Italy Roundtable: How You Can Help Emilia-Romagna Earthquake Recovery


Leading up to this month’s Italy Blogging Roundtable, I had a bit of personal turmoil (in that I lost my job, which is why you’re seeing this post here instead of on WhyGo Italy, where all the others have been), but we decided upon a topic and were ready to write. And then the earth shook in Italy. Our topic this month, then, was quickly shifted to the earthquakes in Emilia-Romagna.

L’Aquila 2009 by wolfango

Italy is no stranger to natural disasters.

One of the country’s most popular tourist attractions, Pompeii, was only preserved because of a volcanic eruption more than 2,000 years ago. There are several quite active volcanoes in Italy, including Sicily’s Mt. Etna, which routinely spews lava and ash into the air and forces the evacuation of nearby towns. The fairy tale city of Venice is being slowly reclaimed by the lagoon surrounding it, as it has been for centuries. This is a country with a staggering amount of coastline, what with it being a peninsula and all, and all those villages travel writers love to describe as “clinging to cliffsides” don’t always cling so well – the most recent example of floods and mudslides occurred in Liguria and coastal Tuscany in October 2011.

And then there are the earthquakes.

L’Aquila 2009 by wolfango

A country with as much volcanic activity as Italy is bound to also be seismically active – as the list of Italian earthquakes on Wikipedia showcases. That list, however impressive in its length, isn’t even complete – it only goes back to the year 1117, for one thing, and I’m certainly not going to assume that record-keeping was spectacular back then. Still, scanning the long list of earthquakes, one is struck by the high numbers in the “Magnitude” column – not to mention the numbers under “Fatalities.”

L’Aquila 2009 by wolfango

The number of deaths caused by earthquakes in Italy has decreased dramatically in recent years – the last 5-digit death toll was in 1915 – but a quake as recent as 1980 killed 2,570 people. L’Aquila’s earthquake in 2009 killed more than 300. The most recent earthquakes in Emilia-Romagna (which may not even be done) have claimed far fewer lives, and for this we should be thankful.

Laviano 1985 by US Army Africa

The number of victims of these earthquakes, however, isn’t so easily put into columns on Wikipedia. Those left homeless – yes, we can count them. The injured, too, can be counted. Tallying the long-term economic and cultural losses is nigh unto impossible.

Emilia-Romagna 2012 by antonella.beccaria

Every time an earthquake brings down a centuries-old church, a piece of Italian cultural heritage is lost. When the Emilia-Romagna earthquakes toppled warehouse shelves holding hundreds of thousands of giant wheels of the region’s famous parmigiano-reggiano cheese, a critical component of the local economy was seriously damaged. Churches can be rebuilt (just look at the Basilica in Assisi – the roof collapsed in a 1997 earthquake and it stands proudly rebuilt today) and more cheese can be made. But at a time when Italy, like so much of Europe, struggles to hang onto its cultural identity and avoid losing any more economic ground, these recent blows are even more devastating.

Emilia-Romagna 2012 by antonella.beccaria

Sitting as I do on the other side of the world, it’s easy to feel like I can’t help the Emilia-Romagna region recover. It’s easy, but it’s not true. Just as quickly as news of the earthquakes spread via the internet, so can aid spread quickly back to where it’s needed most. You can no longer say you don’t know how to help:

  • Italian Red Cross (CRI) – This is CRI’s “Sisma Emilia Romagna” donation page (in Italian), and there’s an online donation option. Make sure to choose “Sisma Emilia Romagna” from the drop-down menu beside “Causale della donazione.” Donations are in euro. Check the button for “Privato,” and the fields you need to fill in are “Nome” (first name), “Cognome” (last name), “Indirizzo” (address), “Città” (city), “CAP” (zip code), “Email” (this one doesn’t need a translation), “Telefono” (telephone number), “Provincia” (leave it as — for outside Italy), and “Nazione” (country – the U.S. is listed as “Stati Uniti”). You can uncheck the box just above “Prosegui,” unless you want to get emails from the Italian Red Cross, and then click “Prosegui” when you’re done. The “Metodo di pagamento” options are “Carta di Credito” (credit card) or PayPal.
  • Italian Driving – The Italian government raised fuel taxes by 2c per liter at the end of May, with the additional money raised set to help pay for earthquake relief in Emilia-Romagna. Any driving you do in Italy in the near future, then, will be helping the earthquake victims as you refuel your tank. Not only that, but luxury car makers Ferrari (based near the epicenter of the quakes) has started an online auction of some Ferrari goodies – including a car valued at €1.35 million – the proceeds of which will go toward relief efforts.
  • Buying Cheese – As I noted last week, much of that damaged parmigiano-reggiano cheese is perfectly edible (even if it’s not as perfectly round as it once was), and visitors to the area can buy that earthquake-damaged cheese.
  • US Magazine Accepting Donations – An Italian-American organization based in Los Angeles is currently collecting funds to send to Emilia-Romagna’s earthquake victims. It’s a magazine, so while they’re taking any amount people can offer, if you donate $50 or more and “like” them on Facebook you’ll get a free one-year subscription to L’Italo Americano magazine.
  • Visiting – Last year after the mudslides and floods that left two Cinque Terre towns buried, I cautioned people about visiting too soon. Those towns just weren’t ready for several months, and additional people – however good-intentioned – would just have been a burden. The same can’t quite be said of the Emilia-Romagna. Yes, the region has some distance to go until its doors are fully opened for business as they were before the quakes, but the worst-hit towns aren’t so isolated as the Cinque Terre villages, and there are many cities and towns in the region where the damage was minimal or non-existent. So if you’re planning an Italy trip, put Emilia-Romagna on your list. Book your stays in small hotels (not big chains), eat in family-run restaurants, and hire local guides to show you around. In short, spend money there, but spend it wisely so that it goes to the people who need it most – the people who live there.

Some other ways to help Emilia-Romagna earthquake victims, including sending donations via SMS if you have an Italian or European mobile phone, are listed here. Please let me know if you find other ways to offer help that I don’t have listed here.

L’Aquila 2009 by Fotomasi

Other Voices from the Italy Blogging Roundtable

Find out what the other ladies at the Italy Roundtable have to say about the earthquake below – read their posts, comment, and share them.

Italy Roundtable Suggestion Box

We’ve covered a number of diverse topics in the past year – and we’ve got all sorts of ideas on topics to cover in the future. But we also thought you might have some ideas of subjects to suggest, too. If you’ve got a suggestion for an Italy Roundtable topic we should tackle, leave a comment on the Italy Roundtable Facebook page or leave your idea on our poll.

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