Italians in country’s richest city turn to food banks and pawn shops as Covid cripples economy

More than 5 million are now at risk of poverty in Italy and with many struggling to get government support, the community is banding together like never before. By Federica Marsi 

Sunday 06 December 2020 21:03 GMT
Volunteer stacks shelves at a food bank in Milan
Volunteer stacks shelves at a food bank in Milan (AFP via Getty Images)

The economic repercussions of Italy’s lockdown to contain the coronavirus spun Roberto’s life into a downward spiral. The owner of a security company, the 57-year-old would rub shoulders with international celebrities performing in Milan’s upscale nightclubs and concert venues.

In February, as the pandemic took grip of the northern region of Lombardy and work came to a screeching halt, he lost his partner to cancer and the right to live in her apartment. “I slept a few nights at the central station, I didn’t want to be alone,” said Roberto, who asked to be referred to by his first name.

Milan, Italy’s financial and fashion capital, is one of the wealthiest places on earth. Yet, it succumbed to the first wave of the pandemic, sending other European governments a stark early warning, and it is now grappling with a sweeping poverty outbreak.

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