What is life like in Italy during the coronavirus pandemic?

A message of hope from Italy during Covid-19 written by Heidi Pontillo | Luxury Travel Advisor Europe | March 20, 2020

We live in Scilla, Italy, a small fishing village located in the region of Calabria. My husband, a cruise ship Captain, was born and raised in this town and we have three children ages 8, 10 and 12. Italy is my home; enhanced with breathtaking scenery, exceptional cuisine and a friendly atmosphere. It is a place where every “Ciao” includes a kiss on each cheek, young couples laugh and stroll through the piazza, colorful laundry hangs from balconies adding to the charm, children gather in parks to play and grandparents exchange stories from nearby benches. Schools may be rustic, but teachers are dedicated and family… is everything.

This is life in Italy. This was life in Italy, until the coronavirus took over.

Today everything is different. Social distancing has caused kisses to be replaced with fist bumps, “ciao’s” are muffled by hospital masks, the piazza is empty, the park is empty and grandparents simply stay home. In fact, one of the most popular hashtags is #iorestoacasa, which means, “I’m staying home”. From TV ads to websites to viral videos, the message is clear.  We are to stay home. The severity of the situation has been magnified by each new closure and by the fear that medical facilities in the south are not as equipped as they are in north. I was in disbelief when restaurants, bars, movie theatres, beauty salons and shops were forced to close. We awoke each day hoping the situation had improved, only to learn the opposite. Italians were told to stay home. Stay home. Please stay home. Children seem to understand what is going on, to a certain degree. Yet most are not afraid because parents are by their side. Classmates send hopeful texts to each other, like the one my daughter received recently: “How often do we get the chance to save the world, by simply staying home in our pajamas? “.  

One of the biggest shocks to our community came with the announcement that churches also must close. In a culture so passionate about religion and where entire towns come together for funerals, closed churches are unheard of. Yet everyone remains hopeful that this is for the best. Grocery stores and pharmacies remain open, but nothing else. One family member is allowed to leave home for essential items, but must wear a facemask and remain in town. Not that there are other options since as of today our town is closed to anybody leaving or entering. Outside the sun is shining, the sky is blue and spring is in the air, yet it sounds different. Streets are quiet and there are no cars buzzing through town. Our children are convinced that the birds are chirping louder. Outside there is a different sound… the sound of silence.

 

 

In this quiet town, there is also a rising sound of hope. It resonates loudly from the bells of closed churches, which continue to ring out twice a day. And popular slogans deliver powerful messages. Hand painted signs with the words “andrà tutto bene” are surrounded by colorful rainbows, proudly displayed from homes and balconies along with the Italian flag. These words bring hope that everything will be ok. There is a sense of unity, a reminder to Italians and those of us lucky enough to live here that we are all in this together.

Click photo to hear some evening rooftop tunes

Every evening at 6pm we have come to anticipate music coming from the rooftop of a centrally located house in town. A huge Italian flag is waved and a young couple begins with their first song of the evening, the national anthem. Motivated by patriotism, people join from their balconies, singing and clapping to the well-known Italian favorites. We smile and wave to each other. Sure, the fear and uncertainty is real, but Italians are not looking for sympathy. The music carries with it a feeling of togetherness and support with a common mission to stay positive. Italy remains united and we look forward to the day in our near future when this is all behind us, when travel to Italy and the rest of the world resumes, when beaches and towns are filled with visitors from near and far, when masks are removed and the famous “Ciao!” once again includes kisses. Because we all believe that eventually…

…andrà tutto bene!