Incredible Humans

Alone, together: living through Covid-19 in Italy

The Covid-19 crisis is truly global and though times are tough, we can take some comfort in solidarity. Our Alone, Together series is all about communicating these shared experiences and reaching out beyond our borders. This week, we chatted to Francesca Ciarmatori, an avid traveller from Jesi, Italy, about her experiences in one of the hardest-hit countries in the world.

Francesca, Italy

On home

“I am living in my hometown Jesi, a city in Le Marche Region, which is located on the hills of the centre of Italy, by the Adriatic coast. Currently, I’m in quarantine with my father. I’ve travelled quite a lot in the last few years, but in between I always try to spend some time in my hometown with my family and friends. I guess it was good timing for me to be back in Jesi before this surreal situation started. I think in situations like this, it’s best to be with your own family or your loved ones. I’m just happy that my father didn’t have to deal with these circumstances alone and we can count on each other now.”

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On lockdown life in Italy

“Italy has been hit very seriously. Our healthcare system wasn’t ready to cope with the crazily high number of infected people – and the people who needed intensive care afterwards. Italy was the first country in Europe to follow the path opened up by China – the country began its lockdown on 9 March 2020.

“Unlike the UK, running and jogging aren’t allowed anymore: the furthest we can go for a walk is 200 metres from our house. Leaving your house is permitted only for extraordinary or health-related reasons, and once you leave your house, you need to carry a certificate in which you self-guarantee that the reason you’re outside is a reasonable one.”

On past and future travel plans

“Before the outbreak, I was looking forward to my trip to Peru. In fact, at the beginning of April I should have left for Lima in order to start my placement as an Italian Civil Peace Corp. Though the situation is very volatile now, I really hope we’ll be able to start at some point.  I’m so looking forward to engaging in this new chapter of my life and serving as a Peace Corp in a child-focused project in some neighbourhoods of Lima – fingers crossed that it’ll happen soon!”

Image source: Lime, Peru / Unsplash

On keeping in touch

“My family and friends have all given me the support to keep going during this period. Every Saturday, my friends and I replace the evening we’d have spent out together with a virtual night out on Zoom! We’ve done it since the beginning of the quarantine, and now it’s become a scheduled appointment for all of us.

“I’ve also had the chance to stay in touch with all the friends that I’ve met when I was living abroad. The bright side of this period (and there aren’t too many) I’d say is the warmth, affection and love that I’ve felt from my friends from all around the world. Once they heard about the critical situation in Italy, they all contacted me to ask how I was. I guess when relationships are real, there’s no distance between people. My connections and relationships are a beautiful thing, and I can thank social media for that!”

On daily routines

“I have to admit, at the beginning, I struggled a lot to find and establish a daily routine. I remember I spent the first week trying to figure out what was happening, and honestly, accepting that this was real. I remember that in the first days of quarantine, what helped me the most was to watch movies. I guess that was the easiest way to ‘escape’ reality and try not to think about this crisis all the time.

“After a while, I started to structure my days in a more coherent way. I’ve been trying to keep myself busy with online courses. These help me think of the future, and project myself into a post-pandemic world, reminding myself that all of this will eventually end. I also started to play the guitar again. For a very long time, I abandoned my guitar in a corner of my room. Now I have more time on my hands, I decided to dust it off and start playing again!”

On community

“At the beginning of the quarantine, flashmobs on people’s balconies became popular. People would pop up on their balcony and clap to the healthcare workers as a way to say thank you for their extremely hard work. I really appreciate how my neighbours always ask how we are. Simple acts such as walking to the grocery shop or chitchatting with a neighbour that pops up from the balcony makes my day so much lighter.

“I guess the coronavirus was able to make communities tighter, in the sense that defeating it is everybody’s task and to succeed, we all need to comply with the rules. Living through Covid-19 in Italy is a strong reminder of how much our lives are all interconnected (and this is so true on a global level too). Our (mis)behaviours may have an extremely huge impact on others…”

On the media

“How the media and social media are covering the pandemic is VERY representative of our times. We’re living in an era in which it’s extremely easy to find information, but it’s also very easy to get confused – most of the time there’s a huge uncontrolled, unfiltered flux of voices and info. At the beginning, I was thinking that Covid-19 was just like the common flu and would leave us as soon as spring arrived. Many virologists on the main Italian TV channels kept supporting this thesis. I think communication could have been handled in a better way in Italy.”

On getting back out there

“For me, dreaming and planning future and forthcoming trips is good for the soul. First of all, I’m hopeful that I’ll be able to leave soon to Peru as I was supposed to do in mid-April. I look forward to planning new trips and being able to take a train or a plane to reach a new destination.

“After this period, I don’t think we’ll take as many things for granted. From hugging a friend to enjoying a run in a public park; everything will taste more authentic and special when we get back to normal. The travel memories we create in our life are so precious and we need to treasure them. I think one of the very few positive aspects of the virus is that it reminds everyone that life is short and unpredictable and that we can’t just let it pass us by. Time is a gift, and no one knows how much of it is accorded to each of us.”

On gratitude

“Thinking back to the places I visited in the last years made me also aware of one thing: not everyone has been given the privilege of living a quarantine life like mine. I’ve got to spend time in a comfortable house where I have space just for me. My fridge is full and I can afford the food at the grocery store. My place is a safe home, but unfortunately for many people – especially women – spending all this time at home may pose a threat for their safety. From what I’ve witnessed in my travels far from home, I’ve realised that we should always be thankful for what we have.”

On recovery

“I think it will be a big challenge for Italy to recover after the pandemic, but I am confident that my country has the spirit to do so. Many social problems have been arising due to the lockdown measures. More than two thirds of the country isn’t working at the moment, and this represents a threat for our most underprivileged people. What I really hope is that this time of crisis will help us rethink the international economic system and transform it into a kinder, more compassionate one. In Italy, Covid-19 has shown that cutting funds from the public healthcare sector (and to the welfare system) doesn’t pay back, and has only made this crisis harsher. I think this will be taken into account when we look to the future.”

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