Regional Development

L'Aquila Earthquake: Background


The L’Aquila earthquake of 6 April 2009 killed almost 300 people, and destroyed a large part of the built environment, as well as essential infrastructure networks. Besides the need to provide the population hit by the earthquake with immediate care and lodging, the disaster poses important challenges related to regional development.


University of L’Aquila

The earthquake damaged the University of L’Aquila, which was the city’s key comparative advantage. Before the disaster, L’Aquila was a relatively successful economy in which the university played a pivotal role in the city’s economy. The university, with nearly 30 000 students, provided jobs, rental income and demand for local good and services. It also contributed to the region’s economic development and had the potential to play a pivotal role in generating innovation and strengthening the link with the private sector. If the University ceased to be an economic engine for the city, this would weaken localisation advantages and could lead to a considerable loss of core economic activities.

To avoid this, the reconstruction process needs to focus on the University, which could not only be rebuilt, but even strengthened to exploit as much as possible its capacity to act as a regional engine of growth. The University’s most immediate priority is re-attracting students for the 2009-2010 academic year, since the earthquake damaged infrastructure and severely reduced housing available to students. There is a real risk that many students, particularly those who come from outside L’Aquila province will not return in the autumn.

A long-term strategy

The earthquake also destroyed key public and collective goods, affecting L’Aquila’s capacity to attract people and investment. Re-launching the University is not enough if it is not integrated into a broader longer-term strategy. A feasible vision is needed of what the L’Aquila region can become and what it can offer during reconstruction. Good education, extensive IT infrastructure, affordable and safe housing, cultural events and entertainment, and targeted services to business are some of the needs that L’Aquila could meet to regain, and enhance, its urban attractiveness. As a key attraction for visitors, students, professional offices and second-home owners, as well as a source of pride for residents, the historical centre must again be in a position to draw users from outside of L’Aquila. Restoring the appearance and integrity and improving the safety of buildings will take time. A plan is needed to spark growth while the historical centre is being rebuilt.


Multiple levels of government are contributing to the redevelopment of L’Aquila. Short-term reconstruction decisions will impact on the options available for long-term redevelopment. Coordination and information sharing among the multiple government agencies, as well as with the private sector, the University of L’Aquila, residents, students, and other members of civil society, is necessary for aligning short-term reconstruction plans with long-term redevelopment priorities.


OECD Work on L'Aquila

Building Resilient Regions after a Natural Disaster: The Case of Abruzzo (Publication, 2013)

This publication provides evidence-based recommendations for driving forward recovery efforts after a natural disaster and identifies key priorities for the government of the Abruzzo region in formulating a long-term development strategy in the aftermath of the 2009 earthquake.


Building Resilient Regions after a Natural Disaster: Abruzzo 2030 - (Forum, 2012)

A Forum was held on 17 March 2012 at which experts from several OECD countries affected by natural disasters shared experiences on redevelopment of regions. This Forum helped to shape a regional development strategy that included all stakeholders.

L'Aquila Earthquake: Re-launching the Economy (Workshop, 2009)
This workshop held on 3 July 2009 examined policy options for relaunching the economy of the Aquila region after the earthquake.

 Images courtesy of CRESA