Yesterday I found an unoccupied bench on Lake Garda and sat down to enjoy the view. A young man sat down beside me. His name was Max and he was half Italian, half Australian. His family moved back to Italy when he was 4 and he was happy to speak English. We talked about COVID, of course. Lake Garda is currently categorized by the color of orange, meaning everything is closed except for essential shopping. It feels bleak. Especially for me as one of the prime joys, beyong the surreal views, is that I can be social again. In Piemonte, we live in the mountains, but here, the center of town has plenty of gregarious people to engage with on a daily basis.
Generally I get on my bike in the afternoon and visit my two favorite bars in town. I have something to eat and enjoy a glass of wine or two. Now they are closed. As I said, it feels bleak…even as Lake Garda remains one of the prettiest places on the planet.
Max was not feeling optimistic and said, “Italians feel like they have two choices; they can die of starvation or die from COVID. Yes, Italians can be operatic and complain, but this is what he said. He went on to explain that his job, as a mechanical designer, meant he hadn’t missed a single day of work since the pandemic began, and god, he was grateful. However, this is not the case for his friends. Italy is a country of self-employed people and it’s a country built on tourism. The first round forced them to go through their savings but this next round looks bleak.
We spoke of Draghi and we both agreed, he was a top economist and Italy is happy to have super Mario as their top technocrat, but Italy is full of stifling bureaucracy and corruption. Italy has everything regarding rich culture, family life and quality food. But it does not attract international investment and it does not look good at present. Italy has been able to rely on its past, it’s quality and its savings, but what now….
As I continue to work on my book on Piemonte, I remain hopeful regarding the region of Piedmont because it produces the majority of quality food and wine products that are sold throughout the world. And it does not rely on tourists. But what of the south that relies completely on tourism. What of Max’s friends that he talked about, the majority that work in, or run the restaurants that feed their family.
I know we must have hope and Italy must not let go of it…but these times feel bleak and it makes me so sad. When I am here, in Riva, it revitalizes my writing, and my soul, after all, Riva was our first home in Europe; it means a great deal, I feel attached here as much as anywhere.
What can I say, or write at this minute, other than the fact we must never let go of hope…