The pandemic has spread silently but deafeningly, and my home-country Italy in the first place had been the mirror in which many countries are now reflecting themselves. Empty streets, social distance, smart working. But what does it really mean to go back to a country pictured by the International mass media as an apocaliptic place? I’ll tell you, by sharing my impressions of my trip from Serbia to Perugia.
Belgrade airport seemed so different: this time, it was just us passengers waiting for the flight organized by the Italian Embassy. All of us were wearing masks and gloves, and the police officers were always checking our movements. I could not see the facial expressions, but one thing I definitely perceived: nervousness and stress. I could hear passengers calling the family, asking for reassurance on the trains to get home. I was also stressed and nervous: I knew what the Italian situation was like by hearing the TV news, but I didn’t know how I would react to seeing my Italy under lockdown.
Well, once landed in Rome Fiumicino– it is a huge airport, almost a small town inside Rome 😉

-The passengers were all standing in line 1 mt of distance from each other (you know, in normal conditions would be difficult for Italians to follow it ;). A small child with the mask on was trying to play with the
suitcase, and the father was constantly reminding him to be careful. Scenes of daily life. The trip by taxi to Termini railway station was unreal: I don’t really like crowds and I hate Roman traffic… but Rome at 8 pm was silent. The taxi driver spoke to me as I was an old friend: she expressed the fear
of continuing to work in contact with people and of returning home and perhaps infecting her daughter; anger for those who still continue to underestimate the situation; thoughts about the homeless people facing this situation. We saw some of them lying close to the station. Politicians recommend to stay at home, but when the street is your home… who is protecting you from the virus? Reached the station, I looked at the board: train to Perugia canceled. I got a little nervous: what will happen now? Do I risk something if I wait too long at the station? I explained my situation to a soldier: what could I do? “Don’t worry, madam. There are replacement trains. Look here (he suggested me a link on the phone). Check your region. I also give you the new paper that the Government changed yesterday, in the case you don’t have it“. This was the first impact that made me feel at home again: the kindness of the Italian language. „Non si preoccupi- (Do not worry)“. The most beautiful words in the world. While waiting for the train, I looked around: we were just 50 people at the railway station. There were
mostly young people like me: some came from London, others from Spain. Me and other girls signed the papers on a table. „Do you have a pen? Is it enough to write this thing to justify the trip? Where are you
going by the way?“. Veneto, Marche, Umbria, Tuscany. We said goodbye with a „Safe trip and good luck“, all of us sharing the same feelings I guess: anxiety, stress, tiredness. The military checked my ticket and the paper: I could go to the platform. Once I got on the train, I finally could relax. An empty train, if not for two young people who got on at the last minute. One of them approached me and asked me a cigarette. „Well, I know I shouldn’t smoke, but this trip from Spain stressed me so much!“. When the train left Termini, I felt relieved: I was just couple of hours from home. As soon as I read the road sign „NARNI“, my heart lose one beat. I’m in my Umbria! I let myself be lulled by the sight of my hills. I got off the train in Foligno, whose inhabitants call it „lu centru de lu munnu”- the center of the world. The
center of the world is now inhabited only by some citizens buying groceries, and a bus that will bring other travellers to another region.
As soon as I enter in Perugia, I had the impression that it was just a normal Sunday morning, when the city is still lazy and takes its time to get up and start the day. Unfortunately I know that these days the city will not wake up to go for a run, or to go to the church, or even to organize a barbecue. Returning to my Perugia is like living the “Sleeping Beauty” fairy tale: everything seems sleepy, but I know that locked in their apartments, people are working, hoping, suffering, trying to resist at their best. I wouldn’t describe Perugia as a ghost town: it is a sleeping town. And sooner or later it will wake up when the time is right. And at that point it will show its resilience- the ability to start again from an event as bad as this epidemic is.

Chiara Silvestri