As Europe’s COVID-19 cases continue to climb, America eats itself alive and Australians become ever more concerned with the proliferation of “linen on linen” outfits in Byron Bay, there is one place in the world which – if you can get there – offers an escape from it all.
Italy’s Covid-free islands.
Introducing: Linosa, Tremiti, Vulcano, Filicudi; Alicudi.
As CNN Travel reported in February, these islands are part of a small, lucky group of remote locations (even Antarctica has reported cases) which remain coronavirus-free a year after The Bat Kiss first swept the world.
“Italy, which is in a state of emergency until April 30, was ravaged by the virus last year and currently has one of the highest death tolls in Europe. The destination is now divided into zones, depending on infection levels,” (CNN Travel).
“However, a handful of its most isolated islands are among the spots that have kept Covid at bay for now.”
However, that’s not to say the threat of Covid hasn’t affected these islands. As CNN Travel reports, “although living in a secluded location has proven to be a blessing for those residing in spots that Covid-19 is yet to reach, coronavirus-related fears have still reached many of them.”
Luana Rigolli, a freelance photographer who lives in Rome, Italy, who has previously visited some of these Covid-free islands, recently shared with DMARGE her thoughts about Linosa.
“Will [Covid-19] make locals more suspicious of strangers or more grateful for tourism? This is a good question. I can bring you the specific case of Linosa. Last year in June, when the strongest phase of the lockdown was over, I witnessed the debate of the inhabitants of Linosa who were wondering whether to accept tourists for the summer season or whether it was the case to ‘close’ the island.”
“Many elderly people live on the island, and there have been no cases of contagion, fortunately, thanks to the particular isolation of the island. Contagions that would have created a lot of damage, due to the absence of hospitals on the island and the remoteness of the mainland.”
“So it was natural that the inhabitants asked themselves this question: to save the safety of the islanders at the expense of the income guaranteed by tourists (tourism is the main source of income in Linosa), or to open to save the season and hope for the best. Fortunately (for us tourists) the islanders have chosen the second line, obviously respecting all the anti-contagion rules provided for by the regulations.”
“There was an initial distrust of strangers, but then the sense of welcome prevailed.”
“Before deciding to return to Linosa for summer 2020, I myself had numerous scruples, as I would never, ever accept being a possible source of contagion on that island that I love very much.”
“The initial sense of mistrust did not spare even the boys from Linosa who live in Sicily or in the rest of Italy for work or study. Back on the island, they were subjected to swabs and quarantines, to avoid any possibility of contagion.”
Popping out of crystal blue waters halfway between Sicily and Tunisia, Linosa is reached either by flying to sister atoll Lampedusa’s airport and getting the ferry, or jumping on the ferry at Porto Empedocle on mainland Sicily (which involves on a 12-hour sea journey).
“While some cases have been reported in Lampedusa, there have been no confirmed cases in Linosa,” CNN Travel reported last month. On that note: “Islanders are very suspicious of outsiders and protective of their safety, ” Linosa Mayor Totò Martello told CNN Travel.
“Since Linosa has succeeded in staying Covid free, each time a ferry lands they gather at the harbor to examine who disembarks and see if there are any new unknown faces of people who could smuggle in the virus.”
Island rules require all visitors or non-residents to take a Covid test at the ferry port before they set foot on the atoll.
Despite these challenges, Luana also told DMARGE there is a desire to make the most of the once in a lifetime opportunities brought by this latest global shakeup, and the work from home revolution currently pinging screens all over the world: “I confess to you right away that I am thinking of spending a few weeks in the next few months on an island, not Linosa, but still an island.”
“It is a thought that I think many are doing, because it is an opportunity that will never happen again.”
“Being able to literally isolate oneself on a small island, and be able to continue working remotely as we have been doing for a year now in their own houses refurbished as offices. It is a way to do what many ‘dreamers’ like me have always wanted: to live for a while on an island, without giving up work, and to work directly on a table in the open air with a view of the sea.”
Luana also told us, in her opinion, working remotely from somewhere like Linosa or Tremiti, gives one the chance to experience island life more authentically: “It will be a way to get to know life on an island more truthfully: many of us only know the islands for tourism, and especially tourism in the summer months, when the islands are transformed and lose some of their originality.”
“We have always lived the islands in a false way, a place is really known when you enter into a relationship with the inhabitants, and only with them, and not with hundreds/thousands of tourists around.”
“I think it is a privilege to be able to experience the islands out of season.”
It’s also worth noting that on islands like Alicudi – Filicudi’s sister isle – Covid “is perceived as a very, very distant threat,” CNN Travel reports.
“Silence rules in Alicudi. Forget cars, scooters and even bikes. There are no roads, only dusty mule paths that unwind for 25 kilometers. More than 10,000 stone steps connect the dwellings of this picturesque hamlet.”
“Donkeys are the sole means of transport on the island. Alicudi has no ATMs, boutiques, clubs or cigarette vendors. There’s no street lighting, just the stars as natural flashlights at night.”
“The island’s pebble beach is dotted with natural arches and bizarre colorful houses that are built inside mushroom-shaped rocks.”
Aldo Di Nora, one of Alicudi’s older residents, who moved to the island years ago from northern Italy and now runs a resort, is very appreciative for what he has.
“Social distancing is not an issue. The only moment when little crowds can form is when people meet at Alicudi’s harbor to jump on the ferry boats,” Di Nora told CNN Travel.
“I follow the news of the tragic events happening in Italy and across the world and I am grateful to be living in such a wonderful place, surrounded by peace and zero risk of contagion.”
Read more about life on each island here.