When a natural disaster happens somewhere you know, it seems to affect you more than somewhere anonymous. And I lived over five years in central Italy.
I never lived in the Abruzzi mountains. But I had a fine view of them from my bedroom window whilst in Monteporzio Catone, where I lived for close to three years. And they were a regular weekend stomping ground. I found them more challenging than other mountains: maps were poor compared to anything I’m used to, and – more problematically – water could be hard to find: with so much limestone, it all goes underground.
L’Aquila (“The Eagle”), the town devastated by the recent earthquake, was (is) the gateway to the highest mountains in central Italy: the Gran Sasso (“Great Stone“) range, and Corno Grande (“Great Horn“), the highest peak. The area holds some of my best Italian memories: from breathtaking summer sunsets and magical nights, to the winter night when I got up in the morning to find the tracks of a bear in the snow passing by the tent (the track wasn’t new, but I hadn’t seen it in the dark when I selected the spot). Also some less happy days, including twice getting caught out in the summer heat with insufficient water and getting seriously dehydrated – the second time after finding no less than two “springs” marked on the CAI (Club Alpinismo Italiano) map that turned out to be dry before a third one finally yielded water.
So the pictures of devastation are … kind of an old friend, and my best wishes are with the people as they come to terms with their loss, and rebuild their homes. At least they have some advantages. They’re a developed country with modern equipment and – at best – a fine tradition of civil engineering. And there’s quite a lot of community culture, so mutual help should come naturally to them.
Well, at times like this, …
 The links in this sentence are a random selection googled for having some nice pics.