OPINION: From Geraldton, heartfelt concern for Italy

Peter FiorenzaGeraldton Guardian
Peter Fiorenza tosses a coin at the Trevi Fountain in Italy.
Camera IconPeter Fiorenza tosses a coin at the Trevi Fountain in Italy. Credit: Greta Fiorenza/Supplied

Lockdowns are now part and parcel of life, but when Italy shut everything down several weeks ago now, it had a huge effect on me.

It seemed surreal.

Was this really happening?

How could something bring a country that has survived some of the biggest moments in history to a standstill?

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I have been to Italy a couple of times, and it is something special.

The first trip was back in the late 1990s on one of those tours for young adults.

It was my first introduction to Europe — something of a whirlwind tour — but a trip that saw me fall in love with Europe, particularly Italy.

Before then, I had hardly travelled outside of WA, so it was a real adventure that I reckon surpassed any of my expectations.

The most vivid memories are of Venice and Rome.

The whole time I was in Venice, I continued to pinch myself — sitting in a gondola on the Grand Canal, walking across St Mark’s Square, and looking from the famous Rialto Bridge.

My sunset photo taken from the bridge hangs on the wall in my parents’ lounge room.

I have been very lucky to have the opportunity of visiting Rome twice.

And on my second trip, it was my home for a week.

Bella Roma, The Eternal City, is a combination of history, culture, food, and, well, just the best feel-good vibes you can get.

Once the centre of the Roman Empire, and now home of arguably the biggest religion in the world, this place seems to have an energy that you have to experience to describe.

Its historic sights, such as the Colosseum and the Pantheon, and its wonderful open spaces such as the Piazza Navona, the Spanish Steps, and my favourite, the Trevi Fountain, make it more than unique.

I think I might be the only tourist who actually missed getting my coin into the water after tossing it over my head.

I’m sure I gave those standing by a good giggle.

Although the city seems to be full of hustle and bustle, nothing ever seems like a rush.

Oh, except for the young taxi driver Marco, who delivered us efficiently into the city from the airport, with his Audi hitting what I imagine were very high speeds.

I tried not to look at his speedometer.

He offered to fetch us for the return journey, but we didn’t take up the offer.

And along with the quaint alfresco cafes, winding walkways, clothing and shoe shops and friendly people, the city makes way in its middle for the Vatican.

Fronted by the massive St Peter’s Basilica, I’ve been so lucky to walk its corridors.

What Italy will come out of this lockdown?

Even if it’s only a bit like it used to be, I’ll be happy.

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