Friday, February 24, 2017

Warm welcome in chilly Cascia

Overnight in Cascia in a freezing cold but otherwise perfectly adequate little pilgrim's hotel (Blankets... lots and lots of blankets...). Took a good long walk around yesterday afternoon and saw nearly all of it in two hours.

Met the nice elderly nun at the Agostiniane, who spends her time manning the parlor, chatting with pilgrims and tourists and making everyone feel welcome. Her hands never stopped while she crocheted the hats and scarves and baby-booties and every other thing you can think of to crochet that were piled up all over the nuns' gift shop. The work of many years. (She knew I was a straniera right away, of course, but seemed to think I was secretly Polish and kept trying to give me Polish language holy cards of St. Rita. I think I convinced her in the end, and I got a handful of the cards with the St. Rita intercession prayer in English to hand around to friends when I get home. (That is, "home," to Sta. Marinella.)

I got into a conversation with Giovanni, the nice chap who owns the hotel and who has to live there now since his house was damaged in the October quake. (His alone on his whole street... worse luck!) And he understood completely about looking for a house in Umbria. "The sea is nice for a holiday," he said, "but Umbria's the place you want to live." Without my having asked, when I went for my walk he had been busy talking to his friends in town, asking around if anyone had a flat or a house they wanted to rent out. One of these friends was the guy who owns the pizza shop downstairs from the hotel, and when I went down in the morning for a slice of "rossa," he became animated over how nice Cascia is.

This morning, Giovanni walked me over to the bar - his bar, you understand... the one next door is for other people... bought me a cafe doppio and introduced me to Mario the bar owner...

This is how Italy is. Giovanni assured me that there were no "agenzia immobiliare" in Cascia. "That's not how we do things in Cascia. Norcia, yes, but here no. we have a different mind here." It's just as well, since I do have a very good realtor who came to see me in Norcia and said he'd be working on getting a house "for you and the kitties to be safe..."

But Giovanni dove right in. I'm a straniera, but also a fellow "terremotata."

So, now I'm back at the bar, (the right bar,) having a tea and a packet of crisps, watching the news and waiting for the bus down to Spoleto, so I can get the train to take me out of the Peaceable Kingdom of the Valnerina, and back to that other place, that other Italy. But I know Umbria is waiting for me to come home.

O powerful Santa Rita,
You are called the Saint of the Impossible.
In this time of need
I come to you with confidence.
You know my trials,
for you, yourself were many times burdened in this life.

Come to my help,
pray with me,
intercede on my behalf before the Father.
I know that God has a most generous heart
and that he is a most loving Father.
Join your prayers to mine
and obtain for the the grace I desire *of a home in the Valnerina*

I promise to use this favour, when granted,
to better my life,
to proclaim God's mercy,
and to make you widely known and loved.

I ask this through Christ our Lord.


(I've just realized I have not posted the update. The house is not "agibile". My flat is fine, and so is the one downstairs, but the third floor (second in Italy) is badly damaged. I think the chimney needs repair too, since it smoked very badly when I was there in December. This means that it is not possible to live in the house. Further, the commune is not issuing repair permits until the quakes stop, and when this will be is anyone's guess. I was there two nights and felt a total of about ten, mostly small, one big. It means that the house is not going to be repaired in the immediate future. For this reason, my realtor has said he will start to work on finding me another house in the area. Cascia, Roccoporena, Monteleone... quite a few of the little towns of the Valnerina are not so badly hit, so there are possibilities still and there is quite a lively little bus service that trundles all over from town to town - mostly for older people to go to the shops in Cascia and for school children.

All the efforts in Norcia right now are focused on getting the little "case degli legni" built and prepared for all the people whose houses are completely collapsed or so damaged they're not safe to go into. Whole sections of town outside the walls have been bulldozed and flattened to make room, and the little pre-fab houses are going up. All of Norcia looks like a giant construction site. Some of the little houses are completed and are already occupied. I saw housewives hanging laundry outside and signs of kids toys and life generally carrying on, which was very heartening to see.

The little houses are only being made available to people whose houses are permanently damaged or destroyed. In some cases the firemen have been helping people get their things out of their houses, packing boxes of china and carrying out sofas and other things because they can't let people in even to rescue their belongings. I think it is going to be several months before it is possible even to begin repairing houses that can be repaired. Many, many houses are so badly damaged - in some cases with parts of roofs and whole walls collapsed - that the remains will have to be bulldozed.

From a distance, Norcia looks damaged but mostly still there. In reality and for purposes of living daily life, there is very little left. And with 3000 people wanting to come home and 70% of the housing stock damaged renting in Norcia is currently impossible.)

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