There is a special brand of loneliness that affects Italian cities in August. Most people leave the cities, which tend to shut down for at least two weeks as shops, bars, and even some newsstands close for the summer holiday. For those who stay home, it can be a lonely and taxing time, especially for the elderly.
Jole, 89, and Michele, 94, a couple living in the Appio neighborhood of Rome, felt this affliction. According to the Rome Police, on the evening of Aug. 2, saddened by the news they watched on TV and by a profound sense of loneliness—no one had visited them in a while—they broke down in sobs so loud that the neighbors called the police. (For privacy reasons, the police declined to share the surnames of the couple as well as those of the police involved.)
“There was no crime. Jole and Michele didn’t fall for scams, as it often happens with the elderly, and no thief broke in. There is no one to save,” reads a Facebook post by the Rome Police describing the scene the four policemen, Andrea, Alessandro, Ernesto, and Mirko, found when entering the apartment. “This time,” the post reads, “there is a harder task to accomplish. There are two lonely souls to comfort.”
Finding the couple lonely and perhaps underfed (the post says there were only old grapes on the table), the policemen say they were overcome with compassion and, while waiting for an ambulance they called to check that the couple was healthy, they asked permission to access their cabinet—and cooked some pasta.
“They improvised a cozy dinner. A plate of pasta with butter and cheese. Nothing special. But with a special ingredient: Inside, there is all their humanity,” the Facebook post says.
A spokesperson from the Rome Police told Quartz in an email that, since the episode, the police has been in constant touch with the couple to see how their situation evolves. The story has generated “a true solidarity challenge, and many have written to us offering to help,” the post says.