Hotel Michelangelo is a nice place to stay. The hotel is located in the center of Milan and offers four stars as well as proximity to tourist attractions. Not that these things are of great importance to the youngest guests: they are forbidden to go.
As part of an effort to curb Covid-19, which has killed more than 34,000 people across Italy, the Milan authorities have converted the 17-story hotel into a quarantine facility. It opened on March 30 and has room for 300 patients – mostly people who are good enough to be discharged from hospitals but who still test positive and have no place to isolate at home.
“It feels like a hospital,”
Bernasconi visited in April and put on the full protective gear to get a glimpse. A lot of medical personnel filled the polished reception area, which was now encased in plastic like a construction zone. When “guests” arrived, they were sent to their rooms via a specially designed Covid 19 positive elevator so as not to show up for weeks.
The stay is free and usually takes 14 to 21 days or until the patients have been tested negative twice – an eternity if you are stuck alone in a 200 square meter room and cannot hug your loved ones. The only people you see are the nurses who stop by to check their vital signs and take swabs. Meals arrive at the door handles three times a day in paper bags. Fresh bed linen and towels are delivered once a week. They never leave their rooms … at least they shouldn’t. “The manager told me there was a party with three people who were just talking and drinking and having a good time,” says Bernasconi. “He was really mad and sent everyone back to their rooms.”
Bernasconi visited several patients to shoot their portraits, keep their distance and restrict speaking. The pictures drip with boredom and fear. Everyone just wants to go – and more to bring back to life, like it was before the pandemic, when the Hotel Michelangelo was just a place where people collapsed after a fun day of sightseeing.
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