The Pandemic Era

When this global pandemic is finally over, the repercussions will be felt for a very long time


My father was born in 1917 and was drafted into WWII in his mid-twenties. He fought in North Africa, Italy, and Sicily.

My dad (left) and his best friend, Chick, at Santa Cruz boardwalk

I saw my dad as someone who played his cards close to the chest. He built his world around his family and friends, and if you were lucky to be part of his inner circle, he had your back. He never talked about the war, but you could tell he was the kind of guy you wanted with you in the trenches—on the shores of Anzio or when you fell and scraped your knee.

My mom came into the world in October of 1929: two weeks before the stock market crashed on “Black Thursday”. Her childhood spanned the depression years and she was on the cusp of adolescence when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor.

RN Nancy

She was a registered nurse until her third child was born. I don’t think she owned a credit card until I was in middle school, and even then she paid the balance each month. She believed if you couldn’t afford something, you shouldn’t buy it. Mom taught herself how to sew so that she could make my school clothes. Every week we had a left-over night and camping trips were our family’s vacations.

As a survivor of this difficult period in history, how do you think today’s pandemic era will change you?



Umbrellas bob up and down Orvieto’s main streets because, for the first time since Italy’s lockdown, shops, bars, and restaurants are open.

We are also permitted to visit with friends.

I wave to people I know who are sitting under the awning at Bar Sant’Andrea. They’re sipping wine and chatting—each at their separate tables to maintain safe social distancing—happy to finally be together again. At my favorite deli, Gastronomia Aronne, I ask Luanna to heat my vegetarian lasagna to go. Walking back to my apartment, it warms my heart to see so many of the town’s masked citizens out and about, rain and all.

I haven’t had steady work in almost two months, so spending money right now is probably not the smartest thing to do. I’ll worry about that tomorrow. Today, what matters most is supporting my community struggling to keep businesses afloat during this shitshow they call COVID-19.

I may be broke, but I’m going on a shopping spree!


Rossella Lumia and Diana Primavera of Alkimye



The Umbrian countryside on May 4, 2020

May 4th, 2020 marked the beginning of Phase Two of Italy’s emergence from more than two months in lockdown. Like millions of others in Italy, my Instagram and Facebook timelines depicted my breakout into the sunny, open space of freedom. Piazzas that were once deserted showed signs of life. In Orvieto, streets were occupied with familiar faces—covered in masks yet eyes smiling at the thought of better days ahead. We all knew this day would come. At some point, we have to venture out and learn to live with the virus.

I thought I was ready. On day two, I’m not so sure.


May 5, 2020

Grey, overcast skies replaced the bright blue ones of 24 hours ago. From my bed, I scrolled through my phone, jumping from article to alarming article about flattening curves, peaking contagions, a looming resurgence, and risks to a vulnerable workforce. I pulled the covers over my head to hide from the harsh reality: the end of the lockdown does not mean the end of the pandemic.

In her piece Why you might be dreading the end of lockdown in the Washington Post, my friend Elizabeth Heath wrote about her apprehension at leaving the safety of quarantine. “For those of us who haven’t been sick and who haven’t lost loved ones or jobs as a result of the pandemic, life has simply gotten strange — and really, really small. And while stay-at-home orders come with their own set of stressors, there’s also a certain comfort in being cocooned, of our routines being limited to a few permissible daily activities, and in just having to take care of the people and things in our immediate bubble.”

Phase Two offers a reprieve from my solitary confinement, but like a prisoner who’s become used to her captivity, I’m uneasy outside my apartment walls.

These days, nearly every conversation that dares to broach the subject of planning for the future, sputters out and dies with the phrase, “No one knows for sure.” No one knows when we can visit friends, share a meal, or travel outside our region to the seashore. I ask when will tourism resume? Will there be a vaccine or a treatment? How will businesses and families survive? When will I see my mom and son again? It’s an endless loop of questions that go unanswered. What I do know with absolute certainty is that we just can’t will this pandemic away.

Silver Linings


It’s day 14 of Italy’s nationwide Coronavirus lockdown and things are looking pretty grim. As we struggle to digest the barrage of statistical grafts with redlines climbing upward and social media posts spreading false information faster than the virus itself, it’s important to acknowledge some of the positive by-products of living through a global pandemic.

In the last two weeks, I’ve heard from former neighbors, old school chums, and complete strangers. I’ve chatted on the phone. I’ve had my first “virtual” aperitivo with friends on Zoom. It helps to know you’re not alone.

As work evaporates, we need to replace that time with productive activities. I found a DIY video for making surgical masks at home. I don’t have a sewing machine, but I was able to MacGyver the operation using new tea towels, iron-on fusing, embroidery thread, and shoelaces. They aren’t medical-grade, but I’ve gifted them to friends to limit the number of death stares they get at the grocery store and pharmacy.

I’m becoming a better cook and I can now make a decent cup of coffee.

Silver linings.


the day before

In the days leading up to Italy’s Coronavirus outbreak, I took a rather Pollyannaish stance on the impending health crisis. I preferred to look on the bright side, figuring the panic and hand-wringing was all for naught. I was wrong. Our entire country is now on lockdown—a measure aimed at slowing the spread of COVID-19 and thereby limiting its reach to the most vulnerable among us.

It’s not the virus I want to address here today, but rather Italy’s spectacular response to it.

When Prime Minister Conte announced on Monday night that the whole of Italy would become a zona protetta (protected zone), I was partly shocked and partly relieved. The government was taking drastic measures to protect the welfare of its citizens and at that moment I felt a deep sense of pride for my adopted country and its inhabitants.

After the decree was handed down, there appeared a rash of international headlines posing the question, “Would Italians be able to follow the rules?” Well, the answer, at least in my little town in Umbria, is a resounding yes!

Early Tuesday morning as I was getting ready for my day, I could hear the sound of ladies pulling carts down my alleyway, scooters were humming, and voices were speaking in optimistic tones. Around the corner at my neighborhood bar, coffee cups clanged as folks discussed the Coronavirus guidelines while keeping a safe, one-meter distance for each other. The scene at the supermarket was much the same. Patrons weaved in and out to avoid contact, yet people appeared relaxed and upbeat. Clustering is bad. Walking in the sunshine is good. We stay at home as much as possible. Hashtag #IoRestoACasa (I stay at home) is trending on Twitter.  


11 March 2020

I don’t know why Italians have sprung into action so magnificently. Perhaps it’s the culture’s reverence for its elderly and infirmed. Maybe, as my friend suggests, they are inspired by the notion of solidarity against a common enemy.

Italians endured the black plague, defeated fascism, and survived Berlusconi.

They got this.


How to socialize in the time of Coronavirus



Photo by Toni DeBella

It’s hardly a secret that the Netherlands is home to the most bicycles per capita than anywhere else in the world. Statistics reveal that 17 million Dutch people own 22.5 million bicycles (1.3 bikes per resident) and there are upwards of 55,000 kilometres of bike lanes stretching from north to south and east to west.

Perhaps nowhere except Copenhagen is a city quite as bike-friendly as Holland’s capital of Amsterdam. From cradle to grave, citizens can be seen straight-backed and confident as they pedal around their unique city, come rain or come shine. Come hell or high water.

Before taking to these canal-lined streets on two wheels, here are some things you ought to know about biking in Amsterdam:

1 There’s a lane for that

Brick-hued, one- and two-way bike paths snake through charming neighbourhoods and grey pavement is marked with pedestrian symbols (specifying footpaths) or bike symbols (indicating cycle and scooter lanes.)

2 There’s a traffic sign for that

Along with traffic lights for motor vehicles, there are also designated signals for pedestrians and bicycles. Don’t forget to look both ways before crossing the street!

3 Road rules made simple


Photo by Eliad Yaholom

Follow road signs, stay to the right, give the right-of-way to pedestrians at zebra crossings, comply with caution signals, and keep pace with the flow of bike traffic.

4 They paved paradise and put up a parking lot


Photo by Toni DeBella


Parking guidelines require that you place your bike in an allocated parking spot (on a rack or at an indoor parking facility). Bikes illegally parked will be confiscated and stored in the city’s Bicycle Depot. To avoid theft, always lock your bike to something secure and immovable.

5 He who hesitates is lost


Photo by Becky Day beckyday

If you’re a novice cyclist or you haven’t been on a bike for a time we suggest joining a guided bike tour or explore the city on foot. Amsterdam on a bike is not for the faint of heart (see number “6” below).

6 The most dangerous thing in Amsterdam is…


Photo by Slaunger

…a tourist on a bicycle. To enjoy Amsterdam safely you should be well versed in the rules of the road and follow them to the letter. Read about cycling safety here.

7 The second most dangerous thing in Amsterdam is…


Photo by Steven

…a tourist NOT on a bike looking at a map. Pay attention to where you’re going or suffer the unpleasant consequences.

8 Fun fact

am barge 2

Did you know that there is a crack team of city workers charged with cleaning up Amsterdam’s numerous waterways? Incredibly, they pluck more than 15,000 bikes annually from their aqueous graves.

Bonus: insider tips

Here are some dos and don’ts to make riding a bike in Amsterdam more enjoyable and safer:

  • DON’T stop abruptly in a bike lane. DO pull over.

  • DON’T use a cell phone or read a map while moving.

  • DO keep a safe distance between you and the bike in front of you.

  • DO put out your arm and point in the direction you’re intending to go.

  • DO use a light at night.

  • DO use your bell to alert someone that you want to pass.

  • DON’T bike more than two across.

  • DO or DON’T wear a bike helmet (they’re not required by law).

  • DO avoid rush hour when cycling can be the most harrowing and chaotic.

  • DO cross tram rails at an angle to avoid tires getting stuck in the groove.

  • DON’T cycle when drunk or under the influence.

For more information on booking guided bike tours in Holland, France, and Italy contact Amsterdam-based YuBike. You can also find them on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.


Sometimes a plan just comes together. Last October a wonderful group of artists of all levels and from all corners of the world gathered to paint and sketch our little hill town. They took the city by storm!


Sketch tour at Comune.

And their work was simply wonderful…

Margaret Wheaton, Florida, U.S.A.

MWheaton Orvieto

“Lovely bells ringing, but then the rain returned!”

Yvonne Fay, Manchester, UK


Alistair Duffield, Singapore


“I had a great time in Orvieto. It is a wonderful, friendly Italian hilltop town and the week is not only about sketching and painting, but the town, its people, great restaurants and food. Well organised by Toni and on top of that sketching/painting every day was a joy – guided by Kelly. “


Erin Lee Gafill & Tom Birmingham, Big Sur, U.S.A.


“Kelly is a simply great teacher and Orvieto is the ideal place to learn. I absolutely loved the experience and can’t wait to come back and do it again! Kelly’s lessons are invaluable and serve me well every day in my own painting practice.”


Valéria Salgueiro, Brazil

V. Salgerio

“The whole week period, from Monday to Sunday, was very well organized in every respect – accommodation, special activities with local people and, obviously, the thematic painting workshops. In a word or two, everything run as planned and informed to all participants, and the results were well above our expectations. Kelly is an excellent artist and a lovely person, and each day she explored different aspects involved in painting such as composition, sense of space, light and shadow, color, texture asw. All this occurred in a very friendly and respectful climate, so that I left Orvieto with that great feeling I did the right choice. I would not hesitate to strongly recommend Kelly Medford’s workshop to whoever wishes to put together a traveling, painting and making friends experience in unforgettable Orvieto.”


Jane Stephenson Bumar, Florida, U.S.A

JBumar 2

“Every day was beautifully structured to present completely different experiences and lessons carefully guided by Kelly Medford who is such a genius at working with all levels of artist from beginning to professional. Such an enriching, magical and supportive experience all around.”


Jane Driscoll, South Carolina, U.S.A.


“Sketching Orvieto” with Kelly Medford was a wonderful experience. Everything was perfect – the magical location, local culture, delicious food and, of course, Kelly’s excellent instruction.”


We would love to have you at Kelly’s next Sketching Orvieto Workshop. Find out more below…




I’m so thrilled to announce that my good friend, Kelly Medford (of Kelly Medford Art and Sketching Tours Rome) and I are collaborating to bring her famous Watercolor Sketching workshop to Orvieto this October. It’s open to anyone who wants to spend a week painting and experiencing Orvieto, one brush stroke at a time. To register or find out more, go to Kelly’s website, as spaces are limited. Share with anyone who might want to join us. Feel free to send me a message if you have any questions. PAINTING ORVIETO, KELLY STYLE!


kelly paint orvieto


It’s a message I’ve been attempting to get across to travellers for years. It’s become my own, personal mantra. I’ve recently made it an Instagram hashtag. I’ll shout it from the rooftops, if I have to…

One day is not enough to fully experience all the wonders that Orvieto has to offer!”

the food.


Pretty cauliflower


umbrichelli tartufo

Umbrichelli al tartufo nero


gelato on the steps of the Duomo di Orvieto

the wine.


Barberani Foresco red


white wines anyone?

febo wine

a little Prosecco to take the edge off

the art and culture.

Luca 2

Luca Signorelli’s Masterpiece



Famous rooster ceramic pitchers


Christmas magic

the lifestyle.



Ahhh, life is good.





and the people.


Cheese, please.


Keeping up with the news.


Friends with boots.

Repeat after me! Orvieto is NOT just a day trip from Rome!

Come. Stay. Enjoy!


Election image

Given the number of parties in Italy there are to choose from, candidate platforms to sort through, and the chess game that is the collalition-forming possibilities, voting here is not a simple undertaking. Preparation is key.

Here’s my step-by-step guide to voting in an Italian election…

Step one: If you’re eligible to vote, register at the local election office before the deadline.

Step two: Go online. I found a helpful video entitled, “Elezioni politiche 2018, come si vota.” Watch it here:

Step three: Visit your local coffee bar and ask the baristas and patrons for advice. They are a fountain of information. Order a double espresso to fortify yourself for what is about to come next.

Step four: Walk over to your polling place. Once there, things get a lot more complicated.

Step five: Find the voting room that corresponds with the number on your voter registration card. If a crowd has gathered, ask who is the last person waiting–it’s similar to queuing at the doctor’s office. There are no lines. Italians prefer to bunch.

Step six: While you’re waiting for a booth to open up, some enthusiastic citizen will give the group an explanation of how to mark your ballots. They’ll use the samples ballots hanging on the wall as a visual aid. After the lesson, you’ll still be confused.

Step seven: As a crowd forms and grows bigger, don’t get involved in arguments about who was there before whom; hold your ground and keep your elbows spread. Inside, poll workers were calling our group in–alternating between men and women–though no one is quite sure why.

Step eight: After you’ve been handed your ballots and a pencil, enter a voting booth, close the curtain behind you and mark a large “X” across the party or candidates (or both – this still isn’t completely clear to me) you’re voting for. Fold the ballots and drop them into the color-coded cardboard ballot boxes.

Congratulations! You just voted in Italy.

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