire hydro-geological structure of our territory, it would finally be necessary for the State to adopt well codified procedures that can be employed for every situation, even with the specifics of any case. It is not possible to face every seismic crisis (like the latest, L’Aquila in 2009, Emilia Romagna in 2012, and the last one in 2016) with new instruments which have “to be invented” every time on a case by case bases.
4) The “Andrea Bocelli Foundation” and its founder, but also the partner foundation “Only the Brave”, have repeatedly underlined how – to give substance to the collaboration with Sarnano – the contribution of the local administration community has been crucial, in terms of optimism, enthusiasm, concreteness and willingness to do, to act. How was this meeting born, how did this mutual trust take shape which then allowed the project to take off?
I still remember with great emotion the morning of March 9th, when the Special Commissioner for Reconstruction Errani (whom I spoke to so many times on the schools issue and who knew how important this theme was for us) told me that there was a possibility that the reconstruction of our secondary school took place thanks to donations from the Foundations of Andrea Bocelli and Renzo Rosso. From that moment began a journey made of meetings, inspections, phone calls, mails, etc., which have united the Municipal Administration and the two Foundations in the shared effort to give back to our kids a beautiful, functional and above all safe school. Sharing this goal has been possible thanks to the strongly synergistic relationship that, even on a personal level, has been established among all the protagonists of this beautiful story of solidarity.
5)”Man is easily more inclined to fear than to hope” wrote a great Marche man, the poet Giacomo Leopardi. The school named after his name, however, day after day, is turning into a reality, giving reason to the hopes of Sarnano community. At what point is the reconstruction of the comprehensive institute?
As previously said, the three schools of our comprehensive institute (dating back to the ’50s,’ 60s and early ’70s) had been so damaged by the earthquake that they could not be repaired and seismically adjusted. The kindergarten has already been rebuilt by the Civil Protection of the Friuli Venezia Giulia Region and opened on September 15th last. For the primary school, whose reconstruction with public funds had been foreseen in the order 14 of the commissioner Errani, the definitive project has been drawn up, and in these days the public tender for the contract of the works is in progress. Regarding the secondary school, after demolishing the old building and completing all the bureaucratic procedures linked to the required authorizations of the case, the construction site for the reconstruction has already started, thanks to donations from the Andrea Bocelli Foundation and the Only The Brave Foundation.
6) At the moment, where do the lessons take place? We can imagine how many students and teachers, have had to face sacrifices, during the last and this school year, without giving in to the temptation to leave Sarnano …
As for the kindergarten, last year, after a period of suspension of our activities, the lessons were held inside tents of the Civil Protection placed inside our sports hall. The primary and secondary schools have had to face the last school year doing a double afternoon shift, very heavy for the boys and their families. This year the elementary schools are housed in the building of the scientific high school of Sarnano, while the secondary ones within the new kindergarten. These accommodations have allowed us, at least, to avoid the double afternoon shift, but it is clear that they are still absolutely emergency solutions that can be definitively solved only with the realization of all the new school buildings planned.
7) How are the people from Sarnano living while waiting for their school? Considering the children – who will soon be able to experience the new facilities and services first hand – are they curious?
There is great expectation from the whole population. Our old schools were not seismically adequate and this was a source of legitimate concern, while the new schools will be all anti-seismic, as well as extremely beautiful and functional. I reiterate that schools are one of the strongest glues in the inland communities, and the awareness that soon they will all be rebuilt and secure offers a great perspective for our future.
8) What you superintend is a place with a strong tourist vocation, from its renowned thermal baths to winter sports. The traumatic experience of the earthquake has put a strain on Sarnano. However, its community has reacted strongly, with cohesion and solidarity spirit exemplary. What future, and with what timing, for Sarnano? Which are the words to use, to invite those who do not know your country, to visit it?
During the first few days after the shock of October 30th, our people showed strong cohesion: it was a terrible time, but we faced and overcame it with the spirit of a true community. In this dramatic event we must find the strength and the stimuli not only to start again, but to make our territory grow, it is beautiful and it deserves to be visited and experienced in all its specifics. If I had to find a way to define Sarnano and to invite those who do not know it to visit it, I would say that our key word is “wellness”, in the broadest sense of living well. The Baths of San Giacomo, the mountains in winter with Sassotetto ski lifts, and in summer with their cycle paths, our medieval historical center, which held up very well the impact of the earthquake, thanks to the fact that it is all built in bricks, our places of the spirit (Sarnano is strongly linked to Franciscanism and here have been written the “Fioretti di San Francesco”), the historical re-enactments, and also traditional, and quality food and wine. Those who come to Sarnano know that they will find a healthy environment, a nature to be experienced, people who know how to enhance hospitality. The earthquake gave us a bad blow, but our motto was from the first moment “one step at a time”, and with this spirit we did not cry, but we rolled up our sleeves and, with commitment and passion, we started working, and we go on working day after day to build a more beautiful and safer future.