The Italian Almanac


A Good Day for a Picnic

Many Italians fled Rome amid fears of a pending earthquake despite reassurances from seismologists and political leaders.

In 1915 the late Italian self-styled seismologist Raffaele Bendandi predicted that the "the big one" would strike Rome on May 11 2011. Panic developed recently as word spread across social media including Facebook, Twitter and through email and text messages.

"Rome is not at risk of any earthquake," said Enzo Boschi, president of the National Institute of Geophysics and Vulcanology."There have never been any strong earthquakes confirmed under the city".

Businesses reported one in five people had requested a day off work and some parents kept their children home from school and headed out of town for the day. Many shops in Rome's Chinatown district in and around Piazza Vittorio were closed late Tuesday and Wednesday as shopkeepers left notices saying they were shot due to "illness" or "stocktaking". One Chinese shopkeeper who remained open said: "What terremoto! Who believes this tale! They are saying that a lot of us and also Romans have run away".

Rome Mayor Gianni Alemanno dismissed the rumours saying that Romans would not be listen to speculation that had no foundation. But Enrico Mordacchini, a Rome restaurauteur, said he was shocked to find there was hardly any meat left at his local butcher. "The butcher told me he had hardly any meat left because his customers had been stocking up on meat and sausages for barbecues in the country," he said.

Italy's worst earthquake to date struck the Sicilan city of Messina in 1908. It measured 7.2 on the Richter scale and killed 70,000 people.