“18 March 2020, the shocking sight of a convoy of military vehicles crossed through the heart of Bergamo from the Monumental Cemetery to the motorway. They were carrying coffins filled with coronavirus victims, the high number of which could no longer be managed by Bergamo’s cemetery: waiting times for cremation had grown longer than a week.” This dramatic news, together with the photographs of the column of military vehicles, travelled quickly around the world, demonstrating to everyone the seriousness of the situation in Bergamo and its province. The Lombardy city was one of the worst hit by the contagion and in the following months numerous controversies ignited about the failure to introduce red zones in the neighbouring towns where the first clusters developed.
We went back to Bergamo and the areas of the Seriana Valley, Nembro and Alzano Lombardo one year on to see how the situation had evolved. We found a city determined to recover but still profoundly wounded by the pandemic. Today, although the contagion rate in the city and the province is very low, Lombardy remains a high-risk zone; therefore cafes, restaurants and many other activities are still on hold. The Orio al Serio airport is practically deserted; the planes are parked on the tarmac. In spite of the wealth of this area, which has always been one of the country’s most productive, the queues of local inhabitants waiting for a hot meal from the Caritas organization have increased drastically. The only exceptions to the shutdown are the factories that continued to function, confirming the local work ethic that has few rivals elsewhere on Earth. Churches are now filling up again and are “often overbooked”, as the young parish priest in Nembro explains. He was the only priest in the town not to have fallen ill with Covid.