Sarah Pottharst Girolami '06: An Italian Story

Sarah Pottharst Girolami ’06 first moved to Verona, Italy, in 2016 to work in clothing design. Shortly after her move, Girolami traveled to Venice where she first met her husband, Alvise, after shopping in his family-owned jewelry store in St. Mark’s Square.

They married in 2018 in Bergamo, Italy, which became the epicenter of the country’s COVID-19 outbreak. Although their Venice home is 130 miles away, the effects of the pandemic were no less real as their country faced one of the pandemic’s most hard-hit regions. Italian prime minister Giuseppe Conte announced a strict lockdown on March 9, confining citizens across the country to their homes. Only on May 4, after two long months, did the restrictions lighten, allowing citizens with masks to walk and exercise outside and order takeout from restaurants.

Still, at the time of print, retail businesses in the square have yet to open. While they awaited the prime minister’s official orders to reopen the family’s storefront, Girolami, who is now a graphic designer for brands across the United States and Europe, noted that her work has rapidly increased. “It’s inspiring that so many people are ready to pivot business,” said Girolami. Though the rest of the world has undoubtedly felt the impact of the pandemic, Girolami added that these past few months have particularly challenged Italian citizens. “Italians are super social creatures, so this quarantine is especially hard for them,” said Girolami. “I know everyone laughs about our public displays on balconies going viral on the internet, but in quarantine, I think this is the only way an Italian can stay sane – to get that community connection they're used to having on a daily basis.”