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.
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
- 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.