Italy, until surpassed by the U.S. in number of deaths, had been the global epicenter for the Coronavirus pandemic. It is remarkable how the Italian Community came together in this struggle and displayed solidarity with their fellow Italians. Across the country, rainbow flags, signs and posters proclaiming “Andrà tutto bene,” “everything will be alright,” demonstrated Italian spirit and creativity.
This month’s topic: La Communità Italiana durante la Quarantina
Not only have Italians given hope to their own people, but their positive spirit has crossed continents to inspire people all over the world even reaching to my neighborhood in L.A. Here are four ways that we are emulating the Italian community’s response to the pandemic:
Campanilismo: “Love of One’s Bell Tower.”
Campanilismo, for Italians, means not only feeling a strong connection to their country, but pride and affection for one’s own town including its cuisine and dialect.
As Americans, we are typically so busy that we do not get the chance to know many, if any, of our neighbors. However, the pandemic appears to be changing that. Through apps such as NextDoor, people are connecting with their own neighborhoods. During our “io resto a casa” (stay at home), people are posting pictures of flowers, fruit trees and cactus blossoms, bringing the nature that we cannot get out to, into our own homes. And like the Italians, there are many offers to care for the elderly in the neighborhood by bringing them food and medications.
Solidarità: From Piazza to Balcony.
The piazzas and the stradones below them are empty, but at certain times of the day, Italian balconies are affolato di gente, with children displaying hand-drawn rainbow flags, families singing in unison, people screaming and yelling and banging pots and pans like cymbals. Famous musicians and singers have also helped transform these special times of togetherness with a symphony by Puccini or solo sax rendition of the Italian National Anthem. And Andrea Bocelli’s concert at the Duomo Cathedral in Milan on Easter Sunday was a gift of hope for all to hear.
As in Italy, in my neighborhood, though many of our homes are far apart, each evening at 8 p.m. for five minutes we go to our front doors and for miles one can hear a cacophony of sounds from howling, to the banging of pots and pans, the playing of various instruments and woo-hooing. All in solidarity with our first responders, doctors and nurses. And although we may not sound as harmonious as the Italians, it
feels good to come together in this way as a community.
Kitchen Quarantine: Mangiare per vivere e non vivere per mangiere!
In Italy, famous chefs are opening their kitchens to the online world. What could be more fun when stuck at home than trying one of their recipes or rediscovering family dishes like nonna’s “pasta e fagioli” or “pastiera,” an Easter tradition. In the U.S. as well, there are many online recipe-sharing posts that can inspire us to spend more time in the kitchen cooking and baking and then gathering around the table to enjoy those dishes with la famiglia.
Primo di tutto: La Famiglia.
Italians, with their close-knit family structures, are accustomed to taking care of their parents as they age and that is always a good trait to emulate. My family is being very cautious and practicing personal distancing with my mom who is 90 and lives alone. I remember her stories describing the Spanish Flu Pandemic of 1918 and the dead bodies accumulating at the cemetery in her little town, told to her by her parents. Fortunately, all four of our grandparents survived and eventually emigrated to this country where we enjoyed them well into our adulthood.
That speaks to the fortitude and resilience of our forefathers. On YouTube there is a video of Italian tenor Maurizio Marchini singing Nessun Dorma from his balcony in Florence, ending with the words, “At the dawn, I will win, I will win, I will win,” showing the indomitable spirit of the Italian people. After listening to his rendition of this beautiful song, this comment seems to say it all: “Only the Italians could make a quarantine seem romantic.”