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Sitting at her table alone - and dead for 2 years

ROME (AFP) – Italian police have discovered the mummified remains of a 70-year-old woman sitting at a table in her house more than two years after she died, prompting calls for better elder care in the country.

The body of Marinella Beretta, who had no living relatives, was found in Prestino, near Lake Como, an area of great natural beauty 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 more than two years, according to Italian media reports.

They assumed she had moved away when the coronavirus pandemic started. Covid-19 hit the region in early 2020.

Police found nothing at the scene to suggest foul play.

“What happened to Marinella Beretta in Como, the forgotten loneliness, hurts our consciences,” Family Minister Elena Bonetti said on Facebook.

Nearly 40 per cent 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.

Ms Beretta was “loneliness personified”, wrote editorialist 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.”

The local council was expected to pay for Ms Beretta’s funeral and burial.

“The mystery of Marinella’s invisible life behind the closed gate of her cottage teaches us a terrible lesson,” the Messaggero daily 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.”

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