The front yard of the half-destroyed two-storey stone building was cluttered with debris from last May's earthquake, outdoor cookware on a smoldering fire, a bright blue tent and a small one-room trailer.
"It doesn't look like much, but gradually our home is getting back to normal," said a ruddy-faced woman whose casual attitude and mud-caked boots showed an acquired tolerance of the winter cold and rain.
pausing briefly in her household chores, the woman, who said her name was Rosamaria, pointed proudly to the empty lot next door. There a squad of brown-uniformed Italian firemen were erecting the small prefabricated home she and her husband had been expecting for months.
"Better late than never," she said philosophically, adding that the shelter offered by the new freight-car-shaped building would have been even more welcome before the onset of the harsh winter in Friuci Province.
Some residents of this northern Italian region noth of Vienna criticize the timing of the emergency last May's massive earthquake killed 1,000 people and left nearly 100,000 homeless.
Until recently the small town of Aprato boasted an angry homemade banner saying in the Friulian dialect, "Happy New Year to those who've helped us, may lighting strike the uncivilized who betrayed us."
A local grocer, Ottavio Beltrame flew an Austrian flag from his small store for months "because under Austrian rule (which lasted through World War I) the administrators were honest, while the Italian authorities did give us all homes by September."
Nevertheless, it is clear from a two-day drive through this area's rolling foothills and sloping valleys that despite obstacles posed by a second major quake in September and more than 110 days of rain since July, the Italian government will keep its promise that there will be a roof over evey Friuliano's head by the end of March.
Rubble from the quakes, unpaved muddy roads, a lack of supplies and inadequate public transport show that much has yet to be done. But the countryside is colorfully dotted with more than 30 varities of prefabricated buildings put up by regional and central government programs.
So far, more than 14,000 prefabs and mobile homes house some 45,000 persons. These largely temporary structures have replaced most of the 18,000 tents, 5,275 trailers and 2,000 obsolete railroad boxcars in which the homeless spent the winter.
The prefabs will also provide homes for the thousands who fled the area after the quakes hit.
Some left to visit relatives elsewhere in Italy or to join the hundreds of Friuliani who normally emigrate from a region that is largely an economic backwater. More than 33,000 others were offered accomodations at seaside resorts that must be vacated by April when the tourist season begins. This has caused families to be separated, with women and children at the seaside, more than 50 miles away, and the men working at home.
In the marketplace of Tarcento, a city of 9,300 that until the earthquake was known as "the Pearl of the Friuli," an unobtrusive mobile home contains the local "operational center," where firemen, army personnel, government and regional representatives, police and carabinieri coordinate the emergency housing program.
One day recently mario Penta, a Sicilian-born Interior Ministry official who came to Fruiri eight months ago on the staff of a government-appointed special commission, had his hands full.
A long-awaited shipment of prefabs was several lodgings short, a group of tent-dwellers camped out on the local soccer field continued to balk at moving into the "prefabs assigned them, a middle-aged woman was distressed that her prefab was part of cluster several miles from her damaged home, and the town drunk discovered to be without an official residence certificate and therefore ineligible for housing.
"It's a complicated business" Prnta said, "but gradually things are falling into a place." Although only 139 of the town's 1,757 prefabs had so far arrives, major deliveries by both the central government and the region were expected shortly.
Penta and his counterparts in other Friulian villages said delays in the operation reflect the time needed to install facilities to service the prefabs, local production problems and political difficulties encountered land for the new housing.
"But the major cause of he delay," carabinieri Sgt. Giuseppe Rifiorati, "was the second quake in September. It is not only flattened many buildings that had remained standing but caused a widespread collapse of a psychological nature.
"People had spent the entire summer working to repair the spring damage and when the second quake undid much of what they'd accomplished many of them just felt like giving up. People are still afraid," because of 500 tremors since September, he said adding: "Many are reluctant to hand in their tents because they think they may soon have to use them again."
The September quake led to the central government's emergency program to aid the regional effort and hass brought about much of the progress.
During the summer, an initial regional housing program for 9,281 dwellings gor bogged down in red tape and political uncertainty. Premier Giulio Andreotti then sent special commissioner Giuseppe Zamberletti, who had been in the area earlier back norht with a $120 million budget and almost unlimited emergency powers.His main job was to build and install 9.599 more lodgings using 4,000 soldiers and 500 firemen.
Italy has also received disaster releif from more than 15 countries and various international organizations.
The biggest contribution by far came from the United States, which immediately after last May's quake allocated $25 million in emergency assistance, It will be used for the construction of five old-age homes and 12 schools.
Arturo Constantino, the U.S. AID program director, has been made an honorary citizen of Osoppo, where two schools and an old-age home are planned for mid-1978. He said: "We thought we'd do the most good by trying to help the weakest sectors of the folks."
The U.S. buildings, designed by a staff of Italian and American architects and engineers to be fully earthattention because they will be the first new permanent structures in the area.
The real challenge, that of reconstruction, has yet to be faced by the Italian government.
According to fire department engineer Leonardo Corbo, the decision to spend so much time and money on prefabs rather than immediately plunging ahead with teconstruction was made "to give authorities a breathing space in which to decide just where and how to rebuild.
Commissioner Zamberletti said: "Ours has been an undertaking comparable only to the World War II invasion of Normandy. We've been able to cut through a lot of red tape and make decisions fast when necessary."
Zamberletti said there will be important side benefits. "Do you realize that for the first time many Friuliani will now find themselves in houses or communities with running water, bathrooms, sewers and hot water? It's clear that our work here is going to mean a new lifestyle for this once isolated and rural area," he said.