MILAN – A known voice of the Italian Coffee Community on the microphones of the BBC: Cristina Caroli, Past Italian Coordinator of SCA and owner of Aroma Cafe in Bologna was asked to talk about the total closure of bars and restaurants enforced in Italy as a measure to counter the Coronavirus outbreak.
Why an Italian Barista?
The BBC needed direct testimonials from Italy, a country that is now under everyone’s eyes, as example of undeniable social sacrifice, and for the dramatic situation of the contagion.
I have been contacted as representative of the category of bar managers, who in the UK are represented by cafes and pubs which, at this moment, are opposing strong resistance to lockdown, due to the dramatic repercussions that would have, for their businesses.
So in the UK, by many, is Coronavirus not yet seen as a totalizing threat?
In fact, perhaps also as a result of the Government positions, which did not initially place the emphasis on the gravity of the virus spread, and above all, the peaks of contagion and criticality. So many small entrepreneurs, people who still need daily collection, refuse to adopt such restrictive and painful rules as those applied to our category, in Italy.
What about main questions?
Mainly they asked me how I felt, as an entrepreneur, when the Government’s asking of lockdown was announced. They also asked me how I see my future as an entrepreneur, how I think about the incoming expenses, in particular rent and staff.
What about your answers?
The interview was much longer, only small parts were transmitted.
I simply said that the announcement for me was nothing more than an events horizon that I had already feared for some time, after weeks of applying systematic sterilization procedures for tables and all surfaces, as well as obviously personal ones.
The idea, the daily impression, was a dead-line approaching, as Bar and Restaurant seemed to be a place where too close contacts could occur, at a time when it was strategic to contain the infection.
The news from the most serious outbreaks left us stricken daily, and with the thought of friends trapped in the areas most at risk, and the perception that something terrible was approaching, and becoming more powerful every day.
Nonetheless, it is always something strong to hear the world “lockdown”.
A nightmare in a word, something that makes you ask how should we carry on, and what about the future?
At the same time, Alessandro and I have always been aware that Italy ought to stop contagion, limiting personal freedom and asking lockdown of most commercial activities in case the epidemic had become serious, as indeed it has become.
This is be cause of constant contacts we had with dear friends in China, who had already experienced this scenario, and worried about what they saw from the outside of Europe. A kind of tragic deja-vu: they were truly alarmed warn us about the danger of the thing.
So I clearly made the reporter and listeners understand the serious blow of this decision, but at the same time also the need to do something concrete to limit this outbreak and to keep themselves and beloved ones safe.
All the baristas had a strong daily exposure.
Furthermore, and this applies to everyone, you cannot put your loved ones at risk, but also the people and especially those who you don’t know in your City and Country.
It takes civic sense and sense of sacrifice.
I said to BBC microphones that it will not be easy, not even for us who have some social welfare that I don’t think are available in England, or perhaps they are available in different ways.
It will be very hard, but sometimes it is necessary to cut an arm to survive and to win together.
Do you think you’ve been convincing?
I sincerely hope so… if I could have provided the right reasons, or warned someone, if I convinced someone to face a great sacrifice, I would be very happy.
Every day I read horrible things, I call friends and I hear voices that speak to me of so much pain.
The thing I want with all my strength and that all this ends, and then day after day something will happen, because we must always hope, especially after defeating an enemy like this.
I hope that this category to which we all belong, the coffee community, and friends of the restaurant industry, can be concretely helped to get up and create again that precious patrimony of small industrious businesses based, on small daily consumption and food and wine tradition, which are a incredible Italian heritage to be preserved.
How did you end up after the interview?
They told me that our country was a strong example to talk about…
I perceived that Italy has the respect of everyone, because we are showing something really great and paying a huge price.
I am very proud of my country right now, also for another aspect that clearly emerges: the complete difference in tactical approach to this epidemic.
For Italy, it is clear that the mission is to save as many people as possible, in any way possible, fighting to the spasm, for all citizens, considering them all equal and worthy of care.
In other countries it seems that they are applying other methods and strategies, which I frankly do not share, but this is a personal opinion.
I support the Italian Government decisions made in this dramatic moment, even if we will pay a lot in economic terms. But I will think about this when everything is over and we will be ready for a restart, all together.
My motto is: Baristas never give up!
Link to the audio interview: https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/w172wx95zhqmvwq