It was with disbelief I viewed the unfolding news story about the earthquake in Italy, because it happened in the region my ex husband comes from. I have visited the city and my son lived and worked in nearby Pescara for a couple of years. The region is very beautiful and I spent several happy holidays there. The city of L’Aquila was beautiful and very interesting, if you like architecture, as I do. Its origins date back to the 13th century and it boasts a castle, university and several Renaissance churches. Some of its most revered buildings were badly affected by the 6.3 magnitude earthquake. But yesterday, its 70,000 inhabitants were left aghast – and grieving – as the beautiful centre was reduced to rubble. Among them was Government House, a pale pink building turned into a pile of concrete and dust. At least four Romanesque and Renaissance churches were badly damaged by the tremor. The 13th century Basilica of Santa Maria di Collemaggio lost a wall, while a section of the nave collapsed. The church, with a pink-and-white facade combining Romanesque and Gothic architecture, played host to the crowning of Pope Celestine V in 1294 and still attracts thousands of pilgrims every year. Slightly further north, the belltower of the largest Renaissance church in Abruzzo – Basilica of San Bernardino – was destroyed, while the 16th century castle housing the region’s national museum was damaged. Yesterday’s devastation was a brutal reminder of how vulnerable the city is to the power of earthquakes – just over 300 years since it was virtually flattened in a similar tremor. Apparently, an Italian geologist told locals to evacuate their houses and posted a video on YouTube in which he said a build-up of radon gas around the seismically active area of Abruzzo suggested a major earthquake was imminent. Several tremors had been felt in the medieval city of L’Aquila, around 60 miles east of Rome, from mid-January onwards, and vans with loudspeakers had reportedly driven around the city spreading the warning. But instead of heeding his advice, the local authorities reported him to police for "spreading alarm" and he was told to remove his findings from the internet. I feel very sad so many people died and that a beautiful Italian city that I have visited and admired is virtually destroyed.