Coronavirus Struggles in Italy, My Second Home


One writer describes the turmoil his home country is experiencing. (Courtesy of Facebook)

When people think of Italy, many things come to mind: the incredible food, the kindhearted people and the rich history make it one of the most visited countries in the world. These are among the countless reasons why I am proud to call Italy my second home. 

Coming from a family of recent Italian immigrants, Italy has had a significant impact on my life for as long as I can remember. I spend each summer in the small but beautiful beachside town of Soverato to visit my friends and family, and the bonds that I have formed there are like no other. These memories are what inspired me to study abroad in Milan and to visit the country as often as I possibly can. However, my cherished town, which was once teeming with life, love and energy, is now struggling due to the coronavirus. 

Today, Italy is the most impacted country in the world by the virus, with a mortality rate leagues higher than anywhere else. These dire circumstances have caused the Italian government to put the nation under a mandatory lockdown. Nobody is allowed to leave their home without proper documentation certifying that they are leaving out of pure necessity, with the risk of facing jail time if they do not abide by this policy. As of March 21, this lockdown seems to be indefinite, as Italians are still dying at record rates from the coronavirus.

I have been speaking to my Italian family and friends daily to check in on them, and while it is clear that they are going through extremely trying times, most of them understand the necessity of these strict regulations. Samuele Scaccabarozzi, a graduate student from Milan who studied abroad at Fordham during the spring 2019 semester, is living in the hardest-hit region of the country. He expresses that he is particularly worried about the well-being of his grandparents and calls them every day to check on them. He says that since Italians underestimated the coronavirus at first, there are now problems regarding hospital capacity, which is why these drastic measures are being enforced. However, he is optimistic about the future.

“I think the Italian health system is doing really well, and I’m convinced that the new measures taken by the government are going to get results soon,” he said. 

Scaccabarozzi was abroad in Madrid, Spain at the beginning of Italy’s outbreak and had some hurdles to jump through just to return home. 

“At the airport (in Milan), they put each of us in line to measure fever, and we had to sign a certificate declaring we were heading to our houses,” he said. 

During his newfound free time in quarantine, he has been video-chatting with his friends, drawing and working out.

Gabriele Firano studies economics at Sapienza University in Rome and made the decision to return home to Soverato on March 6 to be with his family. Like Scaccabarozzi, his main concern is also for the health of the elderly, as he has seen many of them out of the house when he recently went grocery shopping when they should be following the law by staying home. Similarly, Francesco Calabretta, who studies in Milan, has remained at home in southern Italy due to this lockdown, where he is taking online classes. He is much more at ease being in the south as there are far fewer cases of COVID-19 there compared to northern Italy, which he attributes to the south’s less dense population and abundance of open spaces, which facilitated social distancing before the lockdown.

I will likely be canceling my annual summer trip this year, and it breaks my heart to see my beloved second home struggle so much more than the rest of the world through this global pandemic. However, despite these hardships, the beautiful spirit of the Italian people continues to radiate from the confines of their homes. Longing to connect with their neighbors and loved ones while social distancing, Italians have been coming up with some creative, yet safe alternatives to face-to-face interaction. Firano says that he hears his neighbors singing the national anthem and other patriotic songs together every night at 6 p.m. The camaraderie that the Italian people have demonstrated in this troubling time is nothing short of moving, especially considering the magnitude of their circumstances. 

I pray for Italy and for the health and safety of her wonderful people and my beautiful hometown of Soverato. But I trust in Italy’s resiliency and am confident that her people will overcome this hardship stronger than ever before.