On the morning of Friday, February 21st, we learned that three cases of coronavirus had been confirmed in northern Italy. I remember the sense of dread I felt as we reported a few hours later that the number had doubled.
By the next day the first localised lockdowns had begun, and Italy had reported its first fatality
– the first European known to have died from the disease, which we weren’t yet calling Covid-19. Within days there were hundreds of cases.
I was getting countless calls and messages from worried friends and family abroad asking about the situation in Italy, many asking me to fact-check things they'd heard on the international news At that moment, what people with connections to Italy, and English-speakers living in the country, told me they needed was simply clear, verified information written in a straightforward way. We were determined that The Local’s reporting would provide it.
Our aim has always been to explain the situation here and to help you keep track of the latest rules, decrees, and numbers.
Throughout the crisis, we've also brought readers details of the latest official updates and explained what they meant, corrected the inaccuracies
reported in some international media, and interviewed
some of Italy's most respected scientific experts.
When we made the decision early on to remove the paywall from essential coverage of the crisis, we asked paying members if they approved – you overwhelmingly agreed that it was the right thing to do.
Another priority for us has been telling your stories and getting answers to your questions – partiicularly after Italy moved out of the emergency phase, and we all tried to adjust to life under various restrictions.
We recently published a series of in-depth articles related to travel to Italy from the US, as the ongoing restrictions are of course a major issue for so many of our readers who live internationally.
All of these articles were informed by your questions, and featured the real-life experiences of our readers. Here are some examples:
We've had a very positive response to these articles, with one member in the Campania region writing in to say: “The Local is the only news source providing practical and detailed information on travel to Italy. Every other source writes in general terms and without firsthand knowledge.”
We've also been looking in detail at what's being done to help people in Italy through the crisis.
We received a grant from the Solutions Journalism Network to take an in-depth look at the responses to different parts of the coronavirus crisis in Italy, and across Europe: what's worked, what hasn't, and why, through a series of articles
Here are some of those pieces:
While reporting on it, we’ve been living through this pandemic just like readers. Reporting on something you’re living through yourself – particularly while shut in your apartment for months – is quite intense, so we really appreciated every kind and encouraging word from our members.
It was near-impossible to disconnect from work at the peak of the crisis. We wanted to follow what was happening at all times – and when I say we worked around the clock, I’m not exaggerating.
It didn’t help that the Italian Prime Minister developed an unfortunate habit of giving important speeches late in the evening. I remember sitting up until after 2am one night waiting for him to appear, and translating what he was saying into English for our news report
. I know many of my colleagues across Europe were working at all hours, too.
But like everyone else, we’ve also been worried about the future of our jobs and business. So many media companies have had to lay off staff. Here at The Local, our advertising revenues plummeted due to the crisis.
We really couldn’t write these articles without support from our members. Thank you.
We hope you'll stick with us. In return, we'll keep on working hard to bring you the facts and explain life in Italy, and around Europe. The Local is also reinvesting in increasing our coverage and improving our sites.
The Local's staff from our nine European sites flew to Stockholm for a meetup in January, just weeks before the pandemic hit. Photo: Tim Marringa/The Local
We also hope that members will keep telling us what they want and need to know in future, whether that’s pandemic-related or another essential issue, from understanding the language
and culture to bureaucracy, finances
We’ve received more emails than ever from readers in the past few months, full of bright ideas and thoughtful comments. We haven’t always been able to reply, simply because of the number of messages we’ve been getting, but we do read and appreciate them all.
Now I’m asking our members to send me another email, with any more thoughts and suggestions you have for our coverage of Italy in future. If you have a story idea that should be added to our list, or if you have any burning questions we might be able to answer, please email them to me here
Editor, The Local Italy