On Sunday afternoon, several hundred people gathered in the small town of Codogno, about 35 miles south of Milan.
The group, including local dignitaries, army veterans and hospital workers, was meeting for the unveiling of a small garden, featuring a quince tree and a sculpture with three steel columns. Inscribed on a platform below the columns were the words “Resilience,” “Community” and “Restart.”
The garden is one of Italy’s first memorials to those who have died after contracting the coronavirus, and it was dedicated on the anniversary of the day news broke that a 38-year-old resident of Codogno, who became known as Patient One, had the virus. That man was Italy’s first known case of local transmission. The next day, the police sealed the town, and no one could enter or leave.
“It was horrific, absurd and unimaginable that this nightmare could unfold in Codogno,” Francesco Passerini, the town’s mayor and the driving force behind the memorial, said in a telephone interview before the ceremony. “Nearly everyone has lost someone,” he added.
For some, it may seem too early to create a memorial to a pandemic that is still raging. More than 200 people were reported to have died from Covid-19 in Italy on Sunday, and the country is in a state of emergency until at least the end of April, with strict travel restrictions in place.
But the memorial in Codogno and others planned elsewhere in Europe are not intended as sweeping monuments to the historical moment, but simple places to grieve and reflect.