Reflections from Italy from former Cape Region residents
Dimmi, cara, Tell me, dear, our elderly barista gently whispers in her raspy voice, referring to which pastry I’d like for breakfast today. She started preparing my coffee as soon as I walked in, and was already reaching for the flaky, nutella-filled pastry I select most mornings.
It’s been over four weeks since I’ve seen her. Since I’ve seen anyone besides my husband. We are currently quarantined in our apartment in Rome. When I say quarantined - I mean by law we cannot leave our apartment. There are no more Sunday passeggiatas (a leisurely stroll), no more running back out to the grocery store because we forgot the important ingredient, no more twirling a cheesy plate of cacio e pepe at our favorite restaurant.
If we leave to get groceries or to go to the pharmacy, we must carry with us an incredibly complicated legal document that confirms we know the consequences of being out without the proper reason. And if caught being outside with the wrong intentions the punishment is harsh - hundreds to thousands of euros of fines or jail time.
Signs drawn by children reading Andrà tutto bene “everything will be OK” hang from balconies and in windows. At 6 p.m., a chorus of singing rings through the street as we try and maintain positive spirits - at the same time, the daily numbers are released on the news.
It’s hard to remember that those numbers of deaths are people - it feels so heavy. At noon we clap for our healthcare workers, tirelessly working to help those desperately in need as hospitals are overflowing. Bags of pasta and bread are scattered throughout the city - free for those who need it. Italy has taught me that when humankind is suffering, how important it is to be a kind human.
When James, my husband, and I, left Rehoboth Beach three years ago in search of our own version of la dolce vita, we certainly didn’t expect to be trapped in the most beautiful city in the world due to a global pandemic. Roman streets that are normally packed with people from around the globe are deserted. The Colosseum stands grand, lonely, without any spectators. Piazzas, the heart of Italian life, eagerly await the old men who play cards and the young kids who kick soccer balls to return. The Trevi Fountain continues to flow, but now showing off only for the hotels that sit empty across the alley. Grass sprouts up between the cobblestones in deserted tourist spots and birds are the only ones out enjoying the city. It’s haunting yet beautiful to see nature return to my abandoned, adopted city.
This moment in history, this big unexpected pause provides us with a time to create our own dolce vita, no matter if you are in Rehoboth or in Rome. Whether that is connecting with family over FaceTime, enjoying quiet evenings with loved ones on the couch, or starting a yoga practice, we finally have the time to take a collective breath. To be still. To look inward. To be grateful. And I am grateful for my health, to have two places I call home, for the sun that shines in my windows and for the farmers that deliver fresh vegetables to our home. I am learning to be present, and that is truly the sweet life, isn’t it?
My advice to my fellow Delawareans is this: Remember you are not alone, but it is very important right now to be alone. Follow the guidelines - do your part to be responsible. Not just for yourself, but for your family, our healthcare workers, and for those most at risk. Our beach, the Colosseum, the boardwalk, will all be waiting for us when this crisis comes to an end. In the meantime remember - Andrà tutto bene.
From Rome to Delaware with love.
James and Jennifer Overstreet
Jennifer is a former teacher at Cape Henlopen School District and James is a Delaware native and former Milford High School teacher. They were married in Lewes before jetting off to Italy on a one-way ticket in August 2017.