Every year, for the past 5 years, Tom and I have traveled to Italy in April. It started with our honeymoon, and though we can’t travel this year, I have been actively looking for ways to support Italy during this time. The Italian people are some of the warmest, most hospitable people I’ve ever met. It is why we keep going back and why we have gone back with increasing frequency.
A few weeks ago, I got back the video from our second New Year’s Eve in Florence, and it nearly brought me to tears because it encompasses so much of the Italy I love. It’s hard to imagine the great losses that those individuals and families might experience during this time. Many of the restauranteurs that we constantly go back to visit are run by an older generation. I think of them often. We’ve shared many laughs together as we stumble through Italian and enjoy their delicious meals. I hope they are healthy and well.
I hope everyone is well. At home and abroad. I know that’s impossible, but I hope it anyway.
Ways to Support Italy
Georgette has a lot of information and list of ways to support Italy during this time on her blog. Following her prepared me for what we needed to do when the things started changing in the United States. Even without strong orders in place, I’m trying to follow her example to help my community at home.
Some of you might be wondering why I’m focusing on ways to support Italy when the US is having such a hard time, too. Not to worry, I’m supporting my local and small businesses, with a focus on people who are also giving back during this time. I don’t think it’s an either / or proposition to support both (or more) places. You can do both. I do both because Italy feels like my second home – and it was my second home when I studied abroad. I think we (as in Americans) need to be looking at the rest of the world and learning from them. Italy has taught me a lot over the course of our relationship. This is my small way of giving back.
When I reached out to my favorite hotel manager in Florence to ask what I could do for her staff, she told me that one of the best ways to support Italy is to come back when it’s over. As such, I implore you, in the words of Lorelei, to postpone not cancel your future travel.
Florence for Hospitals
A local Florence photographer, Francesco Spighi, photographed the city in quarantine for The Florentine. The beautiful images are so haunting and the city is hurting so much that he has launched a fundraiser. Buy a print and the entire profit goes to the hospitals of Florence. I sent his photos to my sister with a note that talked about how many times I’ve roamed the streets of Florence in the early morning or late evening but I still feel like I’m seeing Florence for the first time in these photos.
I’ve ordered 5 prints. Some will be gifts. Others will be framed in my house. He has an image that was shot from the street that my apartment was on. I’ll probably keep that one for sure. My photos will be here on Friday and I will surely be excited to share! Click to read the entire story, but this quote from a local artisan really stuck with me. I think it’s why I felt so compelled to write this post.
“This virus is going to kill all of us. We’re all old people running the most ancient shops in this city. Most of our traditions will die with us.”
If you’re just wanting to donate towards medical relief, there is a support a nurse campaign. Over 700 nurses came to Florence to help with the medical needs. The Florentine also lists numerous other medically focused fundraisers.
Purchase Tuscan Products
I got an email from one of our favorite wineries near San Gimignano with the subject line WINE FLU. All jokes aside, they are offering 30% off purchases of their wines and olive oils if you order 12 bottles or more. Seeing as how we’ve made multiple trips there for tastings and lunch, I felt like this was something we could do. I texted my mom for her order and we very easily got our order to 12 bottles. Shipping is included in the cost.
They name the wines after their dogs. Who can’t love that?
If you need suggestions, I like Visila for a smooth white wine. It’s not sweet, but it’s not dry. My mom loved their Quarz rose. (The bottle is stunning and would make a fabulous gift. Mother’s Day maybe? I used that as my excuse.) Nottolo is a delightful light red named after the best dog. Nottolo means a little lazy and a little fat. (Me in quarantine?)
Last but not least, they have deliciously flavored olive oils. We like the chili infused olive oil. It’s a fabulous base for my arribiata sauce or my olive oil spaghetti. My mom pointed out that they have a wine club that includes two nights in their farm house. Don’t think I didn’t pause for a minute and consider joining. Maybe they would teach me to make their delicious food? I could handle a few days of that.
Side note: Curious Appetite is sharing recipes and virtual experiences.
Not interested in food or wine? Creative People in Florence is maintaining a list of local artisans to support. Jen Leo Studio has beautiful, colorful prints of Florence. L’Ippogrifo Stampe d’Arte has beautiful one-of-a-kind, hand-colored etchings and is in danger of having to close their store on Santo Spirito, so if you need art, check them out! The Florence collection is currently on sale. I love the work of Xhovalin Delia and always find myself perusing the shop behind the Uffizi. I need to find the other link to the online shop.
Read the Emails from Tour Guides, Hotels, & Others
I’ll admit to skipping over emails until I’m planning a trip or I’m looking something, but I’ve tried to be more intentional about reading the ones from places we love. Most recently, La Torretta reached out about their campaign for support for their hotel staff. We’ve spent three amazing years at La Toretta. Each stay has been nothing short of remarkable. From waiting up for us after a long flight delay, to surprising us with local treats upon arrival and departure and fresh breakfast every morning, I had no qualms about donating to their staff. In fact, Tom wanted me to send it to some of the other smaller hotels that we love to see if we could help them, too.
In another case, one of the hotels we love asked if I could share some photos with them so they have content for their social media. They are trying to keep posting even though they are closed for the foreseeable future. That’s an easy ask and I’m happy to do it. Again, these are people who have made our trips incredible. Why wouldn’t I want to help??
Whether it’s making a donation, buying a gift card for a future trip, or providing reviews, photos, or videos to help them recover when this is over, chances are, the people you’ve patronized over the years may reach out to let you know the best way to help them. Read the emails.
Hire Local Professionals
I will admit that my previous experiences with Fiverr have not been great. Most of it is because I’m not entirely sure how to best use a freelance artist. I feel like professionals are at their best when you give them the opportunity to be their best, so I struggle with giving them direction on things I don’t know anything about. I was going through my photos and videos from our recent trips and realized that I could use Fiverr or Etsy to find local freelancers to take on those projects.
Fiverr worked great in this case. They have a feature that lets your sort by location. Once I found a couple of people I was interested in using, I messaged them to make sure they were feeling up to the job. Maybe you don’t want to edit videos from travel right now. Or maybe you do. Either way, I was able to send files and end up with videos from our most recent trip to the Alsace edited by Italians who were looking for work during quarantine! Now I just need to send them the rest of the destinations.
Postpone – Don’t Cancel
If you had a trip to Italy (or anywhere – for that matter) scheduled, work with your airlines, hoteliers, and travel agents to postpone it. I heard a lot of people saying very negative things about Italy when this happened, like Italy was a third world country or something equally ridiculous. That couldn’t be further from the truth. They have a better healthcare system than we do. It’s built to take care of their population, not make a lot of money off of it. This did not happen because they aren’t advanced or any other silly reason that people will use as a scapegoat.
Postpone, don’t cancel.
Italy is an amazing place. Every time we go, we peel back a little more of the onion and fall a little more in love with this beautiful country. We share meals at communal tables and oscillate between my broken Italian and English with our fellow diners. Recently, I found a piece of a placemat where an Italian had written down her favorite places in Tuscany (that we hadn’t visited) and implored me to go. I still have that piece of paper. Every time I see it, it reminds me of sharing our dessert with the two couples who insisted we share their wine. It was one of my favorite meals on that trip. They were from the Lombardy region – one of the hardest hit areas. I hope they (and their families) are okay.
I hope everyone is okay, even though I know that’s naive and Pollyanna-ish.
I hope when we go back to Montepulciano that Guilo is still there – making his steak and pretending to be stern. Until then, I’ll keep looking for ways to support Italy because she will always be my second home.