Because of the Coronavirus outbreak and the consequential lockdown, the last few weeks have been some of the toughest in recent history for Italy, but there are some silver linings. Take a look beyond the grim headlines and you’ll find stories that celebrate Italian beauty and culture – some things that remain eternal – as well as some unexpected changes.
It’s time to celebrate Italian pride – here are ten positive facts and news stories from Italy.
Italian community: singing from the balconies and looking on the bright side
- Italians inspired the world with their sense of community spirit, taking part in nationwide singalongs on their balconies at 6 pm every day. Now that we’re nearly a month into the lockdown, some of the enthusiasm has gone, but you’ll still find some Italians singing or playing instruments on balconies and terraces. One of the most moving recent examples was a young guitarist performing Morricone on a rooftop above a deserted Piazza Navona.
- Italian community is still going strong, with people across the country helping out their neighbours wherever possible, and donating food to the less fortunate. Someone recently left 30 packs of pasta in the street in Rome with a note that read “If you need it, take it”. The Neapolitans have been lowering baskets of food from their balconies, so passers-by can help themselves.
- The healthcare system in Italy is one of the best in Europe, and Italian medical staff have been pulling out all the stops during the Coronavirus crisis. For example, in response to a ventilator shortage, Italian doctors have adapted snorkeling masks to save lives. Newly qualified doctors are being fast-tracked to get to work on the frontlines. Some retired doctors are going back to work, including a heroic 85 year old, Giampiero Giron. As Giron explained, “They asked for my availability, and I said yes. When you decide to be a doctor in life, you get involved. I swore an oath. Afraid of getting sick? Then it is better not to be a doctor.”
In these dark days, it’s important to find the humour in certain situations. The internet is full of funny videos, from one man in Rome taking social distancing to extremes (a sketch for a satirical TV show) to an Italian comic making his own version of the news while in quarantine at home. The series of videos includes breaking news such as the mystery of the missing remote control, and the murder of a mosquito. As one Italian proverb puts it, “Il riso fa buon sangue” (“Laughter is the best medicine”).
Italian beauty: making art and culture more accessible
- Many museums and art galleries across Italy allow “virtual visits”. The Vatican Museums and Capitoline Museums in Rome both offer virtual experiences, as does the Uffizi in Florence. As a result of the Coronavirus, the hotly anticipated Raphael exhibition at the Scuderie del Quirinale in Rome was forced to close pretty much as soon as it opened, but you can enjoy an online tour. It may not be quite the same as seeing the paintings in person, but the Coronavirus crisis has forced museums and galleries to become even more accessible.
- There are many more cultural offerings online, including live streams from the Teatro di San Carlo in Naples (the oldest opera house in the world), Italian food tours on Instagram, and classic Italian films on the online archives of Milan’s Cineteca. Keats-Shelley House in Rome is organising weekly synchronised poetry readings to create a sense of unity. As Italians now have much more time on their hands, they’re making the most of being able to enjoy new cultural experiences.
- You can celebrate Italian beauty even while in lockdown. Artists in Rome have been getting creative, finding inspiration in unusual circumstances and illustrating scenes from quarantine – interiors and balconies – as well as haunting images of deserted cities. Perhaps all this time indoors will encourage people to nurture their creative talents, and the next Michelangelo or Raphael will emerge as a result of the lockdown…
Italian nature: cleaner canals and animals roaming in Rome
- Unsurprisingly, the decrease in traffic, air travel and industrial activity has been beneficial for Italian nature and the environment. Levels of air pollutants like nitrogen dioxide have decreased dramatically.
- Nature is reclaiming the cities. Grass is growing in Piazza Navona, and animals that would usually stay hidden on the Palatine Hill are enjoying their newfound freedom, undisturbed by visitors. You’re unlikely to see pheasants, hedgehogs, foxes and rabbits when things go back to normal!
- Wildlife has returned to Venice too. Mass tourism has taken its toll on the city and its fragile ecosystem, but now the city can finally breathe. The canals are much cleaner, with fish clearly visible, and there are even reports of a duck making a nest and laying eggs at a vaporetto stop.
Finally, while the sense of Italian pride is stronger than ever, there’s also a greater awareness of the international community. Countries such as Albania, Germany, Cuba, China and Russia have been sending medical aid. As Yuval Noah Harari argues, we’re all in this together – we need to share information and resources, and “adopt the path of global solidarity.”
When this is all over, Roads to Rome Private Tours looks forward to welcoming you to Italy. Andrà tutto bene! (Everything will be alright!)