My Experience in Italy During COVID-19

I wanted to share what it has been like being stranded in a foreign country during the COVID19 Outbreak and what I have learned about this country and my own.

Canada’s 2020 population according to Worldometer is 37,742,154 people, while Italy’s 2020 population is estimated at 60,461,826 people.

For those who may not know, Italy is in Central Southern Europe and consists of the boot-shaped Italian Peninsula and several islands.  Sicily and Sardinia being the two largest islands. The country’s total area is about 300 thousand square km and the coastline and border 7500 km on the Adriatic, Ionian and Tyrrhenian seas.  Besides Croatia, Italy also shares borders with Slovenia, France, Austria, Switzerland, San Marino, and Vatican City.

Prior to the EU borders closing many foreigners around the world rushed to return to their countries as advised by their governments.  I myself tried to return to Canada as instructed by our government and the travel advisory – to travel if it was safe to do so, but also to follow the directions in the country I was in.

My return was all planned out, my international ferry ticket, my self-declaration, which was required to explain my movement, everything down to the last detail including where I would quarantine.  That ferry line got cancelled 3 days before my departure and with no flights out and restricted movement I ended up stranded in Southern Italy.

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Spreading of the COVID19 in Italy originated from several small towns in Northern Italy that were put on lockdown.  Rome, however, wasn’t one of them until later. By the 8th of March, the government expanded the so-called red zone to include all the areas near the red zone.  A day later the Prime Minister extended an executive order to lock down the whole country, including Rome.

The government/authorities in Italy required you to carry documentation to support the reason why you were leaving your residence, whether you were a citizen or a foreigner.  Grocery stores, pharmacies, tobacco, and banks became the lifelines for people in this country to be outdoors.

Now many could say or think that being stranded in one of the countries that was the worst hit would be terrifying and I will be the first to admit that it was in the beginning.  Being in a foreign country during an event like this is something that no one could ever imagine.  Did it create anxiety, you bet, but being here I can honestly say, I could think of worse countries and places to be stuck in than this one.  I felt safe and cared for in this country as a foreigner.  When I became stranded, I went to the Italian authorities, they told me “keep all your documents/receipts and don’t worry, this is Italy, we will find a way.”  They took the anxiety away from the start.

What have I learned while being here?  For all of Italy’s flaws, they have much to offer others in many respects.

  • Italian culture is based on the community, no ands, ifs, or buts. Whether it is their piazzas bustling with food or music, you sense the dolce vita.
  • Italy is a very tolerant country when it comes to migrants. Italy alone in the last 2 years has taken in much more than 2 million people.
  • Under lockdown, songs broke out from rooftops, balconies, and windows and I witnessed 1st hand their sense of community, spirit, and resilience. Many of my family and friends messaged me to tell me how inspired they were.
  • I discovered a sense of trust in the institutions of this country when the Prime Minister made the protection of “people” his absolute priority. Were mistakes made? Certainly, like they have been made in other countries around the world, but the difference is, he didn’t deter from standing up for people 1st and putting them before money.  Everyone and not just some.

Nothing can dim the light that shines from within

~Maya Angelou

  • In my view and I have expressed this several times in various online posts, this country has a great leader that many around the world could learn from. The premier has shown incredible leadership in locking down this country knowing how much of a hit the economy would take, but nonetheless he and his council members, which are the forces that form the government, did what was necessary for the benefit of all.

Many people disagreed with me from “the far-right movement” and that was fine, I gave my opinion as a foreigner.  I understand that unpopular decisions are never easy but nonetheless those decisions were necessary to get to the point we are today.  Seeing the #’s going down has been wonderful.  The real tragedy is in those who are no longer with us.

A bit of history that I have learned:

The political philosophy in Italy is different from that of North America.  The position of the premier, the chief of the executive, is that the last word is not his.  He’s only in charge of the council members of the government. Everything comes from a common consensus of the forces forming the government.  These things are thorough reflections of the way it is over here in many parts of Europe.

Social democracies mean not only social from the people’s point of view.  Social means that there is not a unique voice.

The only person who has the authority to put his signature on every act, every law in Italy is the President of the Republic. The fathers of modern Italy in 1946 sat down together and wrote a constitution that does not allow the premier to make decisions on his own regardless of what the other forming government thinks.  This is reciprocally reflected between the government and society.  It always comes from the consensus of people.  Choral decisions, choral work.

Choral meaning:  Choral is the result of the concorded activity of many, not of the action of an individual.  Like it is in team sports where the result depends on the well-organized collaboration of players. This is something that specifically started after the 2nd world war with the Italian constitution.  It was done to avoid the rise of some Great Man again.

Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.

~Helen Keller

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Suzana Matkovic
Suzana Matkovic
SUZANA has a PhD from the School of Hard Knocks. With the guidance of a loving family, she aspired to the best job of Life: Motherhood. People that know her journey will understand how this beautiful and tragic chapter forged her resilience and tenacity to bring her passions to life by being part of the change. Upon graduation in 84, she moved into an extremely successful 30-year career. Nonetheless, she walked away from it in 2014, in order to pursue something more personally meaningful. A School of Life that enabled her to meet people of different nationalities, cultures, races, languages and outlooks, is what she sought. She is an avid advocate and volunteer motivated to help others reach their full potential by raising awareness of numerous social issues affecting many and establishing a legacy for change. Suzana’s training and experience have provided her with a unique foundation from which to produce communication that is Significant, Relevant and Actionable. Her knowledge in sales/business development and marketing started in the early 90’s where she received numerous awards for innovation, customer satisfaction and quality management. She has worked in all business categories: Local Government, Manufacturing and Distribution, Logistics and Lumber Export. Some of the more notable products and services were sold into the Environmental Energy Sector and building products that represented Structural, Civil, Electrical, Mechanical and Architectural Engineering. In addition to Marketing initiatives for various NGOs and causes near and dear to her heart. All this was accomplished by a high school graduate with determination, vision and passion. She attributes her success to many wonderful mentors throughout her personal and professional life and the inner strength God blessed her with.

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  1. Aldo, Thank you, Thank you very much, I was really touched by your comments. My partner has always told me that to truly know a country you have to live there and he was right. The truth is that the people here are one of the 1st things I noticed and loved about this City/Country. It was a profound awareness of how different people here are compared to that in North America. That’s not to say that everyone is the same in North America but the difference here is profound in a good way. I have found Italy to be a very vibrant and tolerant community in which you can breathe and be yourself. I believe that the real cultural backbone of Italy is in the 1,000’s of villages and small towns and not the metropolis cities. Its something that comes from the past and is reflected in the relationships between people today and the way of living. It really is a beautiful country with much to offer and teach others. Thanks again Aldo. If the opportunity presents itself it would be great to meet you in the not too distant future.

  2. Suzana, thanks for this article that I would like many to read, especially those who judge based on prejudices, without ever having seen or lived.
    I thank you above all because you have spoken little of the food and natural beauty, of which those who have been in Italy speak and which too often are the only things appreciated in my country, but you have spoken of PEOPLE!!
    And I thank you for the concrete contribution you made in a time of difficulty in which solidarity was the real strength that was needed.
    I thank you because you have wanted to understand, enter our social fabric, deepen our sensitivities, positive and negative.
    I have traveled a lot, I have known many countries, I am an admirer of some in particular but also a severe self-critic of the defects of the Italians. But i can’t deny that in what you have told there is the essence of the Italian people, which that I would like to always emerge, at any level, in any context, to convince those who have a superficial vision of Italians.
    Thanks again. I hope we will have the opportunity to interact with you.

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