A new world opened to Helene and her husband John when they moved from the State of Virginia in the US to a small town in Abruzzo. She tells our readers about their life during these difficult times.

The call to live in this corner of Italy was strong, as Abruzzo is where my mother’s family was from, and my husband and I always felt at home here. Three years ago, we bought a house in Roccaspinalveti, in the Chieti Province, where our two-level living space is arranged into two apartments. We now live on the main level and have opened a holiday rental in the lower apartment. John, my husband, did an amazing renovation on this lower level for our guests. Our property comes with a large backyard and a field with a small olive grove and a front courtyard.

Our town

Roccaspinalveti has a lovely 1800s church, piazzas, the municipal building, post office, schools, and numerous shops: butchers, bakeries, green grocers, hardware, bars, restaurants and more. There are also many talented artisans and artists throughout the community. The current population of the municipality is just over 1200, spread out within the various hamlets attached to the town center (centro). And the folks here are the friendliest people! Everyone says “Buongiorno” or ”Ciao,”  often with invites to come into their homes for coffee. We will most likely always be the “gli americani”, but we feel their love and acceptance each day.

Living in our very quiet village here in the Frentani Mountains of southern Abruzzo, we have been observing from a distance the human tragedy of the coronavirus that has been unfolding in Italy. We track the news and escalating numbers of positive cases and deaths through government and news sites. There are many cases in Abruzzo and one case has so far been documented here in Roccaspinalveti. As we watched new quarantine decrees arriving, the unsettling feeling grew that the tragedy that seemed to be so far away at the start was coming closer to home.

Staying home

Like everyone else now, we observe the #iorestoincasa, staying home unless we need groceries, medical attention or prescriptions. Only one person per family may drive up to the centro to buy necessities. The shops here are very small, so for most, only one person can enter the shop at a time and the rest must queue outside. Leaving the municipality of Roccaspinalveti is only allowed in case of an emergency. Things should ease a little in May.

Gloves and masks are the norm for everyone in town and we must stand at least one meter from another person. Even when the neighborhood vendors make their stops, everyone needs to wear gloves and masks.

For me personally, it is not difficult to stay at home, but it has been hard without my daily hike or trek. Pre-virus, you would find me most days taking a trek around the area or a hike up a mountain, sometimes with John or a friend, but mostly by myself. It has always been a way for me to center myself, flush out any toxic thoughts and reset. We do like to sightsee and we love to eat out, especially at our favorite local trattoria, but sadly all restaurants and bars are closed with the restrictions and drives around on hold.

I am a voracious reader, so I read a few books at the same time, juggling true or fictional crime with some lighter fare. Since I grew up in an Italian-American family with the nap tradition firmly in place, it was an easy transition to life here.

In Virus Time

No walks are allowed except just a few hundred meters and back to your house but, thankfully, we have a large yard, fenced courtyard and outside steps. Yes, steps… I run up and down them a few times a week to get the endorphins pumping. It helps.

Romeo, our dog, and I will head out to the backyard for some playtime and get some much-needed Vitamin D. With most people obeying the self-isolation restrictions, the wild animals are starting to emerge from their cover and enter more urban areas. I saw a wild boar in broad daylight in our olive grove a few weeks back and again this morning. Normally, they are nocturnal in our area. And my friend up the road saw a wolf traipsing down the street in broad daylight.

John has been working on improvement projects around the house, as well as splitting wood for our kitchen fireplace. He also has been cooking some delicious dishes.  Are we getting on each other’s nerves? You bet! A new normal for many couples. So we take a timeout from each other and find a quiet place inside or outside to decompress.

Am I worried? Of course. I worry for myself, for John, for family and friends. But then I remind myself that worry is useless. It can change nothing. All we can do is follow the regulations, enjoy some home-centered activities, take supplements, eat healthy, exercise, video chat with family and friends and pray a lot.

But we have beautiful views from the rear balcony of our home, and that is where I find myself most days. I can push the worries away and just be infinitely thankful for what John and I have at this moment. With that said, we are poised to load our daypacks and hit the mountains as soon as the restrictions are lifted. We have been looking out our kitchen window and dreaming of that “freedom” day: the snow-topped Majella mountain range, medieval hilltop villages, the blue Adriatic Sea with the distant Tremiti Islands, a local shepherd with his flock, the ancient castle ruins. They are all waiting for us here in Abruzzo.

By Helene Rosalie Jordan

The article was published in the May issue of ABRUZZISSIMO Magazine.

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