'I'm sorry, Mum': Italian launches billboard campaign after being blocked from burying his mother

Nick Squires
·2 min read
'I'm sorry Mum that I haven't been able to have you buried' say the giant billboards that have appeared in Rome - AFP
'I'm sorry Mum that I haven't been able to have you buried' say the giant billboards that have appeared in Rome - AFP

An Italian who has been unable to bury his dead mother in Rome because the city’s cemeteries are overwhelmed with coffins has put up huge billboards to try to shame officials into urgent action.

The giant billboards, which have appeared around the capital, read: “I’m sorry Mum that I have not been able to have you buried.”

They are signed by Oberdan Zuccaroli, who said his 85-year-old mother had died of a heart attack in early March and still had not been buried. His aunt also remains unburied after dying in early January, he said.

Mr Zuccaroli runs a billboard company and plans to put up dozens more of the protest posters.

Watch: Updated Kristin Smart billboard now visible in Arroyo Grande

Years of bad management and dwindling space in Rome’s cemeteries have been compounded by the high death toll from Covid-19, which is still killing hundreds of Italians a day, most of them elderly.

At one of the capital’s main cemeteries, Prima Porta, there is a backlog of around 2,000 unburied coffins. The cemetery this week stopped accepting coffins for cremation because of the overload.

“It’s a totally unacceptable situation,” Alessandro Bosi, the secretary-general of Italy’s national federation of undertakers, told La Repubblica newspaper. “There are 2,000 caskets waiting to be buried. What should we do, take them to the steps of the Town Hall in protest?” he said.

Federica Novelli, a 50-year-old teacher whose mother died in February, said the loss was made worse by the “anger and humiliation” caused by the lack of a proper burial.

During the first wave of the pandemic last spring, a convoy of army trucks took coffins away from overwhelmed cemeteries in the city of Bergamo - AP
During the first wave of the pandemic last spring, a convoy of army trucks took coffins away from overwhelmed cemeteries in the city of Bergamo - AP

Undertakers staged a protest on Friday a few hundred yards from the Renaissance-era Town Hall, saying it was outrageous that they were unable to consign coffins to burial and cremation.

A sign on the side of a vintage hearse read: “Forgive us, they are not allowing us to bury your loved ones.”

AMA, the municipal agency that manages cemeteries in Rome, said it was having to deal with a 30 per cent increase in deaths as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. It insisted that it was making every effort to free up space for burials.

Italy was the first Western country to be hit by Covid-19 and is still in the grip of the third wave of the pandemic, with around 300 to 400 people dying every day. The overall death toll is now more than 115,000.

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