Someday everything will make perfect sense. So, for now, laugh at the confusion, smile through the tears, and enjoy life’s small joys while waiting for the big ones to come.

Referring to this time as a difficult one is an eufenism…

I am writing from Naples, in the South of Italy where the pandemic outbreak has arrived in all its devastation. I am a biologist with a PhD in Infectious diseases; I am here by chance and by a similar mysterious game orchestrated by fate, I got “trapped” in the esponentially escalation of the outbreak – experiencing first hand this catastrophe and witnessing a time that will be remembered in human history.

An outbreak as challenging as unprecedented: for the first time in history, the entire world is experiencing a synchronised moment of adversity; not anymore an individual, private, regional or national prospective, but a collective and global one, TOGETHER in the same struggle. The world, forced to look at itself as ONE: one people, one pain, one catastrophe; no more borders, race, religion, narrow-minded, self-entered thoughts, but united as ONENESS in our pain.

Do you want to know how it feels being in Italy during these days?

It’s hard and painful!

It’s a sudden change that we are obliged to understand, accept and respect in the short term for a longer term benefit. And yet, we are not used to act in light of a long term vision- see climate changes, nature loss, economic model, political leadership around the world driven by a self-centred mindset.

We are requested not just to learn and embrace a new outlook, but also to act on it through our behaviour. The cherry on the cake is feeling deprived of the most precious human right, freedom.

There is resistance in people, understandably. And yet, our personal struggle must not prevent us from making the required shift.

The streets are crowded by police, army, red cross, ambulances, ‘carabinieri’ and ‘Guardia di finanza, spanning the street to catch the deceivers, and to bring people to the hospitals.

The few instances I am out for necessity, my heart breaks up a little more; my eyes fill with tears beyond my control, an unmanageable sense of emptiness pervade the soul. When I see someone on the street walking in my direction, I now step away to create that “painful” distance for safety. Without mentioning the anguish when at 6pm every day, I listen to the live update of the number of deaths and new infected: an overwhelming count of bodies left without proper burial (no room in cemeteries) and without family nearby.

My brain isn’t able to keep up the escalation

And yet, I am urged to say that “my condition” is not even close to those having someone dear locked in a crowded hospital, to medical staff having to choose which patient to put in intensive care where space is rationed, or to the elderly at home failing to navigate this chaos on their own.

Emotional response to a change

‘Acceptance’: I achieved deep awareness about the global scenario ahead as one not to be underestimated.

So for now, I honour days during this extreme period of quarantine: I wake up in the morning and I stand by the balcony to fill my eyes with the soothing reflection of the sun over the sea, and Mount Vesuvius scenery. I explore the true sense of being alive and guide my body to embrace an unfamiliar joy.


…how many times were you dreaming to sleep in, a little longer, hoping you didn’t have to go to the office?

…how many times were you wishing to have more occasions to read a book, call a friend, connect with family, talk to your children or just spend quality time with your parents?

I spend nowdays my time, embracing a different freedom, the one allowing me to choose… if reading, working on my laptop, sitting in the sun on the balcony, watching TV, lying on bed and daydreaming, connecting to the world through social media, blogging my emotions, checking on my parents, talking to friends, singing with others from neighbouring balconies in small glimpses of solidarity.

At the very beginning, running was still allowed and I had the chance to witness a silence, that has never been so loud.

Enjoying the little things

This is Via Caracciolo, one of the most panoramic coastline with plenty of hotels, bars and restaurants, that I never ever seen so deserted.

the silence speaks louder here

Nearly forgot to tell you about food shopping: it is allowed as long as the number of people is controlled and contained inside the shop. If before buying food was an easy and quick task, it has now become a test of patiente. In the best case scenario, there is a long queue keeping you wait on the street for at least 30mins.

When inside, it becomes a distressing experience: trying to avoid people next to you, picking stuff from the same shelf.

Ignorance here is the real issue; lack of information and understanding drives people to treat this pandemic as a flu. Elderly people tend to maintain their routine without wanting to change (careless to die or via a fatalistic approach). Younger generations are inclined to tag others as crazy for over reacting; their sense of “superiority” put them and us at high risk. They will come right next to you, as they don’t comply with the ‘nonsense’ of social distancing.

There is denial, confusion and fear even more visible in a population whose the social aspect of life is at the pillar of its culture (i.e. Italy, Spain).

Bottom line is that nobody should complain about a quarantine, feeling undoubtedly as “forced detention”. It is a privilege to be safe while many others are fighting a worse battle, the one for survival; while other governments around the world are still underestimating the threat putting their people at risk.

6 thoughts on “In Italy at the time of COVID_19

  1. Hi Gabriela, I’m just up the road from you in Centro Storico, the normally noisy heart of Naples. It is empty, eerily quiet..all shops are shuttered, only a lone person walking their dog. I share your sentiments but I am still lingering in the anger realm of my emotional response to change. I was in Viet Nam for SARS, Hong Kong for H5N1, Sierra Leone for Ebola, and as a health worker I wonder why our systems are not better prepared. How human complacency and the pitiful lack of understanding and resourcing of public and planetary health has turned our vibrant colourful Napoli into a ghost town. I am working on the next step of my emotional response by enjoying photos of the sea shimmering in Pozzuoli, the plants blooming on my balcony, listening to music, having conversations of solidarity around the world. Our deep resilience will ensure our survival, but let us now give more time and energy to the quality of our lives. I wish all the frontline health workers buon lavoro – stay safe- and all of Italy strength and fortitude.
    Andrà tutto bene!

  2. I wholeheartedly agree Gabriela. The woeful human complacency, the ignorance of public health policies, the under resourcing of planetary health….I was in Viet Nam for SARS, Hong Kong for H5N1, Sierra Leone for Ebola, and now just up the road from you in Napoli’s eerily deserted Centro Storico. As a health worker I must be optimistic that this time we will learn to change our ways for the better. For now I am enjoying the simple joys of photos of the sea shimmering in Pozzuoli, plants blooming on my balcony, global conversations of solidarity with friends. Our resilience will ensure our survival but the price paid is high and we must look to restoring our humanity and appreciating what quality of life really means.
    Andrà tutto bene!

  3. Your story is heart touching. Yes it is real and important to learn from the experience of others before it hits us!

  4. Dovremmo vivere questo irripetibile momento storico con la consapevolezza di uscirne migliori!
    Dovremmo capire che, finora, non siamo stati all’altezza dei n/s ideali!
    Dovremmo ritornare ad una vita fatta di piccole soddisfazioni per grandi ideali.
    Dovremmo, in definitiva, vivere sempre perseguendo l’Amore.
    Ciao Gabriella da Renato.

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