The Italian Almanac

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Basilica di Santa Maria di Collemaggio

A Little Help from Friends

Italy may accept help from the United States following the L`Aquila earthquake, Premier Silvio Berlusconi said. After initially turning down offers of help that have poured in from abroad, Berlusconi appeared to change his mind after receiving ``a long phone call`` from US President Barack Obama as he toured temporary camps set up to house those who had lost their homes in the disaster.

``If the United States wants to give a tangible sign of its solidarity with Italy it could take on the responsibility of rebuilding heritage sites and churches,`` Berlusconi said. ``We would be very happy to have this support``. The premier said Obama had said this was ``an excellent idea`` and would discuss it when the two leaders meet in Washington on a date yet to be set. Berlusconi said another alternative would be for the US to help rebuild ``a small district of a town or a suburb`` so that it could say ``this was done with our contribution``.

Many historic buildings and churches in L`Aquila were destroyed or damaged in the earthquake, including the apse of the Abruzzo city`s largest Romanesque church, the 13th-century Basilica di Santa Maria di Collemaggio, and the cupola of the 17th-century Anime Sante church designed by Giuseppe Valadier.