A completely empty San Marco Square is seen on March 9, 2020 in Venice, Italy. Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte announced a "national emergency" due to the coronavirus outbreak and imposed quarantines on the Lombardy and Veneto regions, which contain roughly a quarter of the country's population. Italy has the highest number of cases and fatalities in Europe. 
The movements in and out are allowed only for work reasons, health reasons proven by a medical certificate.The justifications for the movements needs to be certified with a self-declaration by filling in forms provided by the police forces in charge of the checks.
(Photo by Marco Di Lauro/Getty Images)
See life under lockdown in Italy
01:37 - Source: CNN

Editor’s Note: We are publishing personal essays from CNN’s global staff as they live and cover the story of Covid-19. Valentina Di Donato is a producer for CNN in Italy, living in Rome for more than six years.

Rome CNN  — 

Rome has given me so much. I came here for a two-year stay from Montclair, New Jersey, for a master’s degree. That was nearly seven years ago. I was bewitched by the Eternal City, and most of all by the man who is now my fiancé, Fabio.

Rome is the backdrop to our story – where we met and fell in love – so naturally, our wedding had to take place here. Our reception was to be at the 17th century Villa Aurelia, a few minutes south of the Vatican and across the Tiber River from the Colosseum. It’s a beautiful estate that even hosted Prince Harry and his wife Meghan, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, at a wedding for one of her friends last year.

Valentina Di Donato met her fiance in Rome.

Cocktail hour was to be in the lemon garden, with prosecco and Bellinis passed out to guests as they arrived through the wisteria-covered entrance. We had our menus created with all seasonal items for the month of May.

Planning an intercontinental wedding has been the most exciting part of my life, not only for me but also for my future mother-in-law and my own mother, who met my father in Rome in the 1980s.

So that was my future. But on March 10, as I analyzed Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte’s ordering of the lockdown to report on, two things struck me. As a journalist, I had spoken to enough medical experts to understand that the stringent policies would be the best way to contain the virus that has hit Italy so hard.

But as a bride-to-be, I realized that I wouldn’t have my wedding dress fitting that Friday – the day when we had planned to finally choose the lace. I texted my dressmaker Cinzia Ferri to say I wouldn’t see her and her Maltese dog, Emma, that week. And I began to fear that the wedding itself – just two months away – would have to be postponed.

Cinzia Ferri fits Valentina Di Donato for her wedding dress.

Italy has been the country hardest hit in Europe so far by the coronavirus. When it began to rip through the north and I was called to cover the news, Fabio and I were having a weekend in Florence. Since then, I’ve reported on the deadly pandemic daily from Venice to Florence to Rome, speaking to doctors on the front line, the virologists and the epidemiologists to get their take on new infections, when the curve would flatten, and who was most at risk.

I know the facts. I know that Italy having the second oldest population in the world makes it vulnerable. I also know that having an autoimmune disease myself, type 1 diabetes, makes me more at risk. This is the most personal of all stories to cover.

Valentina Di Donato wears a mask while on assignment to cover the outbreak of coronavirus in Venice.

My fiancé and I waited as long as we could to make a final decision about our wedding date, hoping things would get better, hoping that the numbers would change. But every day, as I followed the Civil Protection press conference at 6 p.m., we heard the numbers were increasing, the death toll rising.

Now we are facing what love in the time of coronavirus means for us.

Our family and friends around the world had booked and bought flights and hotel rooms months in advance. Now I was getting messages from New York City, from California, the UK and Brazil that followed the same script: How are you? And then, more anxiously, how are the wedding plans?

One of my bridesmaids works in a hospital and was told she would not be paid for her time off if she traveled to Italy during the lockdown and that she would have to be quarantined for 14 days upon her return.

Ferri crafted a mask from lace and backing for Di Donato to match her wedding dress.

The logistics of getting 150 guests from multiple countries to the same place on the same day is a challenge in the best of times. To scrap those plans and do it all a second time is a bride’s nightmare.

But every day at 6, as I’m watching that news conference updating the tragedies, Rome gives me something beautiful to restore me as Italians go out to their terraces to sing. Everyone sings something different, but it’s a moment of solidarity, it’s a moment to remember the resilience of the human spirit, and the howls of my beloved Italians make me feel like we can get through this.

Fabio and I made the decision to postpone our wedding to October. It’s the time of year we both moved to Rome from our home towns before we even knew one another existed. October – the month in which our lives separately began as adults. October – the month in which we will come together as a married couple.