For most of us, the pandemic has meant enforced solitude. But for others, it’s been the chance to go searching for that solitude. And where better to do so than in the Arctic Circle? In fact, Valentina Miozzo went one step further. She moved to the far north of Norway — within the Arctic Circle — not just mid-pandemic, but just as the 24-hour polar nights were on the horizon. It was a baptism of fire, but one she took to, CNN has reported.
“December and January were two months of just darkness," she says.
Miozzo, from the northern Italian region of Emilia Romagna, had seen her life overturned by the pandemic.
A nature and walking guide, who accompanied Italians on trips abroad, she blogged about sustainable travel in Italy on the side, running popular blog Viaggiare Libera. "Everything was concentrated on tourism," she says. "My life was always spent on the road — I was away from home about six months a year.”
Until the pandemic hit. Like countless others in the travel industry, Miozzo's life came to a sharp halt.
Unable to guide, she continued blogging and doing promotional work online. But after Italy had gone through one of the world's harshest lockdowns, and emerged into summer 2020 with the virus seemingly under control, her feet were beginning to get itchy again.
So when she was approached via Instagram in September, with an offer to go to the Arctic Circle to run a guesthouse, she barely blinked. “Was I scared? No, I saw it as a beautiful opportunity to visit places I would maybe never have chosen off my own bat,” she says. “Since I couldn’t do my travelling work anymore, this was a way to travel and to live another reality — in a more static way, but in a part of the world I didn't know and was fascinated by.”
Within two days, she'd accepted; a month later, she was arriving in Kongsfjord, about 2,400 miles north of her former home near Modena in Italy. The differences couldn't be greater. Modena is a city of 185,000 known for its food, Michelin-starred food (Massimo Bottura is based there) and 12th-century cathedral.
Kongsfjord, on the other hand, has just 28 inhabitants and no medieval architecture.
"The nearest supermarket is 25 miles away," says Miozzo. "The closest hospital is nearly 200 miles, and the airport -- obviously it's a tiny, local one -- is 25 miles. "In winter, there were 75 mph winds and ice everywhere, so it's hard to get around."
Residents venture out for their grocery shop every week or two -- as long as the roads are clear. The route to the airport and supermarket at Berlevåg is a winding, jack-knifing coastal road bordered by cliffs; in bad weather, it's impassable.