03.32. It was a ghastly experience. The noise was that of a growling, roaring, angry beast running through the house at 03.32 that Monday morning. It was 6 April, the week before Easter. The earthquake had hit the least-known region of Italy: Abruzzo.

Inhuman noise. We will never forget that terrifying, inhuman noise as it rushed from room to room. The walls were cracking, plaster and objects falling. It took a second to realize what was happening and a second later it was pitch dark as the electricity went off. The growling voice continued for 20 long seconds. When the lights returned we looked out of the window and saw the 15th-century church of the Madonna del Rosario, the Piccolomini castle and an ancient tower opposite our house still standing. We wondered how long it would be before they fell.

L