Girl in Florence

A Tuscan Texan immersed in Florentine life

40 incredible photos of Annie Ojile’s Rome


When I think about one activity that I can always recommend in good faith and personally use when family/friends visit Italy – what comes to mind is Scooteroma Tours and their fabulous fleet of Vespa-driving Romans, often with a blond Minnesotan capitana Annie leading the way.

Just last summer Nico and I took his niece, nephew and dad on a Vespa and Ape tour adventure through the bewitching Roman capital, wind flipping around our hair as we laughed about the weather changing in a blink of an eye. Even today, they can’t stop talking about this day and for Christmas we made a photobook of the trip with the kids smiling ear-to-ear on the cover, perched on the Ape parked on Rome’s Aventine Hill.

Far from being solely a business contact, I’ve known Annie for a number of years and she’s become a good friend exuding so much vibrant energy you wonder just how she does it. Case in point: every single time we walk into one of her favorite haunts near Piazza Navona whomever was working would stop what they were doing to hug and catch up with Annie, warmth radiating from every corner. This is not someone who came to Italy to find themselves and observe locals with piqued curiosity from their privileged perch but a person who has fully immersed herself in every possible way.  

She’s also the type of person who doesn’t shy to hard work and long hours, but always sets aside time to lend a friendly ear. I for one, can appreciate that, and even more so during these past few years when I’ve only had the energy to keep close relationships with people with whom I can live in a judgement free, completely open zone.

Now, like so many others, it is a difficult period for her as tourism is all but a memory at this point. I asked her to share more about her work and how it was affected by this current pandemic and life under lockdown in Rome, along with her original photography taken during these difficult days


I am an American living in Rome for the last 15 years. I own a tour company that focuses on private experiences in Rome & beyond. We are known for our Vespa tours of Rome but at the end of February our fleet of wheels came to a screeching halt. 

On Sunday February 23rd, the world news began reporting the unfiltered reality of what was happening in Northern Italy. All of us in tourism immediately felt the impending doom of what was to come. 

Or shall I say what was not to come.

Not a tourist in sight and three months later it is still the status quo. By the next morning our inboxes were overflowing with concerning emails from clients asking about the Coronavirus situation and if they should cancel their future Roman Holidays.  

I’ll be honest it was a very tough question to answer since our clients’ safety is our number 1 priority on and off the road. In the two weeks that followed I created and exhausted Plan A to Plan F in trying to save my business when eventually I finally stopped and surrendered to the situation.  

Now 3 months later, nearly all of our reservations for the 2020 season have been cancelled. Even though this is the reality, we know our Squad has only been curbed not cancelled. We look towards the future with hope and trust that Rome will rise again exactly how it has so many times over the centuries! 

The first week of quarantine I was exhausted from previously working 12 hours a day fielding COVID-19 defense. By the second week, all of us in Italy began to settle into our new reality of staying home with all options being cleared from the slate. Italy’s new anthem ‘tutto andrà bene’ – ‘everything will be okay’ was born and we collectively had one goal; stay home, stay safe. After the United States and my family transitioned into this identical world there was a palpable silence that became my constant companion during my solo quarantine.

I told myself repeatedly every single day… you do not have to be an overachiever in lockdown. You do what you can and if some days you can’t do anything at all, that’s okay too. 

After a month of lockdown, I grabbed my ‘real camera’ as I like to call it and brought it with me to the pharmacy. And that’s all it took because I quickly became very passionate about photographing everyday life in Rome during the times of Coronavirus. 

I would look out through my lens to capture empty squares and lonely alleyways lined with closed cafés and restaurants and could think of only one daunting question…  

When will the tourists return? 

I began to bring my camera with me religiously as I went on my essential errands to the grocery store, butcher, pharmacy and post office. I’m so very lucky that Piazza Navona is in my backyard and my grocery store is just around the corner from the Pantheon for it made these banal errands that more exciting.  

I snapped no glamour shots of the Trevi fountain nor the Colosseum because these famous sites were certainly located outside the 200-meter limit from my house. 

Hindsight is 2020 and I now realize that one of the reasons I was so committed to completing this photo series was that it had a beginning, a middle and an end. There was no limbo compared to my business and how my future life will be.

Limbo that I think many people around the world are feeling and even now in Italy as it slowly begins opening up during Phase 2. 

I have chosen 40 photos of the people, places and things I encountered during these coveted errands, at times these errands were my catalyst to leave the house. Not necessarily one photo for each day but instead a total of 40 images. 

Perhaps you know that the word quarantine originates from the Italian word “quarantena” from the Venetian language, meaning “forty days”. This referred to the 40-day isolation of ships and people practised as a measure of disease prevention related to the plague.

These 40 days turned into 50 and then 60 and now in some ways we are still counting. Waiting, hoping and praying. Much like my business, Rome has only been curbed not cancelled and will rise again even stronger, more beautiful than before.

I asked Annie if she was ok with people printing her pictures and using them as prints for their home (as I definitely will do) which she gave the green light.

Save these photos and let them bring you closer to Italy when you can’t physically visit. To share (you can tag @scooteromatours on IG/Facebook or Twitter and if you want to help her out during this difficult period you can donate to her PayPal account [email protected]

Annie’s backyard… a very rare empty Piazza Navona.
A classic Fiat 500 with a twist
The postman
Via Dell’Orso, the street where Annie lives.
A slow reopening
Masked residents
Waiting in line for the butcher.
Errand duty
Essential workers
Delivering groceries
A hint of the photographer
Outdoor market adapting to the new rules in Piazza delle Coppelle. 
Annie made friends with Marco and his pug Sofia waiting in line for over an hour at the Post Office.
Shopping district near the Spanish Steps left completely empty.
Bars shut during lockdown
A kiosk sitting empty
Merchandise staying the same as season’s change
A surreal and empty road leading to the Spanish Steps
Abandoned but not forgotten
Stores shutting down because of the lockdown
Trash left on the streets
A cyclist riding past the Pantheon
Shadow and light
Social distancing
The everything store
Cleaning products on display
Abandoned restaurants in the centre of Rome, once packed with tourists.
One of my favorite pictures of Annie’s series. 
Feet on ancient ground
A closed down cafe
Newspaper kiosk in central Rome
Wine seller in Rome
The pharmacist
Social distancing measures taken at local shops
Masked during lockdown
Lines drawn out to show people where to stand safely while waiting for the pharmacy
Roman streets
The “new” normal – instructions for safety
Scooters used sparingly


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6 Responses

  1. Grazie mille Georgette for sharing this time in my life and sharing my lockdown photos. It means so much to me!

    1. Thank YOU. These photos took my breath away, you are so talented. I look forward to when we can see each other in person and toast to better times.

  2. Haunting, beautiful and touching diary of Rome under siege. Temporarily bowed. Never broken.

  3. I know my words may sound strange now, but I remember before the lockdown there was a problem called ‘overtourism’. I fear that when this crisis ends, the problem will return worse than before. Due to the economic crisis, people will be definitively expelled from the historical centers of many Italian cities. These historic centers will finally become theme parks.

    it’s a pity but I think it will be inevitable.

  4. So surreal…. I was still planning out our trip to Rome in February when my friends told me what was happening there. Now we feel like we’re living in their wake, and so happy to see Italians coming out and hoping everything goes smoothly as Italy reopens. Now more than ever-I feel like I should be there. Haunting photos of Rome -so strange to see! I have photos from different cities in Italy taken from my friends-it’s crazy.

Georgette Jupe

Welcome to my personal blog by a curious American girl living and working between Zug, Switzerland and Florence, Italy with my husband Nico, our newborn Annabelle and Ginger the beagle. This space is primarily to share about my love for Italy (currently on a 13 year romance) with a fair amount of real talk, practical advice, travel suggestions and adjusting to a new culture (Switzerland). Find me on IG @girlinflorence @girlinzug

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