I have experienced two earthquakes, both in Italy. The first was quite mild insofar as the epicentre was probably a long way away and we were affected only by a brief, sixty seconds or so of shaking. We were outside our house on the terrace and you could feel the ground moving . . . we knew exactly what it was . . . and then it passed. Nothing broken, no plaster fallen off the walls. Later that week when we visited Cingoli, a nearby hill town which is around 700m[2200ft]above sea level we saw where some low walls had crumbled and fallen but that was it.
We were completely unaware of the devastating L’Aquila earthquake in 2009 until we read about it. We drove right past L’Aquila last year and it is still in ruins with temporary portakabin-type housing on the nearby hillsides for the nine-thousand residents still homeless. Waiting for the Mafia to rebuild their homes with the European grant money.
The second time was much more serious. It occurred early in the morning around 4.00am just as it was getting light and we were fast asleep in bed. The whole house was shaking violently and it seemed just a matter of minutes before the roof would cave in and bury us. It is hard to explain in words what it feels like; you can’t stand up, you need something to hold on to. It’s like being on a ship in rough seas, swaying, pitching and diving . . . very, very frightening and no time to think about how to save oneself, where to shelter, where would be safe. You just have to endure it.
Our house, Casa del Prete [the Priests House] had been extensively damaged by an earthquake in the eighties; it had lost most of its roof and it was the ruin that we purchased and rebuilt into a holiday home. It was semi-attached to the church [now abandoned]. This was not the original church, the Casa dated from the 15thC and the church from c.1880 but the church had also lost part of its roof in the eighties and the bell from the bell tower. It was this bell tower that was our overriding concern. We were terrified in case it came down on top of us.
I read today that the recent earthquake in Amatrice had its epicentre only 4km underground which is why it has caused so much devastation. In this region, earthquakes are usually 12km or more underground.
I never found out where the epicentre was for the one that scared us to death but it was the single event that compelled us to sell up in 2014.