Rome, the Great Beauty, at the time of COVID-19 is a city wounded and alone, infinitely alone.
Rome is not used to being alone, and this silence that has enveloped it for a month is almost deafening now: it is surreal. In its streets still echo the steps of tourists who have always crowded it, the laughter of children playing in the parks, the hooves of horses that offer romantic strolls to lovers. And the echo of the traffic noise still resounds in the air ... But all these... they are not there now!
Like many other cities in the world, Rome is also in lockdown. It is a deserted city, and all shops are closed. Even the offices are closed and most of us telework—there is neither a bar nor a restaurant open. The cappuccino and croissant, the classic breakfast of the Romans, is only a mirage for now. Even the nightlife spots are closed and dark: they do not cheer up the Roman evenings anymore. Only supermarkets, pharmacies, and newspaper shops remain open. Even if we read less and less, there is a need to keep the population informed about the terrible situation that the world is experiencing, so this is the reason why the newspaper shops remained open. People are locked in the houses, which have become small containers of domestic stories, where everyone tries to give a semblance of normalcy to their day. The flags are half-mast in mourning for the many, too many victims who have not been able to defeat this cursed virus.
The few people who go out, only out of necessity and for a short time, wear masks that make them even more anonymous.
Rome, compared to many other areas of northern Italy that have so far counted thousands of deaths, seems to be able to keep the health emergency under control, and for now, the number of deaths, albeit serious, is limited. But it is just luck because the epidemic is just not here. You cannot let your guard down. The worry never disappears. It is as if Rome was holding her breath for a while, waiting to exhale again.
We think with a pinch of nostalgia about the rush hour traffic, or the traffic jams that routinely steal from us many hours of the day. But we do not feel the nostalgia of the smog. The sky is surprisingly blue, and the air is so clear and clean that it seems lighter. And in silence, you can hear a forgotten noise again: the sound of water flowing from the numerous fountains. The Tiber River also seems more transparent. Some animals are slowly taking back the city, and fewer people around means fewer disturbances and more possibilities for those animals to find food, warmth, and safety.
A mother duck with her ducklings going for a walk on the deserted streets, or a couple of ducks bathing quietly in the Fontana dell'Acqua Paola (known as the "Fontanone del Gianicolo") are in fact, scenes never seen before!
A few wild boars have been spotted in the northern area of Rome, looking for food. Even some foxes venture into the city streets to look for food, undisturbed. Bunnies, hedgehogs, and parrots are the new tenants of the Colosseum.
Grass also tends to regain possession over the city. In fact, among the cobblestones, a blanket of fresh grass grows, due to the fact that no one walks on the characteristic pavement anymore. We find an example of this phenomenon in Piazza Navona, which normally, would be crowded with thousands of tourists.
Epochal was the Evening of prayer in St. Peter's Square, led by Pope Francis. He, alone, in the deserted Piazza of San Pietro, challenged the virus and the pouring rain. He wanted only two strong symbols of Christianity with him: the sacred image of the "Salus Populi Romani," kept in the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore, and the Miraculous Crucifix, preserved in the Church of San Marcello al Corso, which in 1600 saved Rome from the plague. Pope Francis's prayer was broadcasted live worldwide. Seeing that deserted, dark, and wet square with the Pope in the middle praying has caused powerful emotions: a great sense of fragility and helplessness.
Stay at home. But what about those who do not have a house? There are many solidarity initiatives in favor of the weakest, least lucky people. In Rome, there are about 15,000 homeless people who survive thanks to the solidarity and who are now seeing their weaknesses and needs expanding.
We must help! We can demonstrate our solidarity by helping the following organisations in Rome:
Caritas Roma, with 17 shelters for minors and adults homeless, provides around 600 beds every night to assist people in serious need. They are also active in the area with four social canteens that distribute approximately 350,000 meals a year to the ones in need. In addition, thanks to the Emporium of Solidarity, 1200 families receive food for free. You can donate here.
The Sant’Egidio Community gives special attention to homeless people. The precariousness of living conditions is aggravated by the social distancing and the lesser movement of people, but also by the closure of bars and restaurants that generally leave something for the neediest to eat. The canteens of the community remain open, and the distribution of meals on the street continues with the required precautions (disinfectants, masks, preparation of meals to take away instead of being consumed in the community premises). If you decide to support the Sant’Egidio community, you can donate here.
The Spallanzani Hospital in Rome, specializing in infectious diseases, is currently the reference point for Lazio about COVID-19. The Spallanzani Hospital asks for donations both for assistance activities (purchase of equipment, disposal, environmental disinfection, logistical requalification) and for research activities on COVID-19 (biological study on the virus and modernization of research laboratory equipment). If you want to make a donation for assistance activities or for research on COVID-19, donate here.
Rome, the Great Beauty, at the time of COVID-19, is empty and alone. But, as soon as the health emergency is over, like a beautiful lady, she will do her make-up, to welcome all her visitors again. She will then show herself in all her splendour. Rome will wait for you, more welcoming and brighter than ever! Thank you for your act of solidarity.
Did you like the travel story?
Get more! Subscribe to our monthly inspiration newsletter.