A sixth generation Neapolitan and second-generation Classic Journeys guide, Ulisse lives in Naples with his wife, Anna, and their son, Lorenzo. An award-winning tour leader following in the footsteps of his iconic father, Sergio, Ulisse has been guiding travelers around his beloved southern Italy for more than a decade. He also was the first intern in the Classic Journeys office in La Jolla 20 years ago. In the wake of Italy’s Coronavirus outbreak, Ulisse has taken his role to a new level, as our man on the street, keeping us posted on how life in Italy is being impacted by COVID-19. 

“When life gives you lemons, make cheesecake!”

I’m sitting in my kitchen, up to my elbows in cookie crumbs. The scents of zingy lemon zest, sweet strawberries and melting butter fill the air… My wife and I are preparing a cheesecake (NY style!!!) for our boy Lorenzo, who turns 6 months tomorrow.

Today is a beautiful, warm sunny day. Not a cloud in sight. The first thing that strikes you is an unreal silence. Italy has been declared entirely a ‘protected area’.

A night time view of Italy.

How does this impact our daily life?

No one can circulate without a specific reason. You have to sign a form declaring that you are either traveling for work, health or returning home. Law enforcement patrols major roads and all transportation hubs.
Supermarket supplies are guaranteed so we can still go out to buy food. Though confined in their own township limits, parents are taking kids (who are home from school) to the park and trying to live a normal life.
We are adjusting to something completely new. There have been episodes of young people gathering—like we used to do in the good old days, remember? A beer with friends, game of pool, pizza, Prosecco in the square… But please do not judge Italians if you read that ‘they are not respecting the rules’.

Nobody has lived through something like this since WWII and we need time to adapt: this is depriving us (temporarily I hope) of a big part of what defines Italians and makes us loved all around the world—the friendliness of a handshake, two kisses on the cheeks to greet a good friend or a warm hug that says: ‘I am happy to see you’.

It will be a sacrifice for all. We all have to give up a little bit of what we were used to, but hopefully these unprecedented measures will show their effect in the next weeks and we can all go back to our lives and rebuild an economy.

On the happy side of things, all around Italy people are leaning out of their balconies to sing… Whether it’s the national anthem or a traditional song from the area. Maybe you’ve seen the video from Siena that has been shared on social media today and if not, you should!

We can’t help it… It’s in our blood… We have to sing all the time. Not even Coronavirus can keep Italians from serenading!

For now, back to preparing for Lorenzo’s 6-month birthday. When life gives you lemons, make cheesecake! I hope we do not disrespect the sacred recipe of NY style—pictures coming soon!

Ciao, Ulisse

Subsequent updates from Ulisse:

2: “An Italian can do anything on a full stomach!”
3: “Pondering what’s important during isolation”

More Classic Journeys guide updates from around the world:

Vibeke in Norway
Susana in Portugal