Earthquake survivor arrested for refusing to leave his town

A man whose house was destroyed in the central Italy earthquake last August was jailed for two nights after refusing to leave his hometown.

Earthquake survivor arrested for refusing to leave his town
Rescuers searching in damaged homes in Arquata del Tronto, central Italy. Photo: STR/AFP

On Monday, 58-year-old Marche resident Enzo Rendina was arrested and jailed for two nights, accused of hampering firefighters' efforts by refusing to leave the town.

Now he has been banned by police from setting foot in Arquata del Tronto, at least until a hearing in late March.

Rendina is a native of Pescara del Tronto, a part of Arquata del Tronto, the worst affected town after neighbouring Amatrice and home to around 50 of the 299 victims. 

Read our full interview with Enzo Rendina here

“”I'm a victim. I saved other human beings, and put all my energy into helping – this is shameful,” Rendina told The Local on Thursday. He says that after escaping from his own collapsed house following the August quake, he pulled some of his neighbours from the rubble of their homes, and has assisted firefighters in the ongoing recovery work.

But while most residents were relocated to hostels and hotels along the coast, he refused, despite warnings from the town's mayor, firefighters, and Italy's special commissioner for post-earthquake reconstruction that he was risking his life. 

He spent the next few months staying in tents provided by rescuers and the Civil Protection Department, and he says his determination to stay is due to fear as much as love for his town.

“They don't understand why I kept refusing to stay in a hotel,” Rendina said. “The earthquake changed me, I can't feel calm anymore and I can't sleep in a house built from bricks.”

After the heavy snowfall of early January made it dangerous to stay in a tent, Rendina stayed at a camp set up by the firefighters who were still carrying out recovery operations and snow clearance in the town.

He argues that his knowledge of the area was a help to the rescuers, many of whom came from northern Italy, and was shocked by his arrest on Monday, which followed an earlier cease-and-desist order. After two nights in jail, he was released on Wednesday under the condition that he stay away from Arquata del Tronto; he is currently staying in a hotel.

Rendina's lawyer, Francesco Ciabbatoni, told The Local he is hopeful that his client will be acquitted, and allowed to return. 

“He has done nothing wrong. His only 'crime' is that he loves his land – it's a crime of love,” the lawyer said.

Recent weeks have seen residents from the earthquake-hit towns protesting in Rome over government delays in the recovery effort. Like Rendina, they are angry that the promised temporary housing has in many places still not been delivered.

One placard read: “Bureaucracy kills more than the earthquake”, and one of the protest's organizers told The Local: “It will take at least ten years to be able to return to our homes, and we haven't even been able to empty our houses and recover our furniture, our memories of our lives and those of our ancestors.”

The 2016 quakes left thousands of homes in ruins or structurally unsafe, emptying a string of villages and small towns across Italy's mountainous central regions, with an estimated 40,000 people forced to find shelter.



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Demands for change as thousands attend funeral of murdered student

Thousands of Italians paid their last respects on Tuesday to Giulia Cecchettin, a university student killed by her ex-boyfriend, in a case that has triggered nationwide grief and rage at violence against women.

Demands for change as thousands attend funeral of murdered student

The funeral of 22-year-old Giulia Cecchettin at a basilica in Padua, near Venice, attracted fellow students, public officials and ordinary Italians in a show of solidarity against one of the country’s most recent and most shocking episodes of femicide.

Cecchettin, who was studying biomedical engineering at the University of Padua, was stabbed to death last month by her former boyfriend, fellow student Filippo Turetta, who confessed to the murder before a judge, according to his lawyer.

Under grey skies, pallbearers carried Cecchettin’s rose-covered coffin into the Basilica of Santa Giustina, where mourners included Italy’s justice minister, as thousands of people gathered in the piazza outside.

“Giulia’s life was cruelly taken, but her death can and must be the turning point to end the terrible scourge of violence against women,” her father, Gino, said in his eulogy.

“In this time of grief and sadness we need to find the strength to react, and turn tragedy into a push for change,” he added.

Gino Cecchettin (R) with Davide and Elena, Giulia's siblings.

Gino Cecchettin (R) with his children Davide and Elena at Giulia’s funeral on December 5, 2023. Photo by ANDREA PATTARO / AFP.

He implored men to “challenge the culture that tends to minimise violence by men who appear normal”.

The killing of Cecchettin, who was due to graduate just days after her death, was front-page news in Italy and ushered in a period of national reflection on violence against women.

READ ALSO: Giulia Cecchettin: How Italy is facing up to gender violence after student’s murder

The couple disappeared on November 11. Turetta was found in Germany a week later, the day after Cecchettin’s body was found in a gully near Lake Barcis, about 120 kilometres (75 miles) north of Venice.

She had been stabbed more than 20 times in the head, neck and body, according to local media, citing the autopsy report.

88 femicides

Marking what activists had hoped would be a turning point in Italy, hundreds of thousands of demonstrators took to the streets in Rome, Milan and other cities on November 25, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, calling for cultural change.

Giorgia Meloni, the country’s first woman prime minister, assured women on Facebook “they are not alone,” reminding them of the call-centre number for victims of violence or stalking.   

According to the interior ministry, as of November 26, 107 women in Italy were murdered this year, of whom 88 were killed by family members or current or former partners.

Thousands attend the funeral of Giulia Cecchettin on December 5, 2023.

Thousands attend the funeral of Giulia Cecchettin on December 5, 2023. Photo by ANDREA PATTARO / AFP.

Inconsistent official data on femicides makes comparisons with other European countries difficult.

Following Cecchettin’s death, Italy’s parliament adopted a package of bills to strengthen existing laws to protect women.

But critics say a cultural change is needed in the treatment of women, starting with compulsory education on the topic in schools.

READ ALSO: Italian schools to tackle ‘machismo and sexism’ after student’s murder

Cultural problem

Despite the recent attention, many see such crimes continuing unabated in the majority-Catholic country, where traditional gender roles still hold sway in many areas, with fewer women working outside than home than the EU average
and where abortion is hard to access.

A July 2021 report from the government’s department of gender equality found that “while violence is unacceptable for more than 90 percent of people, in some regions of Italy up to 50 percent of men consider violence in
relationships to be acceptable.”

READ ALSO: OPINION: Why ending violence against women will be a tough task in Italy

In a speech last month, the newly appointed president of the Tribunal of Milan, Fabio Roia, who has advocated for better training on gender violence among prosecutors, judges and law enforcement, warned that much was yet to be done.

“Violence against women that goes as far as femicide is a cultural and social problem, and unfortunately the power imbalance in gender relations is still strong,” said the judge.

A woman holds a placard reading 'It was a good boy (crossed out) - He killed her' during a protest in Milan on November 22, 2023.

A woman holds a placard reading ‘It was a good boy (crossed out) – He killed her’ during a protest in Milan on November 22, 2023. Photo by Piero CRUCIATTI / AFP.

A 2020 independent report measuring Italy’s compliance with the Council of Europe’s convention on preventing violence against women encouraged more extensive awareness campaigns and better training of professionals, among other measures.

It also recommended Italy “pursue proactive and sustained measures to promote changes in sexist social and cultural patterns of behaviour, especially of men and young boys, that are based on the idea of inferiority of women”.

The report also urged Italy to put in place national guidelines for education in schools on “affectivity, sexuality and reproductive health”.