Italian police have discovered the mummified remains of a 70-year-old woman sitting at a table more than two years after she died, prompting calls for better care for older people in the country.
Marinella Beretta, who had no living relatives, was found in her house in Prestino near Lake Como in northern Italy. Police stumbled upon her remains when they made a house call during high winds in Lombardy, which risked uprooting neglected trees in her garden.
She had not been seen by neighbours for at least two and a half years, according to Italian media reports.
“What happened to Marinella Beretta in Como, the forgotten loneliness, hurts our consciences,” the family minister, Elena Bonetti, said on Facebook. “We have a duty, as a community that wants to remain united, to remember her life … no one must be left alone.”
Nearly 40% of over-75-year-olds in Italy live alone, according to a 2018 report by the national statistics institute. The same number also said they had neither relatives nor friends to turn to in case of need.
Beretta was “loneliness personified”, wrote the journalist Massimo Gramellini on the front page of the Corriere della Sera, Italy’s biggest-selling daily. “Many of us still have memories of the chaotic, branched families of peasant Italy. Instead, the modern family is reduced … People die alone. And we live alone, which is almost worse.”
Her neighbours, who had not seen Beretta since September 2019, assumed she had moved away at the start of the coronavirus pandemic, which hit northern Italy in 2020, the reports said. Police found nothing at the scene to suggest foul play and the council was expected to pay for her funeral and burial.
“The mystery of Marinella’s invisible life behind the closed gate of her cottage teaches us a terrible lesson,” the Messaggero newspaper said. “The real sadness is not that the others did not notice her death. It is that they did not realise Marinella Beretta was alive.”