I’ve been pretty quiet these days. Not that I expect you to have noticed. We all have our “things” going on these days. Between hoarding TP, baking sourdough, choreographing TikTok videos, and setting up your home office, I am pretty sure you have not noted the absence of a humble blogger and her slightly unhealthy obsession with a particular boot-shaped country. For me and L’Esperta, 2020 with a bang and the promise of being the most exciting year ever. And then it wasn’t.
It was Friday, February 28th. I knew things were getting dire in Italy. I had just helped a client change travel plans to get from Rome back to the US because the second leg of their trip to Israel had been cut short when the Israeli government blocked anyone coming from Italy. I worried but I convinced myself that all would be fine and that this would pass by the height of the tourist season. I was working with a client who has a career in the international finance world. We were trying to finalize plans for an August trip with his family and we needed to choose a villa. After some time I had not heard from him and I sent a quick follow-up, hoping to reach a decision. He expressed concern about the pandemic (not yet even recognized as such) and I told him I felt confident that it would be well behind us by August. His response: “It may have become a bit sensationalized but I have seen presentations by folks who assess risk for a living and their assessment is not pretty.” Guess who was right?
In April, or maybe May, it became clear that nothing was going back to normal anytime soon. So began my five stages of grief. Grief over the loss (albeit temporary – of this I am sure) of my beloved Italy. Believe me, I have so much pent-up wanderlust right now that I feel like I might explode. Maybe you are feeling it too? Perhaps not about Italy but about another favorite destination or maybe just travel in general. You may be making your way through these stages of grief yourself. Know that you are not alone and I hope you get to Stage 5 soon. It’s a pretty good place to be.
Stage 1 – Denial
While I in no way denied the existence of Covid-19, I was in severe denial about how long it would last and how severely it would impact my business (and travel in general). I firmly believed that by the end of the summer things would have returned to normal (or semi-normal) and we would be back on track for the all-important Fall tourist season in Italy. Alas, little did we know what we would be facing. And still, my love for Italy endured.
Stage 2 – Anger
Ask anyone who lives in my house. In March and April, I was not pleasant to be around. Loss of business, loss of income, lost hours spent on hold with airlines and hotels in search of refunds, endless forms to be filled out, applications for aid, grants, loans. It was time-consuming and infuriating and it seemed so unfair. And still, my love for Italy endured.
Stage 3 – Bargaining
“When this is over and I get to go to Italy, I promise I will never complain about the crowds again.” And still, my love for Italy endured.
Stage 4 – Depression
Oh, my friends, I have been here. I have been here for longer than I am willing to admit, and though I have good days, to be honest, there is always an underlying sense of sadness and loss. I have spent so much of my life immersed in things Italian. There has always been the promise of a trip in the relatively near future. But these days, there is no promise. I miss Rome, my home away from home for so many years, the city that I know like the back of my hand. The city that always seemed to make its way onto every itinerary of mine. All roads lead to Rome, right? I miss my colleagues though colleague is a misnomer because they are truly dear friends and like family to me. They are a part of me and without them, a part of me is missing. I miss my morning cappuccino at Gilli in Florence, standing in awe in front of the cathedral in Orvieto, a steaming plate of cacio e pepe at Roscioli in Rome, lingering over a prosecco in the Piazza San Michele in Lucca, climbing to the Piazzale Michelangelo in Florence for sunset. God, I miss it all. But still, my love for Italy endured.
Stage 5 – Acceptance
I suppose this is where we are now. I have accepted that what will happen to the tourism industry is beyond my control. What is not beyond my control is to continue to share the delights of Italy with you. Because I know you miss it too. I have been doing virtual tours of Italy via Zoom. And who says we can’t share a glass of wine through a computer screen? If you are interested in setting something up for a group of friends, reach out to me. In the coming months, I will be bringing you lots of Italian travel tales, Italian beauty, Italian recipes, and other surprises that will bridge the gap between now and our next real live trip to Italy. Why? Because still, my love for Italy endures.