Distance & proximity: An Italian leaving Madrid

Distance and proximity are two words that keep on emerging when talking about the unusual times we are going through due to the spread of Coronavirus. The following is a short reflection, based on a personal experience, on these two concepts and on how quickly our perception of them can mutate.

Picture by Tommaso Bassi


As an Italian studying in Madrid, I was one of the hundreds of Italians stuck in Spain who were desperately trying to find a way to travel back home. Although the last days still look like a blurry cloud made of cancelled flights and calls to Italian embassies around the world, what I learned is that the fear of being unable to enter your country and rejoin your loved ones really makes you re-evaluate freedom of movement and rethink geographical distances, as all of a sudden crossing borders becomes an almost impossible mission and your home-country seems to be farther away than ever.

'The fear of being unable to enter your country and rejoin your beloved ones really makes you re-evaluate freedom of movement and rethink geographical distances'

Travelling and moving in these times of stillness and immobility has been an extraordinary experience. After taking off and before landing I could see from the round windows of the plane the static landscape of cities, with their empty streets that made them look like the plastic models of an architecture studio. As I was expecting, the atmosphere I found once I arrived was very gloomy and surreal. The feeling of not being able to hug your father at the airport after being apart for months, is something I will never forget.


After these first confusing feelings, the numerous heartwarming initiatives taken by people all over the country made me feel hopeful. I believe that in these moments we rediscover a sense of community that we tend to ignore and take for granted. A sense of community in this case not created by physical proximity, but by singing and clapping from our windows and balconies, by smiling under our masks, and by promising ourselves that once all this is over, we will hug each other stronger and more often.

'Once all this will be over, we will hug each other stronger and more often'

As a final note of this short reflection, I would like to say that, unfortunately, the fact that we are all wearing masks does not make us all equal, as not everyone has the opportunity to spend time at home with their family.


My thoughts go to those that do not have the privilege of staying home, because they are working for us; to the ones who are sleeping on the empty sidewalks of our cities; and to those that will lose their jobs and economic activities because of this situation.


This story was shared by Tommaso Bassi, Urban Studies student from Bologna, Italy.

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