April 6th marks the anniversary of the 2009 earthquake that devastated the city of L'Aquila in Abruzzo and set off a series of seismic events that have since been affecting a large portion of Central Italy, particularly in the Apennine mountain area. On April 6, 2018, as part of the elective course Food, Rurality and Local Development with Prof. Emilio Cocco, AUR’s M.A. in Food Studies students traveled to Amatrice and Campotosto, two of the towns that most suffered in a violent quake that took place in 2016. Representatives from the Montreale (L'Aquila)-based Movimento per la Terra (Movement for the Earth), a network of NGOs working on civil society initiatives to back small farms and breeding enterprises in a territory between the regions of Abruzzo, Umbria and Lazio, guided the group for this interesting and significant field visit.

Rural economy is a crucial sector in the above-mentioned area, where farms are scattered all over a poorly populated mountain region that suffered relevant material and symbolic losses. Movimento per la Terra focuses on reconnecting the local enterprises with a wider international market by building up and sustaining positive relationships between farms and NGOs that are willing to help. The students visited the town of Amatrice and its surroundings to observe examples of post-earthquake rural-based reconstruction activities. They had the opportunity to observe the ruins of the deserted old town center and visit a small cheese factory with livestock just outside the center. They witnessed the struggle of the few remaining residents to keep their jobs and identity alive, although the majority is still living and working in provisional tensile structures. Finally, they stopped at the newly built "food area" close to the public school district, where the historical restaurants of Amatrice were relocated in prefabricated structures made of wood. Here the students enjoyed a typical lunch at "La Conca", one of the legendary restaurants of Amatrice, home of the renowned "pasta all’amatriciana" recipe. After lunch, the re-energized AUR group arrived at Campotosto, once a tourist resort destination by the lake, now almost completely demolished by the earthquake. The group walked through the spooky town center around the picturesque mountain lake and spoke to the local residents. The day’s visit ended at "La Mascionara" farm that is supporting earthquake struck breeders of Amatrice by buying their meat and milk and turning them into high quality products. After a full, eye-opening day in the field, the students returned to Rome with a different, unconventional view of the role of rurality for development and a wonderful selection of typical food products to enjoy and keep the memory alive.

Author: Professor Emilio Cocco

See the gallery below for images from the trip.