Steely Seamstress

Sewing for life

Sewing The Seventies: 1976 in Italy

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At the beginning of the year the Italian government was embroiled in scandal. On 5th February the newspapers revealed a series of bribes and contributions made by officials of US aerospace company Lockheed to members of the DC (Democrazia Cristiana) party. The Lockheed scandal, as it became known, showed that these bribes were made to favour the purchase by the Italian Air Force of Hercules transport planes. Former cabinet ministers and also the former prime-minister Mariano Rumor were involved [1].

On 6th May, a seismic shock with a magnitude of 6.5 was felt to the north of the city of Udine in North-East Italy. The epicentre was located between the towns of Gemona and Artegna in the Friuli region. The earthquake is generally regarded as one of the worst eartquakes that has ever affected Italy; 965 were killed, 3000 injured and 45,000 were left homeless. Seventy-seven villages in the Friuli region were affected.

Friuli Earthquake

The tremor was felt as far afield as Venice as well as neighboring Austria, Switzerland and Slovenia (in the former Yugoslavia). My grandmother was in Italy at the time and the quake made her fall out of bed. However, she was in a reasonably newly built apartment, which had earthquake protection features. Relatives in older buildings felt more and experienced paintings falling off walls and furniture moving [2].

On 11th and 15th September further shocks were felt which reached a magnitude of 6.0. Ten billion Lira was earmarked immediately and funds were made available to the regional government of Friuli-Venezia Giulia and the coordinator of aid efforts, Giuseppe Zamberletti. About 40,000 people spent the winter on the Adriatic coast, whilst the reconstruction was started. They returned in the spring to prefabricated buildings in their respective villages.

The reconstruction lasted 10 years. Whole villages were rebuilt. I remember visiting one of the villages some years later. I found it strange how the churches and buildings had been constructed exactly as they were before the quake. All these renaissance-looking churches in pristine new stone.

Gemona (1976-Today)

Gemona in 1976 immediately after the earthquake and today rebuilt

June saw Italians return to the polls. The DC party gained the majority of the vote (38.8%), but the PCI (the Italian communists) received an increased share of the vote (34.4%). A new government was formed with Giulio Andreotti at the helm. The Communist secretary, Enrico Berlinguer approached DC’s left-leaning members with a proposal to bring forward the so-called Historic Compromise, a political pact proposed by Aldo Moro which would see a government coalition between DC and PCI for the first time. The new cabinet, formed in July 1976, included only members of the DC party but had the indirect support of the communists.

On 2nd July, the ETR 401 train (Elettro Treno Rapido) went into service between Rome and Ancona. This train was the precursor to the “pendolino”, the leaning train that is also in service in the UK.

The ETR was developed and built in the early 70s, as a joint project between FIAT and FS (Italian State Railways). However, the economic crisis and political uncertainty reduced spending on the programme and just one ETR 401 was completed.

The idea of developing the leaning train was not just about making trains that were faster. The trains were also capable of raising the average speed of a journey on the more winding regional tracks, thus dispensing with the need to modernise these routes, which of course, would have required considerable investment.

The train service ran three days a week, cutting the time of the journey by half an hour. In time, the service was revised and an extra leg added to the journey so it finished in Rimini on the East coast. The trial was deemed positive, but it wasn’t for another ten years that further investment was made and the next generation of leaning trains entered service [3], [4].

The ETR- 401. Can really see the lean in this photo!

[1] Lockheed bribery Scandal on wikipedia (in English)

[2] The Friuli Earthquake on wikipedia (in Italian, in English)

[3] The ETR 401 Train on wikipedia (in Italian)

[4] The Pendolino on wikipedia (in Italian)



Author: steelyseamstress

Sewing a new wardrobe

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