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Features

Amatrice, A Food Culture On The Road To Recovery

Amatrice in Italy was devastated by an earthquake in 2016, but the locals are determined to rebuild the area and the food culture.

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Amatrice in Italy was struck by a devastating 6.2 magnitude earthquake in 2016 which killed almost 300 people and injured a further 400. Now, three years on, the community is rebuilding their culture and focusing on how food can help them heal. 

Amatrice, located in the central mountain ranges, is a beautiful area of Italy. Known for pasta all'amatriciana, kind people and great food, this area was a typical Italian town, until a massive earthquake struck the town in the middle of the night on August 24th 2016. So strong was the earthquake, that at least 2,500 aftershocks were felt throughout Amatrice and the surrounding areas of central Italy, including Rome and Florence. The earthquake was the worst seen by the area and resulted in the deaths of 299 people with a further 400 injured. 

The town was utterly decimated by the quake, with the mayor of Amatrice reportedly saying "Amatrice isn't here anymore". As well as the loss to human life and the town's structures, there was huge cultural loss to the area too. Thousands of people's homes were destroyed, alongside local businesses, bars and restaurants.

After the destruction, the surviving townspeople were housed in wooden mobile homes - many still are - while the local bars and restaurants have shifted to a purpose-built food village. This innovative area has become central to the town's redevelopment efforts as food is so crucial to the town. The voluntary organisation Terri de Amatrice was founded to help spread the word about Amatrice's food producers who are still producing a variety of Italian delicacies that are for sale around the world. 

A selection of cheeses from Amatrice.
A selection of cheeses from Amatrice.

An Evening To Remember Amatrice

When the earthquake destroyed Amatrice, it destroyed the livelihoods of the local people too. In order to rebuild their lives, the locals have banded together. Founding the Associazione Terra Di Amatrice has allowed for funded initiatives to be created to help in the town’s regeneration. The Associazione Terra di Amatrice Onlus was established on November 11, 2016. The members of this Association are citizens of Amatrice, and lost family members, friends, homes, and beautiful memories due to the devastating magnitude 6.2 earthquake.

A recent event organised by the Associazione Terra Di Amatrice to raise awareness of the town's plight saw local chefs, townspeople and producers flown to Dublin for An Evening To Remember Amatrice. The evening highlighted the town's past troubles and the current efforts to rebuild, showcasing local delicacies like cheese, charcuterie and wine, as well as the famous pasta all'amatriciana.

Speaking about the purpose of the event, Gemma Maughan, whose ancestors came from the area said that it is important for the villagers to continue producing their wares, “The villagers want to work again. We are all connected [and] it’s a huge project of self-determination. Even if someone here in Ireland ordered a chunk of cheese or ham online it would mean so much to the local people – they are not looking for hand-outs but want to be remembered and to continue their business with pride so as to maintain their community.”

Alba Smyth, Michael Maughan, Diarmuid Martin D.D. Archbishop of Dublin  and Gemma Maughan pictured at an elegant evening to remember the town of Amatrice in northern Lazio central Italy at the An Evening To Remember Amatrice Event.
Alba Smyth, Michael Maughan, Diarmuid Martin D.D. Archbishop of Dublin and Gemma Maughan pictured at an elegant evening to remember the town of Amatrice in northern Lazio central Italy at the An Evening To Remember Amatrice Event.

Food And The Future

As part of this, young people from Amatrice travelled to Dublin to learn English as part of their studies at the Amatrice School of Hotel Management. These students will become the next generation to work towards Amatrice's regeneration and to them, food and hospitality is the way forward. The term “Made in Amatrice” has been trademarked so that buyers are guaranteed a quality, local product - unfortunately, the market was inundated with fake products capitalising on the restoration projects before this trademark was finalised. It is hoped this trademark will become familiar to consumers in Irish food stores.

The importance of food to the restoration cannot be underestimated. “Food is after all the heart of Amatrice – and hearts are still beating – despite the heartbreak,” says Mrs Maughan.

Further information about Amatrice's regeneration can be found here