coronavirus in Italy

The Coronavirus in Italy and Across the Pond

I had another blogpost ready to go for this week, text written and edited, countless photos selected and uploaded, but as I was about to post it, something inside of me said: Is anyone going to read this? Does anything other than the coronavirus exist? And believe me, I have not taken the situation lightly, particularly as the focus turned towards the coronavirus in Italy. But through all of the political slants, the media’s twists, and “the world has come to an end” rhetoric, I came across a few flickers of light in the darkness. 


As you probably know, I’m on Facebook, mostly for purposes of my book and blog. I scroll through a lot about Italy and I read many articles, mostly in Italian, so it’s interesting to see the Readers Digest version in English a day or two later.

Today, I see the following headline from a news source on Calabria’s Ionian coast: Calabria. Prende la carta da forno per farsi una mascherina, ma alla fine cucina una lasagna. (Calabria. He/she picks up a piece of parchment paper to make a mask, but in the end makes a lasagna.) I click. The springboard for the humor was an Italian journalist and her short DIY videos on how to construct facemasks from ordinary objects in any Italian home, such as parchment paper and scarves. (And here, I won’t delve into the debacle of Germany blocking 3M hospital-grade masks and other personal protection paraphernalia from being sent to Italy. Higher bodies apparently intervened.)

Back to the kitchen. Put a piece of parchment paper into the hands of any good Calabrese. He or she begins to fold it as per the instructions, eyes a casserole dish across the room, and what else could possibly happen next? The good Calabrian lines and fills the dish, pops it in the oven and enjoys! I got a chuckle. Afterall, cooking is second nature.


The first time I went to a funeral, I was shocked to see people talking normally, some even laughing. Everyone was dressed in black, boxes of tissues were discretely placed around the room of the appropriately decorated funeral home, but despite the grieving, of which there was certainly a great deal, those in attendance needed to talk of other things, of other days.

At the moment, it’s the coronavirus and there isn’t anything associated with it that’s the least bit funny, so polite conversation goes to the stock market and loss of jobs. There are comparison charts as to how the coronavirus stacks up against other diseases, and we relax to know that it doesn’t have anywhere near the fatality of Ebola or many other devastating illnesses. Many people won’t even know they had it, but we read that older people, already weakened or with lung problems are particularly susceptible.

The fact that the coronavirus doesn’t generally impact healthy younger people has led to what I would call a horrifying hashtag I happened to see trending on Twitter yesterday: #BoomerRemover. I clicked. What really shocked me wasn’t the hashtag, but the ugliness, shallowness and hatefulness towards older people that I read in the messages and how the “likes” just kept rolling to exponential numbers. So Not Funny. Is there a hashtag for that?


On the other side of the frittata, a heartwarming video of a Neapolitan neighborhood was shared on Facebook today. As the country is on lockdown and leaving one’s house is forbidden except for necessities or to walk the dog, apartment dwellers were using their balconies for a breath of air and a bit of socialization, all joining in the chorus of traditional songs to feel connected and keep their spirits up.

A few days ago, another Facebook video gave me a moment of repose with a touch of humor. A cute Italian Nonna dished up some sage advice regarding the coronavirus. In addition to her hygiene tips, she talked about how to spend time in home quarantine. She had plans of washing her windows and simmering a sauce that would sell at the price of gold when it was all over. “I’m kidding! I’ll give it out for free.”


The U.S. is now in a state of emergency. I open up my email. It’s full of notices from every business to whom I’ve ever given my email address, telling me what they’re doing to combat the COVID-19 virus. I wonder just how the shared surfaces were previously cleaned.

I haven’t been to the grocery store in a few days, but my refrigerator is starting to get low. I hear that paper products are nowhere to be seen, but there’s still a good supply of gluten-free products and pasta manufactured in Mexico on the shelf. I don’t have much storage space – no Costco quantities for backup. What will I do when my little 6-roll supply of recycled-paper toilet tissue runs out?

I wish everyone well. Hang in there.

coronavirus in ItalyAs I was wondering what sort of photo could accompany a “Coronavirus in Italy” post, I reached for my refrigerator door to prepare dinner. And there it was. A postcard of the Colosseum held up by a refrigerator magnet of tiny Italian-brand toilet paper rolls. I remember when purchasing the paper in Reggio Calabria and coming upon the little magnet, I thought how quirky it was. I had to keep it, never imagining I would one day actually take a photo of it to, in some bizarre way, represent the Coronavirus in Italy and Across the Pond. 

Are you interested in Italian culture? Check out Calabria: The Other Italymy non-fiction book about daily life, history, culture, art, food and society in the fascinating region in the toe of the boot. It’s available in paperback and e-book versions.

Are you on social media? It’s not all bad. I post interesting stuff. Connect with me on Calabria: The Other Italy’s Facebook pageKaren’s Instagram and Karen’s Twitter. Or as soon as travel opens back up, join me on a small-group Calabria Tour! Click around My Italian Blog, you’ll be amazed it’s so far off the beaten path.

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CALABRIA: THE OTHER ITALY makes a great gift!

Calabria: The Other Italy for Reading Groups

Comments 12

  1. Funny about toilet paper. I am going to Costco this morning when it opens as I was told yesterday they are getting a shipment in today.

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      I hope you were successful! I probably won’t go shopping until after the weekend when there will be fewer people.

  2. Ciao Karen. I love the Casa Surace Nonna videos. She has 2 of them now. Everything is so surreal. I cry whenever I see the balcony serenading videos. Been crying since yesterday! So glad Trump finally believes there is a problem. Stay safe #andràtuttobene. Ciao, Cristina

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      Since writing the post, I’ve seen a few videos with opera arias filling the streets – “Nessun dorma” is particularly gut wrenching. Try to find a distraction, Cristina. As you say but without the hashtag, everything will be okay.

  3. Thank you…reading about some normalcy in a world that is not, at the moment, is a comfort. Think I’ll go cook…

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  4. Hang in there Karen….I’m a travel agent with bookings for Italy that are only delayed in their travel date…not cancelled! Am keeping positive thoughts that things will improve….they have to!
    Wishing you Peace…Marilyn

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      Positive thoughts are definitely what’s called for, as anxiety doesn’t help the immune system. All the best to you and for your bookings – Italy needs them!

  5. Karen, thanks so much for sharing this. On Facebook my Italian cousin shared with me that pharmacists are delivering medications to people, probably mostly elderly. It touches me to know my people on the other side of the pond, are taking care of their most vulnerable.

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      Absolutely, they’re doing their best. That’s why they instituted the quarantine, to protect people, particularly the physically weakest, from the virus, and they know that the medical facilities have a finite capacity. If too many people get sick, they won’t have enough intensive care units and equipment to take care of them.

  6. Great read Karen!
    I probably have more toilet paper in my apartment in Cosenza than here in Brisbane (Australia) at the moment. I’m running very low. Australians have been going crazy buying loo paper! I’ve been to 8 shops in the last 2 weeks and the shelves are bare. Perhaps we’ll have to do what I saw in India from my hostel window one very early morning…
    …up on the hill a row of squatting males covered with cloth and using leaves!
    Will leave you with that vision for a while… 😉

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      Uh… thanks. Ha, ha! To be honest, though, the first images that came to my mind with the foreboding toilet paper shortage were corncobs and newspapers. I wonder if there’s any frozen corn on the cob still for sale…

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