Aug 7, 2009

Home Sweet Hotel

Once upon a time there was a 5-star hotel on the beautiful beach of the Abruzzo riviera. Since the day of that first nighttime quake - April 6th - it is no longer a hotel, it's home to many. A luxury condo for folks from L'Aquila seeking refuge away from the tented camps. There has in fact been no improvement in the lodging situation and temporary living conditions, and tension is mounting. You can read all about it in this article.


Seen from outside, the uber-luxurious Abruzzo Marina - inaugurated in the town of Silvi only two years ago - looks like any other beachfront hotel. A nifty place for tourists. One-hundred odd days ago it began welcoming only earthquake victims: about 4oo of them.
The manager, Egyptian-born Mohamed Alì (a generous entrepreneur in no way interested in boxing) made a drastic choice on that fateful April night: strictly accommodating citizens of L'Aquila fleeing the crumbling ruins of their homes.
A recent article in the Italian newspaper la Repubblica, quoted Alì's motivations, "We immediately realized it was impossible to have tourists co-exist with the needs of the evacuated people flocking to the Abruzzo Marina. So we decided to refund roughly €80,000 of deposit money put down by prospect guests who had booked a vacation here," reports Alì.

Within a very short time, the structure switched from being a hotel to becoming a transformed shelter. Today, for example, the person working the night shift at the concierge desk is a quake victim, volunteering. He is a 32-year old librarian who no longer has a home. The 5.8 Richter scale tremor gobbled up that and his workplace in a matter of minutes.

In the kitchen, there is another volunteer worker, her name is Elena and she is a Romanian expat. At the Abruzzo Marina she and Ennio - contract worker from L'Aquila - recently got married and held their wedding reception. Immediately following the devastation, Elena and Ennio had postponed the wedding, but it was Alì who insisted they exchange vows there and then. To convince them, he took on the role of wedding planner, organizing the event 's every detail.

There's more to Alì's post-quake ideas for transforming the hotel: the conference room has become a church where every Sunday Don Giuseppe - Silvi's town parish - celebrates Mass for resident church-goers. The reception area is now the incoming medical prescriptions station, where tenants leave their requests and the pharmacies are contacted.


As far as the menu goes, the hotel's restaurant maître d' and resident chefs have opted for self-management. Each night, guests write down their culinary wishes, and within the limits of the kitchen's possibilities, their requests are met. The reading room on the second floor has become a library thanks to the fruitful collaboration with a local associazione culturale, whose pretty name roughly translates to, "Never Alone with a Book."

Kids play on the guarded beach or poolside. The chamber maids have little to do in the mornings, as most of the beds are all made. That's because many tenants have come to regard their hotel rooms as home, each containing pieces of their previous existence: cats, dogs, scooters, bicycles, potted plants, photos and personal belongings salvaged from the remains of their homes.

As the sun sets on the hotel's luxurious entrance, colorful laundry hangs on a makeshift clothes line, flapping in the summer breeze.

19 comments:

  1. Wow. Quite a story, excellent for the compassion, sad for the situation. God bless them all!

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  2. Ahhh...I need to be there badly! Montreal weather has been a sucky 18 degrees with rain since the beginning of the summer...wehat summer? We're still waiting...I think it has actually skipped us.

    Evviva l'Italia!

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  3. Some people talk the talk but some actually walk the walk.
    Sounds like this man is making a real difference and also making some life long friends.
    He has set an example I hope others follow.

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  4. So refreshing and reassuring to hear a positive made out of a negative. What an amazing and generous man. Once a disaster is "over" the (N.American) news media ceases reporting on it, or at least headlining it; it's illuminating to hear news of how at least some of the quake victims are faring.

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  5. Interesting reporting. After the Los Angeles earthquake of 1994, I can tell you that no hotel opened their doors without payment. Those with insurance settlements or other support, could move on and pay for their living expenses and for reconstruction. The rest, disappeared among the number of homeless.

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  6. What a wonderful story - I love reading about people opening their homes (hotels) and hearts for each other! Thanks for sharing this!! :) Silke

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  7. what a cool story. i love how the staff have come together joining hearts and hands to help the less fortunate. have a great weekend, you and e.

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  8. This is an amazing story! It really restores one's faith in humanity...

    Loved your previous post about the colourful (and other) tomatoes, too!

    Hope you are having a wonderful weekend :)

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  9. How refreshing to hear of a positive emerging from a negative. What a heartwarming story - thanks for sharing it with us!

    Hope you're having a wonderful weekend!

    XXXLOL LOLA:)

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  10. Lola dear heart, you bring me so many things, over and over.

    Love Renee xoxo

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  11. This is a beautiful story; it's really inspiring and heartening to hear of such generousity. Thank you for sharing it.

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  12. A very inspirational story, this man is making a real difference, where it counts, I think he will have these friends for life :-)

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  13. Great article, like all of them in your blog. I particularly enjoyed the one on the Roman fountains, so many memories!
    This Mohammed Ali sounds like he should be replacing Mr. Berlusconi and running Italy, the man is fantastic! How everyone organized the running of this fabulous shelter/hotel! With summer ending and the cold months ahead, people must be getting nervous.
    It is good you are reminding us about this unsolved problem.

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  14. I hadn-t heard about this guy and his wonderful generosity with the earthquake victims. That's truly heartwarming! Thanks for sharing the news.

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  15. Thank you for sharing this lovely story of people helping each other.

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  16. Wow. He truly became the hands and feet of Christ. Beautiful.

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  17. This is an amazing story. What a wonderful man to turn the hotel over to people so in need. I applaud his generosity.

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  18. What an incredible story. It's nice to hear of acts of compassion and generosity.

    I hope the victims are able to rebuild their lives soon.

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  19. Ali sets an example, doesn't he? Phew! He may be much poorer in euros, but he sure is a lot richer in knowing he's done inestimable good for so many. What a guy. Thanks for sharing his story - it should be front page of every newspaper.

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