Marta's Monterosa Blog

I am passionate about the Alps. They are my heart's home and the place where I would like to spend the last day of my life. I have been a tourist in the village of Champoluc in the Italian Monterosa for all my life and worked as a tourist operator in this area since more than 15 years.

I believe in respect for the special environment of this place that you can find only here. We all gain by enjoying its beauty, while trying to make a minimum impact at the same time. Leave it for our children in the future!

I believe in respect for people who live here with their traditions and culture, language, and work, their genuine products and delicious wines. They open their homes for us, tourists and meet us as their guests, if we are able to open our hearts for them. I have a friend who is a hotel owner and he says that when stressed people from the city come to his place, he tells them to sit down and take a drink before they even begin to worry if they have a room. Perhaps, we can bring a little of their kindness and calmness with us on our way back to the city.

My philosophy is to give back a little of what the mountains and the people from this place have given to me and to my family through my work, to communicate my philosophy and my passion to those who follow me on the blog, and in my trips as a tour operator.

If you would like to visit Champoluc, Gressoney, Alagna or other villages in the Aosta Valley, trek or ski in the Monterosa, discover Sardinia or other places we offer, contact us.

26 Mar 2020

From inside the barricades – Report from a tourist operator in the times of Covid19

From inside the barricades – Report from a tourist operator in the times of Covid19

Author: SuperUser Account  /  Categories: Blog  / 

To start with – I want to tell you the story of my first travel to Algeria in the ancient 1980. As a guest, the family of our Algerian contact, Ahmed, invited me to learn making cuscus together with the other women of his house. Well entered their simple but nice place, in a village not so far from Alger, we cooking-people should clean our hands at the spring in the middle of the open courtyard. Women around me, I grabbed the soap first of all, washed my hands, and passed the soap to my neighbor.

With a gentle face, all women around me laughed loud and, first thing first, showed me how to wash my hands. I felt a sort of shame for my European lack of civilization. Their hand-washing ritual took at least a couple of minutes per person and you can say was THOROUGH.

Much like the way we are told by institutions and doctors to wash our hands in these days of Covid19.

8/3 2020, Champoluc Ayas Aosta Valley, Italy 

We have been struggling for two weeks trying to understand what is reasonable, legal and human to do with worried guests from Sweden. This is our highest high season as Thealps travel agency. And it is the highest high season for ski holidays in Sweden. So many want to be in the Alps and are ready to pay a lot for their family coming here to ski and eat and feel good. Our job has been to help them enjoy their holiday in the Italian Alps.

But the Covid19 could not wait until AFTER the highest high season of all in the Alps. And so could not the worries and the stigmatization of Italy in Sweden. It started with some Swedish companies closing the office for employees coming back from Italy. Went on with most of the companies telling the home-comers should work from home for 14 days. Then SAS closed the flights to Milan and Northern Italy, then the Ministry of Foreign Affairs recommended not to travel to Northern Italy anymore.

In the meantime, the sick numbers of Covid19 increased, and so the measures taken trying to limit the spreading of the virus. No sports events, no social events, and no cultural events. No school for the kids.

But no limitations to skiing and having fun in the Alps.

Big stress and uncertainty for us working with travels. What to do? What to recommend? What to change? We obviously feel a responsibility for our guests; much more than what is stated in our travel package laws and rules.

And how long will this go on? It is not the same as for a natural catastrophe, a tsunami for example, when you know that it is horrible, it will take a while to heal from, but then it will pass and everything will be more or less good for most of us. We are here talking of a totally uncontrollable virus, a pandemic with no predictable forecasts and WE ARE TALKING OF THE HEALTH OF PEOPLE ALL OVER THE WORLD.

Is there an evil conspirator spreading a virus (Covid19 or Randomware) to through us out of control? And which election are we talking about, then?

Anyway, I now sit in our cabin in the Alps, trying to get some order among all the cancellations, the juridical questions and the insurances, at the same time as I must decide how to get home from here, back to my family who is waiting for me with a bit of impatience.

9/3 2020 Bottingen, Baden Württenberg Germany

This is one of the most coronavirus infected areas of Germany, we didn’t know when we booked my cozy Gasthaus for this night.

Yes, I run away. I run away from my beloved mountains. MY mountains, why did you come and infested the purity of this, my childhood place with your sticky fingers Covid19? Why so many people this weekend, coming up to the mountains to ski as usual? Why don’t you stay at home? I know you have the RIGHT to come to your second house in the mountains, but you have also DUTIES as citizen: to stay at home (your first) when the crisis is evident as it is now. In Italy.

Today more than 9000 cases in Italy.

I think about my neighbor Massimo in the tiny village of Palouettaz, near the bigger but still tiny village of Champoluc, where we have the privilege of having Thealpstugan. He is 82 and lives alone. With 2 cats. Ah and hens. He feels powerless and alone, more than usual. Why should you come from Milan and threaten his health driving from the - what it is now - orange areas in Italy to these tiny villages? Who is to blame? Not Massimo for sure. Perhaps the ski systems, the industry that makes you abandon your polluted or infected city to get to a new polluted and infected area, but with a ski system? I have never seen so many cars in our villages as this weekend. All coming from Milan to ski – and leave the bad dream of Covid19 behind.

So I quit and leave. And I know that I am a part of the industry.

What is the best way to take you to Sweden from Italy in the era of the pandemic? We reasoned in my family and this is the result:

Two major parameters: 

  • Civil duty – try not to spread the virus. 
  • Come home safe – and fast, we need you.

The means:

  • Take the car and drive. 
  • Take your pillow and all the disinfectants you can. 
  • Buy gloves to tank the car. 
  • Do not pie. 
  • Cook your food on a camping gas.

So now I am on my way.

First it was a tragedy to leave the purity of my mountains (the paragraphs above are what I thought driving the firs couple of kilometers from Thealpsstugan). Then there was the thrill of passing the frontier to Switerland. Should they ask me where I was from? What should I say? Milan? Lombardia? I am after all born in that incredible city! Tell them that I am running away and that they should do the same?

At the great Saint Bernhard Tunnel, the border, I was completely alone. Only the little man at the Italian cashier to get me pay the toll. No cars, no police, no other migrants as me. Nothing! I had not even to pay for the terrific “vignette”, the toll for the Swiss motorways that you pay when you get into the country usually. Nothing!

So now I am free. Just in another country in Europe with increasing and rising numbers of Covid19. They had a very good Wiener schnitzel anyway, and home made knödel at Landgasthof Rebstock in Bottingen.

10/3 2020 Bissee, Kiel Germany

Europe is long to drive through if you start in Italy and will end in Sweden, and nevertheless a small continent. We try to put borders to nations inside the continent and borders to regions inside the nations. Nothing helps with Covid19, please, listen: no border will be of any interest for the virus! Mostly like the Randomware.

We had an affair with Randomware this autumn at thealps.com, and we were happy to have good hackers in our team. With little effort we could repair the damage. And no money were lost, almost.

What with this threat to all of our health and economy now – do we have hackers good enough to repair the damage? NO. The doctors are kneeling and the hospitals are overloaded. IN EUROPE! Experience from the places where the virus has spread most viciously should be the right way to handle this. Not closing the borders, it makes no sense. STAY AT HOME and don’t try to say that this is someone else’s problem.

Globalization.

I am thinking a lot these days, driving alone through the long motorways crossing Europe. The Autobahn is a perfect illustration of our way of life, in our civilized world. Thousands of trucks in a continuous line from Karlsruhe to Hamburg. Sometimes the right lane is staying still for hours, waiting for the traffic jam to lighten a bit. AND NO ONE IS COMPLAINING. This is a part of the rules. To stay in a line for hours waiting for your Whateveritis ware to be transported in the shortest and cheapest way from point A to point B.

Pollution, trafficked cuts in the landscape of nature and man, stress: a nearly surreal picture of our welfare and global need for speed in fixing ALL our needs.

But what if a virus, probably also the result of our need for speed – and growth without limits, in China exactly the same way as in Italy, suddenly makes it dangerous to get out and buy that necessary tool that for hours travelled between a factory in China and your net shop in Italy? Can you still go to the post office and pick it up without bearing a mask?

I left my hotel in Bottingen at 9.30 am and arrived in Bissee at 8.30 pm. Was not stopping for more than half an hour just to go to toilet and buy a sandwich. Disinfecting every inch of myself and my stuff afterwards.

Now I am lazy and the beautiful place I came to for this night on the road is called Antikhof Bissee. And exists since 1450. So is with the old continent. Nice 10 rooms that are extremely newly renovated (January this year with an excellent taste). My dear husband found it on booking.com and booked on the hotel’s own system, just to avoid the hotel to pay the fee of the most global tourist portal of all. The owner is married to a Danish woman and is the one doing the check in and the breakfast. In the beautiful restaurant with a big fire in the middle people laughing and dining this delicious German food that we all love.

No sign of virus inducted anti-socializing. Yet. What was this place like in the ancient 1500th century? What about war and plagues? And still it was surely pretty secluded compared to nowadays. Probably just a farm in the countryside.

I don’t know, and I go to sleep with my head heavy but still pretty calm in this strange world.

11/3 2020 Karlskrona, superboring hotel no names

I am now in Sweden, the place where I live and where my family is. I long for them. But I am now in a very little town in the south waiting to be able to get to my destination for the next 12 days: a cabin in the Swedish countryside, where I will spend my quarantine. Coming from Italy, I think it is right to do so and let be to spread a possible virus through my body to the family and friends I so long for. (But I long to get home!)

Today it was a very windy day in Europe.

Thinking that the wind could take with it both sickness and pain.

Beautiful landscapes in northern Germany, sheep just breezing unconscious of the Covid 19. Cows and horses, and storks and swans. And the earth ready to break out in springtime. So near this springtime! Earth stretching in all directions, as it has always been. I try to imagine it without roads and traffic.

I am so grateful for Play Radio 3, internet and my country’s deep way of analysing what happens through a lins of human and historical context. And the music on that channel, and the poetry of Mariangela Gualtieri!

And then I am the border between Germany and Denmark, and the police stops me.

A young officer asks for my passport – we are in Schengen?!?! – and starts to talk Italian to me. So young , and I am 60 years old, but I am a little bit nervous in front of him. He takes pictures of my passport and says he is not so good in Italian.

What could have happened? He tells me that I am suspected of spreading the virus in Scandinavia and therefor arrested. He says I am not welcome in Scandinavia, even if it is my home? Why don’t I have a Swedish passport? Well I have never thought it would come a day when I could have missed it. Covid 19 can make me think differently.

Fortunately I am released from the Danish border without any of the above problems, and come soon to the incredible bridges, the first between Odense and Copenhagen and the second between Copenhagen and Malmö. The same way of making architecture, the same kind of gas stations on the road, the same sausages. But two countries that always fight each other, even now. A Swede is not welcome in Denemark, and a Dane is always the happy silly smoker of the other side of the bridge.

Beautiful bridges, with a wind that make my car nearly blow off. Scary as hell.

A little tragic to be in a boring hotel in a pretty boring little city in my home country, and knowing that I have to wait so long to get home!

But I am in good health!

12/3 2020, Skruv, Småland: glas and furniture heart of Sweden

And one of the places where 1.5 million Swedes migrated from between 1850 and 1920, before Trump.

I must stop my trip back to where I usually belong because of storm winds, and scary driving in these forests. I am a “tree-hugger” but this time I was really scared by them winding dangerously above my car. No big roads here and very many trees.

So, as usual with the precious help of my best partner and husband, I found a place where I can stop for today and tonight and a bit until tomorrow midday, when the wind is supposed to fade.

I TELL YOU THIS IS A COMPLETELY UNPRECEDENTED SITUATION IN OUR TIME

We have this beloved travel agency of ours, TheAlps AB. I started with a wish to share with other people places I love and cherish for their genuine story and beauty. My idea was never to exploit anything. But I must admit that in the present time I need to reconsider travelling and make a sort of deep inventory of our motives and goals.

This is new and I don’t have a well-formulated answer. Yet. What I am sure about is that we all are going to be forced to reconsider all our way of living. Shopping, travelling and expanding. We will need to understand that our own behavior as individuals has a strong and direct impact on all other humans and on the environment – landscape or city or wherever you are – around us.

There is a kind of quiet voice inside me when I buy another flight ticket to get to Italy. It tells me that it is a pity. When I fly nowadays I am afraid, of falling. Never thought about it before.

Many of the things and behaviors that we have taken for granted in the last 50 years or so, they are remarkably strange: we click on a button and we get a new pair of shoes, we buy a flight without money, we eat tomatoes in January in Sweden. Everything is possible all the time. And fast. We are so used to this way of living that it is not even anything we reason about: how is it possible? Is it ok? How comes? Who is paying?

Short trips to Italy – a long weekend. It is normal. Unless there is a stop in the flight or you loose your luggage or Covid 19 threatens us all. We like it, it is better than nothing, and one or two days travelling give a lot of new insights and experiences. But sometimes you not even know where exactly you have been later. And the stories and the experiences? You could probably have them if you stopped your frantic hunting of every day. Look around you!

Today I wish to recommend two things to read – and you are probably going to read more the coming times: 

  1. Coronavirus offers “a blank page for a new beginning" by super trend maker Li Edelkoort 
  2. Only in Swedish “Stora Döden” by Dick Harrison about the worst catastrophe in Europe ever. Old history from the Middle Age, and a jump in the future, in the perspective shaped by the virus.

My daily stop today is at Grimsnäs Herrgård a cluster of living- and farmhouses from 1500 that has been reshaped into a personally cared for hostel by the kind couple who is in charge of the business. I got the whole house for myself, a glass of wine and cooked food, even if the restaurant is closed for the season. THANK YOU.

14/3 2020, Gärdesta, Sweden nearly home

was too tired upset and lonely yesterday to write my promised daily blog. I am so near my home and yet I must stay here for my own mental welfare and to be able to look in other people’s eyes. I AM ON QUARANTINE IN MY MOTHER IN LAW’S COUNTRY HOUSE

My trip yesterday was wired. Started with sun and a beautiful trollish landscape, with forests and glass factories, to go on with an incredible snow storm that messed up the motorway with 10 cm fresh snow, to end at my mother in low’s cozy “stuga” without heating, a bathroom and hot water. Just a little too much for my vulnerable self to handle – especially together with the worries regarding our precious guests waiting for a sign from us – are we to pay back for their by Covid 19 cancelled trips?

The cabin, where my children have spent a sum of sorrow less summers together with their incredibly tolerant and card-playing-bad-looser grandma, is in urgent need of cleaning and refreshing. None has been around with an eye for order and harmony for the past 10 years – I believe. So I start my quarantine with an efficient and merciless purge. Luckily I have all the stuff I need in these days when cleaning and disinfecting is an honor. It is therapeutic positive to clean, when you are on the edge of mental break down. I am thankful for this character issue.

In spite of my acting out, I cant stop thinking what I should do with my poor guests wandering what they can do to get their money back for cancelled trips to Italy the last few weeks. What can I tell them? I am so sorry but we cannot pay back all this money, or we must close. And what is it worth if we close? Other tour operators are in exactly the same situation as we are. THIS IS AN UNPRECEDENTED SCENARIO FOR ALL OF US! Still I want to talk to my guests and tell them I care and I would like just to help them now.

I am near my family now, only 100 km from my house. I will stay here for one more week to be sure I am not a virus bearer for all. I don’t see any people, I am in silence. I go out and today I was in a magic place in the woods at a lake, where my children have fished and swam as small kids. Now they are grown up, but for me it is no difference when I want to see them: all the time. They are well and I am happy that they are, in these days when you never know.

15/3 2020, Gärdesta, Sörmland, Sweden

And now what? I have cleaned the house. I must keep the fire burning. I eat my food. I sleep. Feel lonely tonight, it’s dark outside, I have no one to share how clean the house is.

Birds, big birds stop at the ponds in the fields outside the cabin, on their way back to the North. Cranes, geese. No clue of Covid 19. They do as I use to do this time of the year: move back to the North, after winter season. It’s springtime! But it feels so strange this year, no sparkling awaiting of better times to come. I saw 3 elks at sunset.

I have been alone in many places for days, waiting for guests celebrating a wedding in our beautiful house in Umbria Il Belpoggio su Todi, Il Belpoggio su Todi or going to ski or hiking in Champoluc to celebrate their 60th birthday with family and friends. This autumn I was alone in Ravello on the Amalfi coast waiting for different small companies having their conference in this divine place. Waiting for someone whom I wanted to give back some of what I have got from Italy: education, love, history, solidarity, hard work and passion - moreover than beauty.

Yesterday I got this strange video from my friend Enzo in Milan. He is a doctor and works as usual at the biggest hospital in the city. His wife and their daughter are, as many other who can afford it, at their second home in the mountains - the daughter is also a doctor and she is pregnant, so it is not good for her to be in a hospital working these days. Anyway, in Italy people have found new ways of socializing: aperitivo by video conference, playing opera on the balcony, or simply putting a flag outside all windows of your house. To keep strong and together, because you are strong together in Italy.

Now I am alone in the summer cabin of my mother in low, waiting to go home. Wish I could fill my mind and my days here with hope and spring. Try to think what I can give back to my guests from this time of uncertainty. Hope to be able to make our little nice firm Thealps stand strong and resist in the winds of these days, for all old and new people who love travelling and Italy.

In Italy people have found new ways of socializing from TheAlpsInfo on Vimeo.

17/3 2020, Gärdesta, Sörmland, Sweden

Margin of income in our sector is extremely low, never rising above 20%. On that we have to make some interesting consideration and reflection again. I use this blog to ask all our guests and travellers to be patient. A kind of different blog post with lots of strange types and styles. Hope you have the time to read.

Today. SAS closes 90% of flights, SJ (Swedish train) closes 25% of all trips, all travels in the EU are to be cancelled, etc. How long? A reasonably very upset guest of Thealps, asks when he is going to get his money back for a cancelled trip to La Thuile, Aosta Valley. How long?

Every day we receive new rules and recommendations from government, institutions and our sector organisation. Every day Thealps gets new cancellations.

There are laws that regulate all travel package operators no matter the size, from Thealps to TUI (if you can see the difference between a dwarf and a giant).

I want to give you an idea of how the rules are and the impact they have on our business.

We follow EU - Travel Package Directive - a pretty complicated law that rules all travel packages in Europe. Shortly what we are expected to do is the following.

  • Money-back and repatriation in case of bankruptcy: Organisers of packages must take out insolvency protection. This guarantee covers refunds and repatriation in case organisers go bankrupt. This guarantee applies also to linked travel arrangements. 
  • Clear rules on liability: The organiser of the package, is liable if something goes wrong, no matter who performs the travel services. 
  • Strong cancellation rights: With the new rules, travellers may cancel their package holiday for any reason by paying a reasonable fee. They may cancel their holiday, free of charge should their destination become dangerous for example because of war or natural disasters, or if the package price is raised over 8% of the original price.

It is not stated that we must pay back in case of pandemia - but who knows what the rules will be? Pandemia is a new issue for most of us, especially if the authorities react closing down all mobility of our societies, like in this Covid 19 times. If we have to pay back for cancelled trips and we cant sell any more travels, then what?

Because of the high risk of this sector, we also have very specific insurances, that really can help if there is some specific problem with a trip or if we make a mistake as travel agent. This can be the case when your flight or hotel must be changed and we have extra costs for this, and you don’t need to pay. They have never been tested in case of pandemia, like Covid 19. These very expensive insurances are also individual and the price is depending on how many people we arrange travels for and how much money it implies. The risk for us is 10% of the total of the damage. AND IT MUST BE PAID IN ADVANCE.

So we need to pay guarantees to the Swedish institution that manages travel guarantees, Kammarkollegiet. In short you can read below what that means: 

Travel guarantees insolvency protection. 

  • The travel guarantee should cover all advance payments made by travellers, such as registration fees and final payments. It should also cover other services included in the agreement with the traveller and, in some cases, expenses for home transportation. The purpose of the travel guarantee is that your travellers should not lose any money if their trip is cancelled or ends prematurely. 
  • The size of the travel guarantee is calculated on an individual basis. It should be sufficiently large that it can compensate your customers’ financial losses if the trip has to be cancelled or stopped. 
  •  You must have a guarantee that is valid indefinitely. If it is not sufficient during your high season, it must be supplemented with one or more temporary guarantees. 

Factors affecting the calculation 

  •  Number of travellers per month. 
  •  The cost of the arrangements. 
  •  The amount that travellers have paid in advance in fees and cancellation insurance. 
  •  When the advance payment is expected. 
  •  The length of time before departure that final payment must be made. 
  •  Standard cost for home transportation. 

 "We increase the sum of the items by ten percent in order to cover any potential increase in the number of travellers or the costs in relation to your budgeted amount.” says Kammarkollegiet. 

Issuing travel guarantees 

Travel guarantees can be arranged in various ways, such as: 

  •  A payment commitment from a bank, an insurance company or a credit market company. 
  •  A policy from an insurance company. 
  •  Funds deposited with a bank or with us. 
  •  Other similar commitments." 

It means that we have to deposit a sum of cash of the total income on travel packages in advance, just in case we get insolvent, to cover for our clients.

Other things we have to pay in advance when we as a travel agency buy a travel package for you: 

  •  flights 
  •  hotel deposition 
  •  transportation 
  •  food arrangements 
  •  catering 
  •  travel guides on place

So we have already paid for travel guarantees, travel insurances, and deposits. We have paid for direct costs to our suppliers. Now we are asked to pay back every single SEK or EUR to our European clients who have cancelled their trips as a result of Covid 19. AND WE ARE NOT ABLE TO SELL A SINGLE TRAVEL FOR A TIME WITHOUT FORECAST.

Virtual trips could probably be a solution for this battered sector of ours, where the dwarf is trying to survive. Do you have any better ideas?

We kindly ask for patience to our clients. Thealps, as all the other travel agents and operators, will do its foremost to be helpful and to ensure that you get back money for cancellations. We still don’t know how, and we are talking to governments and institutions, through our sector organisation SRF, Svenska Resebyråföreningen. As soon as we know how to do, you will be informed and helped. How long? We can't tell yet.

18/3 2020, Gärdesta, Sörmland, Sweden

I have heated two fireplaces in my house to get some warmth for the last few days. 18° C is what the thermometer of my mother in law, from the Seventies, considers to be the ideal room temperature – but I think in Sweden, this energy-inextinguishable country, we usually have around 22° average in our houses. I reached the original warmth today, after 5 days here. Something to celebrate.

What the hell am I doing here? Alone in the Swedish countryside, for days after days because I have been in Italy. But now? The virus is everywhere, and I am afraid that I will be sick when I get back to home, to Stockholm, to other people. I have seen birds, elks and hinds but no man for the past weeks. I have not been speaking to anyone. I am isolated. And it is a little wired this way. And scary to need to get back soon.

I got some help listening to my dear friend Fedrico's project presentation in his latest webinar, talking about how people with extra weight can lose it with the help of a very interesting program. Overweight with all the health consequences of it, is affecting 50% of all Italians, more than any Covid 19 have done yet. And this weight loss you can have, also making some money as promoter of this program to friends and companions.

Another big help these days is nature’s incommensurable perfection.

And then there is Italian Radio 3: the culture channel of the national broadcast. The depth and breadth of the programs in this channel are healing for my mind. History, but the history written by small people, the languages used by the small people. Old traditions that no one knows more than the ones who still use them. The poverty of the past with the great compassion and solidarity of today. And then the analysis of music, literature and art of the highest level, explained so that all can understand.

So I remember myself, my classical Italian education, and my roots.

The radio in Italy is also making a great job to help students who are stranded at home since more than two weeks, with educational Podcasts about literature, philosophy, history and arts. No commercial goals. And the people working at Radio stations today are also working from home, as many other Italians. So all of this with an unusual effort, and a moving technological simplicity.

When I listen to Swedish radio during these improbable Covid 19 days, I react to the superiority and criticism journalists often have towards institutions and politicians. I also react to the negativity and loss of constructive solutions that the journalists show, even if they sometimes make a sort of sarcastic analysis of what is happening. Some of them anyway, especially in the cultural programs.

I think that we in Italy, when we really need to help each other and show solidarity to each other, really try to put our own diva to the side.

And then in Italy there are museums, theaters and musicians that find ways to make interactive representations, without trying to gain anything, especially for kids who cannot go outside in our strange but loyal country. I have not seen anything like this in Sweden yet.

I am critical, I know. But I really realise that our culture and knowledge of history, with all the bad and tragic episodes in all centuries before us, have made us Italians a very resilient people.

WE DO WHAT WE NEED WHEN IT IS NEEDED, WITH SOLIDARITY AND LOVE.

I would be so happy to be able to do anything to help, to give some perspective, to learn together with other people, like the guests we have at Thealps during our beloved trips. Passion, real interest and dedication are the only things that really matter when it is needed. Fear, isolation and conflicts are the only things that we must avoid in Covid 19 times.

Today I have been making my laundry in a very primitive way, not having a washing machine and no hot water. But I am happy that I tomorrow can probably dress with fresh clothes, dried by the fireplace of my mother in law's cozy cabin in the middle of nowhere.

Thank you for reading! It feels a little less lonely out here.

20/3 2020, Gärdesta, Sörmland, Sweden

Oh! so difficult to write tonight. I have been sitting inside all day, freezing and trying to hit the fire, talking at the same time on the phone to people in Stockholm, in Germany and in Italy. I have family and friends all over Europe. And we are all in a bubble, not knowing how and when to be able to get out and reach reality again.

More than 600 dead only today in Italy, my birth region, Lombardy, is the worst hit part of the world by this virus that is changing our western way of life. We feel like offers in a threat but we are willingly putting our lands in a situation of complete chaos and crisis. The people in less fortunate countries – developing? countries – don’t even think about quarantine for Covid 19 because their primary issue is to survive from hunger and poverty.

What is worst? Be afraid of dying of Covid 19 or of hunger? What is the bigger probability in Italy, in Sweden? What do people in Pakistan chose and what do they think about what happens in Milan? Shit happens?

I am talking to European people and I see a progression of fear, a progression of measures to control fear and a progression of acceptance of control and, in the best case, a progression of solidarity. I am wondering what will happen: will it be a “statalization” of the western welfare states, with states and banks owning all biggest businesses? Or will the populist parties gain from this complete confusion of the West and win next elections in all our battered countries?

Someone on the Italian Radio 3 (my favorite channel these days) told me that THIS IS NOT A NEW ERA IT IS A MOMENT, but I am most worried by the consequences of this moment on us small entrepreneurs young and old in Europe, our free Europe, and on our pizzerias and enoteca, enoteca our design studios and our travel agencies.

IS THIS SANE? I don’t know. Anyway I wish to conclude this day of bad feeling with a good proposal. The museums in Italy these days are all making better and varied Virtual Tours, and I think it is a great idea! TheAlps will continue to share with our friends online, some of the beauties and the ideas that Italy always creates, even in times of crisis. Keep an eye on our social media.

22/3 2020, Gärdesta. Sörmland, Sweden

Today it is the last day in quarantine for me, going back to Stockholm tomorrow, home. It is the last post of this blog, that I really don’t know if it has been for better or worst. And I wish I can conclude with some hope.

In the family we have decided to hold a kind of “distanced socialization”, where our encounters will be either on the internet (thank you God we have the web today!) or mostly outdoor. Even Easter celebration is planned that way: in the woods, with a thermos and a sandwich each. Could be cool!

Yesterday I got this incredible picture from Sil Meux on FB, thank you for this! It is a picture taken around 1965 in my beloved Champoluc. We were Milanese tourists there, spending the whole summer in the village, three months of life so different from the city life of Milan. We were not so many tourists in the village of Champoluc in these years, and we knew each other. Freedom and nature all around us. Only ten years after the II World War.

In these old days, there were very few hotels and restaurants in Champoluc. There was a very small lift with small coloured eggs going up to Crest, where people still lived year round. A short walk from the top of the lift there was a restaurant and pension, that we all called La Nina, from the name of the great woman who was doing most of the job there, especially the delicious cooking. La Nina never married and worked with her brother and her mother at the small pension all her life. Later in the Seventies and Eighties, at the end of the season, she always travelled to Africa, to the deserts, to the savanna, to see the world. To be more secure in the African continent, she always brought a manly companion from Champoluc with her: a worker from the lift station or the snow cats. Then she went back to her kitchen and became La Nina again for the next season. Her food then! You know, before we invented "local and km 0", the chicken, the cows breading on the fields outside. The milk and the cheese we ate in the Sixties in Champoluc! Polenta, spezzatino, carbonade, chicken, peperonata.

In the picture, we are in the kitchen of La Nina. Everyone went to the kitchen to pick up our food from big casseroles on the open fire. Nothing strange with that, not being in a time of Covid 19. This particular day, Nina served Bagna Cauda, which is a Piemontese food, based on olive oil, sardellas and garlic, that you eat with bread and vegetables - mostly cabbage.

It is ten years after the war, and I see the eyes of everybody there (perhaps with the exception of my beautiful mother’s distanced dreaming) full of expectation. For the delicious food. And for a good life in the present. There is a hope in their eyes that I remember and I recognise even when I have the chance of seeing some old Super 8 movie my father produced in these same years. I see people laughing and playing with childish and true joy.

I know that my grandchildren today are joyous because they have a great lot of love from their parents and family. And I wish them, as well as all other kids, that the world of today and of tomorrow, once we pass through the moment of Covid 19, could remember what is really important for us all. I wish that we together could be more hopeful and joyous, that we could appreciate small simple things again. I wish we could together go back to places and people who love what they do and share it with all around. I wish soon to be back home here in Sweden and in Italy, feeling safe again.

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