Porticos, no people, empty cafe tables

“Siamo Messi Male”

Siamo messi male.
(We are in bad shape.)
~ Cesare Notario

If you have read my adventures for any amount of time, you know that I am a citizen of both the US and Italy and that I have many friends and family throughout Italy. I have been in contact with many of them over the past few weeks, and I thought I would let you know what is going on over there through their words.

So far, everyone I know has remained personally healthy…at least in body. They cannot say the same thing for their businesses. Let me relay what three have told me. Just so you know, two live in Bologna, and one lives in Florence. While they are not in the red zone, they are close.

The Bar Owner

At Bar Santo Stefano in May

On August 1, 2014, I walked into Bar Santo Stefano and started talking to the owner, Cesare (above front). I immediately felt at home, and he and his partner, Lili, made me feel like family. They watch out for me when I’m there alone, and the people who frequent the bar both in the morning or at night include me in conversations. For the past five years, they have been a part of my life that I miss greatly when I am not there.

I texted Cesare last week to see how they were and how business was going. He told me that there weren’t a lot of people out and about and that business was slow. Late last week, the mayor of Bologna mandated, among other things, that bars close at 6 pm. Monday, the prime minister put the entire country on lockdown.

This morning, Cesare posted the photo at the top of this page and captioned it, “Siamo messi male (We are in bad shape.).” Via Santo Stefano, the street in the photo, is usualy teeming with people of all ages. The bar has patrons sitting outside almost all times of the day.

I just texted him to see how he is, and he said there aren’t a lot of people. They may have to close until the situation is better….but who knows when.

The B&B Owner

Giovanni e io.

I’ve known Giovanni for six years, and he has been a good friend since the. first time I stayed in his B&B with Mike in 2013. Over the years, I’ve rented apartments from him and have had guests stay in the B&B. You may remember that he stayed with me at the hospital for hours when I had my first kidney stone in Italy two years ago and Mike was in the US.

About two weeks ago, he told me that all of his March reservations had canceled. That, of course, is not good.

I wrote him the other day, and today I received an email from him. Because schools closed a few weeks ago, his wife, who is a teacher, took her mom and children to a hill town in Abruzzo to visit relatives (For reference, its a couple hundred kilometers south of Bologna). The town where they are has fewer than 50 full time residents, and there is no grocery or store. Giovanni decided to join them last Friday thinking they could relax a little and return to Bologna later this this week.

Then the lockdown hit. They cannot leave the town and return home. As a matter of fact, they cannot even leave the little village to go to the next town over to buy groceries. A vendor goes to them everyday so that they have food and essentials.

There is, Giovanni tells me, an incredible silence in the town. In the midst of all of the forest and olive groves, the family has taken long hikes and has been able to share time and relax, something they are unable to do very much in Bologna. I find such beauty in his words, “The trees are full of white flowers and it is full of violets in the meadows under the expanse of olive trees that surrounds the town.” He is so positive as they face a life that changed so quickly and a future that is a little less certain.

The Driver

Ale’s words…

Alessandro Cammilli is a great guy who drives small groups through Tuscany. I don’t know him as well as I know the other two guys, but he has taken my groups on tours to the Cinque Terra, Pisa, Lucca, Siena, San Gimignano, and through Tuscany. I took a screenshot of his latest Facebook post for you as I think he says it best.

These guys own three businesses; I haven’t even addressed how my other friends and family are coping. (UPDATE: My cousin told me that her sons have had to close their business in Forli because there is no business.)

This is not just another virus. It is a virus on steroids, and it is harming people’s health and livelihood.

The Bottom Line

We are on the brink of a horrible outbreak in the United States. Please take care of yourself no matter where you are. You don’t need more toilet paper or napkins or paper towels. Follow directives of the CDC and WHO. Wash your hands. Don’t touch your face.

A little much, maybe

And, for heaven’s sake, cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze.


  1. Dorothy

    Christina, thanks for the stories about the impact of the virus on your Italian friends, an example of how all humanity can be affected by a shared issue. Let us hope we will all make it through this trying time.


  2. Leslie

    Thanks, Chris, for the wonderful update of your friends from Bologna. So glad I was able to join you in 2018 to meet them.
    Hopefully the world will become safe again for life and travel!


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