Every hour lost during youth is a possibility for unhappiness in the future.

Honoré de Balzac


The young have probably paid the highest price. Forced to endure solitude and isolation at an age when the urge to be in the company of others is at its strongest. Obliged to deal with the awkwardness of remote learning, which in many regions revealed the true depth of the digital divide. Curfews denied them the hours richest in promise, those during the evening and night. 

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A study by the Italia in Salute Foundation published in May 2021 outlined a worrying picture: 16.5% of the Italian population claim to have experienced symptoms of depression as a result of the restrictions imposed to contain the pandemic. In the 18 to 25 age group the figure is more than double, at 34.7%.

Also as a consequence of the months under lockdown, 27.1% of Italians have reported general psychological distress, and among the young this figure rises to 40.2%. As far as minors are concerned, almost six out of ten parents think that the pandemic has had a significant psychological impact on their children.

At European level the data is even more worrying: the European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working estimates that 64% of those aged between 18 and 29 are at a significant risk of depression compared to 15% before the pandemic crisis.

Members of Generation Z are the least vulnerable to the risk of Covid but unfortunately this age group is destined to be hit the hardest by the long-term consequences of isolation, an ever more unstable employment market and the longest ever interruption to education in the modern age.

Filippo, a member of the Sparwasser cultural association in Rome. The association took immediate action in response to the Covid emergency, delivering shopping to the elderly and the immunocompromised.

Giorgia (aged 18), Municipal swimming pool, Cervia, Italy. "I miss the water, feeling it envelop my body as soon as I step into the pool. I miss swimming in the water with all my energy to let off steam after a hard day studying. Everything is silent: there are no longer any children, young people, instructors or the sound of water to break that deafening silence. Covid has taken all of them away."

San Marino. Synchronized swimmers Jasmine Zonzini and Jasmine Verbena pose in their competition costumes after a training session ahead of the Tokyo Olympics, which were rescheduled to take place the following year. The first official competition they took part in after the initial months of the lockdown was held in August.

Lagazuoi, the Dolomites, Veneto.

Andrea (not his real name) attends an online lesson. Seeing as he doesn't have his own PC or internet connection at home, Andrea uses a computer at the Caritas di Aversa charity organisation (near Naples).

Milan, April 2020. Ashvin at the end of his shift.

Student Olga Gambardella spends the lockdown time playing the piano in her house in Milan.

Livorno, Tuscany.

Two volunteers at the premises of the Red Cross in Legnano embrace at the end of their shift: the only way they can comfort each other safely is if they are wearing PPE.

Blello, near Bergamo, is one of the so-called “zero Covid” villages, where not a single case of infection has been recorded. Michele Locatelli in the cowshed of the family farm where he works with his grandfather Carlo and father Giorgio.

Riccardo, (aged 18), Parco 5 Pini, Pinarella, Cervia, Italy. "We don’t even know whether we’ll be able to play like we did before. Even when we’re playing, the main feeling is one of tension rather than fun – the fear of being around other people and the anxiety that the situation could worsen. Like me, my friends can’t bear this situation any more. The first months we stuck with it but now we’ve reached a limit."

Sabaudia (Latina). A group of girls riding a fairground attraction.

Antonio, 24, with his dog, Pixel. On March 6, three days before the publication of the first lockdown legislation, Antonio returned to Caserta from his home in the province of Parma. He thought he would only be there for the weekend. He works for an Italian racing car manufacturer, and since May 11 he has been receiving furlough payments from the Wage Guarantee Fund along with most of his colleagues. He stayed in Caserta while waiting for his employer to renew his contract.

Davide Griffo, a project coordinator at the Caritas di Aversa food bank, near Naples. The food bank was created to enable families in financial difficulty to do their shopping, deciding for themselves which goods to take home for free, as part of a process of dietary education.

Genoa, youngsters during the lockdown. Closed bars. The Garden restaurant.

Remote learning. The Convitto Carlo Alberto in Novara. Mauro Bovio teaches a maths lesson remotely.

Cervia, April 2020. A Skype video call with the images projected onto a sofa.

April 2020. Sara Coletti, a nurse in the Covid-19 intensive care ward at the Fondazione Poliambulanza Hospital in Brescia.

Milan’s Navigli canals. A couple of teenagers wear face masks during the coronavirus emergency.

Volunteers from the Caritas di Aversa charity organisation, near Naples, handing out meals and essential items. Because of Covid, the canteen service can no longer be provided. About a hundred more meals are needed: as well as worsening the plight of those already in difficulty, the Covid crisis led to others finding themselves in financial trouble.

Cervia, Emilia-Romagna, March 2020.

Alessia, aged 22, is a law student at the LUISS Guido Carli University in Rome. Alessia returned to Caserta on March 9, the night of the publication of the lockdown legislation. In spite of not having enjoyed her stay in her childhood home, she still managed to take various exams both from Caserta and Rome when she had the opportunity to go there. She returned to Rome permanently on September 28.

Mara Kitharatzis, 19, is studying to prepare for the high school graduation exam at the Elio Vittorini Scientific High School in Milan. Every day she uses her tablet for online lessons. At the window, her sister Giulia, who is 15.

Caivano, near Naples. Andrea, in light of the difficulties experienced by the used clothes sector which he'd worked in for years, decided to open a greengrocer’s.

Milan, April 2020. Andrea in line with a friend outside an Esselunga supermarket.

Sauze d'Oulx, Piedmont. Ski instructors build a homemade obstacle for practicing their jumps during training.

Gilda, 23, and Eugenio, 20, have been living together for six months, but at the time of the more restrictive decree they were at their respective parents' homes, and they stayed there, even if they were only a few kilometres apart. They were unable to manage their distance through technological means and quarrels and misunderstandings arose. On 4 May, they were reunited and everything returned to normal.

Denise (aged 16), Endas dance school, Cervia, Emilia-Romagna. "Scared? I’d say petrified by this nothingness that can kill you. It’s now one year since the dance studios closed. I hope that everything gets back to normality because I want to believe."

Leila, 20. Having her three dogs allowed her to get out a little more during lockdown, sometimes with the added pleasure of coming across a neighbour and having a quick chat. That was how she found out about a volunteer service for taking shopping to those who can't leave the house or who aren't able to afford it. She discovered a world of distress and difficulty in Milan and she understood that, in her own small way, she could do something to help. And she's continued helping, even after the crisis.

Milan, a girl at the end of a demonstration to support the American “Black Lives Matter” (BLM) movement wearing a face mask during the Coronavirus emergency in Italy. Milan is one of the cities most affected by the Covid-19 emergency.

Remote learning. The Maxwell Institute, Milan. Napoleone D’Agostino teaches a lesson on Natural Sciences.

Michele (18), Skate park, Cesena, Emilia-Romagna. "This virus has changed everyone’s lives, stopping us from doing what we always did in order to be happy. Not being able to go out skating is destructive. I can no longer develop my passion like before, nor my relationships with friends."

Naples. Pio, who works as a volunteer for the Miniera Association, tidies up the public garden in the Quartieri Spagnoli area. Before the pandemic he worked as a chef's assistant for a restaurant chain operating in various cities throughout northern Italy. When the employees' salaries were reduced and the accommodation bonus was removed, he decided to return to Naples.

Margherita, 19, who was used to shooting around Milan on her moped, was forced to stay at home during the lockdown. After the frenzy of working out on her exercise mat with some apps, and many evenings spent playing games on Houseparty, she started reading: she devoured 18 books in just two months. She decided to completely change her degree and enrol for a sociology course, to move to Trento or Padua, and to dedicate her free time to volunteering.