He’s up at 5:30 every morning to load his truck with freshly baked bread from the local bakery, a neighbor’s garlic woven into braids, jars of local honey, fresh sausages, artichokes from Tarquinia, and anything else that an Italian woman might need to prepare her daily pranzo or clean her house. During these times of Covid-19, Riccardo Migno is an unsung hero as he travels to the tiniest villages in the most remote Italian countryside, bringing his supermarket-on-wheels to mostly elderly customers.
Riccardo is one of the many typical Italian alimentari that travel around Italy selling different goods. There’s the fruit and vegetable man, the baker – who these days arrives with the cheese bread popular during Easter, and the fisherman who usually only comes on Fridays. But unlike most, Riccardo is still operating six days a week.
“You are a warrior!” I exclaimed when he showed up at my front door as usual on Monday morning during the first week of lockdown.
Riccardo arrived armed with a mask, gloves and bottle of disinfectant. Plexiglas protected his vegetables which are usually on display in the open air. He had been delayed after helping elderly clients carry in their groceries, including heavy six-packs of bottled water. “It’s been very stressful.” he said. I guess he was smiling warmly (as usual) under the mask. “I have to wash my hands with disinfectant after serving each customer.”
When I first moved to a village in Umbria four years ago, I used to think it was a small miracle that someone might drive up to my front door with grapes from Sicily, cheese from Sardinia and meats from the local butcher. But as we struggle through the fifth week of lockdown, Riccardo’s traveling grocery truly feels like manna from heaven. Everyday, he serves 40 to 50 customers, keeping us all at home – where we belong.
“I’m getting a lot of new customers and people are even begging me to come on Sundays too,” he tells me while tallying up the bill. “But most nights now I’m not home until midnight, so Sundays I really need to rest.”
His mobile phone is ringing as he hands me my bag. Someone wants to order tender veal for the next day. While chatting away, he jumps off the truck, closes the wide doors shut, pats our dog on the head, and climbs up to the driver’s seat. “I better get going. Bruna is going to kill me if I’m any later. Her husband has to have his dinner on the table exactly at noon.”
Off he goes. A traveling hero. Unsung, virtually unknown, and feeding us all.
Thank you Riccardo and everyone on the front lines during this pandemic!