No matter what we possess in life, in the end all that we have is time
Families lost everything in the blink of an eye as Death came calling suddenly in the Italian countryside, writes Miriam O'Callaghan
It's Tuesday evening in Rieti and locals and regular visitors stop in the bars for a sparkling aperitivo. In the hilltown piazze, their children make friends with the Pomeranians, Bichon Frizes and spaniels who've escaped, with their owners, from Rome in August.
Amatrice is in festa. And so are these families. The light is changing, the nights are cool, the conkers are about to split their spiky reptile-green pods, there's a hint of orange in the leaves of the tigli. Which means one thing: school.
The writer Elena Ferrante isn't kidding. In Italy, school is gruelling, operatic. And it starts in three weeks. Along the peninsula, kids are rushing to finish their summer homework, cursing chemistry, sweating over Greek verses, looking up the web, hopelessly, for hacks, buying homework diaries in glossy black, pastel or neon. Since there is no half-term, this is the last good break until Christmas. Families are making the most of it.