L'AQUILA, Italy - A chocolate Easter egg from aid workers brought a weary smile to the face of Maria Pia Carpentieri, one of thousands of people left homeless by Italy's worst earthquake in nearly 30 years.

It's Easter in a few days, and this will give us a sense of normality, said the 68-year-old, sheltering at a camp in the medieval city of L'Aquila, which bore the brunt of the disaster.

After fleeing her house with a few treasured possessions when the quake hit on Monday, Carpentieri has been living in a tent with her son Luca and six other people who until now were perfect strangers.

She carried the egg back to share it with them, along with less festive essentials -- a bar of soap, bottled water, biscuits and toilet paper.

It's very hard being here. There's no running water and the portable toilets are filthy, she said of the camp, now home to 2,000 people, some of them with family pets. But at least we're alive. We must thank God for that.

Sitting on a makeshift bed in front of her, bleary-eyed Pierluigi Di Marco also found comfort in religion. He said a priest had visited the tent city on Wednesday offering communion wafers to the faithful.

He told us all our beautiful churches have collapsed but he still wanted to wish us happy Easter, Di Marco said.

With some two-thirds of L'Aquila in ruins, neither Di Marco nor Carpentieri knew how long they would stay at the camp, and whether their houses would be repaired or demolished.


Inside the walled city center, cordoned off by police after a third night of big aftershocks, Stefano Dedonadis was left in no doubt about the fate of his family flat. The front wall of the two-storey apartment had simply disintegrated.

That's my parents' bedroom, he said, pointing to a desolate spectacle of wooden furniture covered by rubble and a dangling ceiling lamp.

Dedonadis and his parents have been sleeping in their car, waiting for rescue workers to help them recover clothes and other basics from the house. We feel powerless, he said.

On the sidewalks of deserted streets, ordinary objects strewn in the rubble bore witness to shattered lives -- a framed family picture, a woolly hat, a child's stuffed dog.

Back at the camp, eight-month pregnant Stefania Cantalini said her new baby filled her with hope, but she also felt anguish about the future.

My fear is that after the media glare fades, the politicians will forget their promises and we'll be left to ourselves, she said. My fear is I'll spend the rest of my life in a tent.