Ciao a tutti!

“How’s life in Italy” you say? Well, considering it’s the epicenter of the first pan-European viral lockdown, surprisingly good! I cannot speak for how things have changed in the cities of course – I am lucky enough to be in the Umbrian countryside, the ‘Green Heart of Italy’. Here the daffodils are out and there’s already a lot of buzzing insects getting busy. Birds are singing and there’s a deep sense of calm here, like the whole world’s on pause… probably because it is. 

If someone were to take a survey of different peoples’ circumstances during the Covid lockdown, I’m sure mine would be pretty close to being considered ideal; sunshine, fresh air, country living and good food. In fact, wholeheartedly was it my intention to leave my project early – generally it’s been an idea lurking in the back of my mind since I first arrived, 9 months ago. Yet, here I am choosing to ride out this particularly unpredictable rollercoaster right where I am, in Italy. Unquestionably, the quality of my life here is far better than if I were to return to quarantine in suburban England, but in a way I know I’ve taken a risk. Because when it comes to leaving in June, it’s impossible to know whether there’ll be a flight.

One thing that’s struck me in my communications with family and friends (I’m sure we’re all having them) is how many stories of compassion I’m hearing. As Italy became a red zone, a video went viral (excuse the pun) of the residents of a south German town all out on their balconies giving a rendition of ‘Bella Ciao’, a song which is the very embodiment of freedom and solidarity for Italians. It was heartwarming, even as a Brit. In Spain I hear of the Manteros, the illegal African immigrant street-sellers, dedicating their efforts no longer to sewing knock-off Nike’s, but to the manufacture of face masks and doctors’ gowns to bolster the resources of the Spanish health service. This is utterly inspiring for me – these people who have had such difficult lives, devoting themselves to a community which so often neglects them. Incredible.

We have entered into a time of great fear, but there are many examples like these. We must not let ourselves be governed by this fear. Remember who you are. Remember who WE are – we’re all one, all in this together.

By Joseph