An Italian town reopens for travellers
The mountaintop town is four hours south of Rome, reachable by switchback roads - appropriately remote for an alternate reality
San Fele: The mountaintop town is four hours south of Rome, reachable by switchback roads - appropriately remote for an alternate reality.
Here, far away from the coronavirus pandemic, in a place where nobody has tested positive or gotten sick, it was lunchtime, and a restaurant in town was filling up: tables of four, tables of six, a table of eight, and then the biggest table of all, reserved for teachers and middle schoolers celebrating graduation.
The teenagers had taken their final exams online - per national rules - but this was San Fele, so they were able to push through the restaurant doors, laughing, eating in a hurry, trading seats, no masks in sight. The teachers weren't wearing masks either.
Nor the mayor, sitting at another table. Nor the live musicians, who started belting out tunes in the kind of celebration that could only happen in a place where nobody was deemed a threat.
"It's almost normal," said Elisabetta Chieca, 37, a city councilor, sitting at a nearby table where the mayor was fighting to speak over the din.
"All locals here," said Donato Sperduto, the mayor. "Everybody knows everybody."
With some combination of geographic isolation, initial precautions and good fortune, the town of San Fele never even had a coronavirus curve to flatten - and it now has the enviable chance to ride out the pandemic as a New Zealand-like oasis, free from the virus's dangers and disruptions.
But like other places around the world that have managed to control or prevent outbreaks, from island nations to nursing homes, there is recognition here that coronavirus-free status is a precarious state. At any moment, somebody with the virus could come up the switchback roads.