Duo's extended stay in New Castle continues

New Castle native Leanne Borrelli and her 4-year-old son, Luca, have been unable to return to their home in Italy because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Maybe the third time will be Leanne Borrelli's charm.

A native of New Castle now living in Italy, Borrelli and her husband Leonardo Mazzero along with their 4-year-old son Luca arrived in Lawrence County on Feb. 11 to attend her father Vincent's funeral. While Mazzero was able to return home to Solighetto on Feb. 15, Borrelli and Luca planned to stay a little longer to help her mother, Eileen.

When the worldwide coronavirus pandemic made their early March travel inadvisable, Borrelli delayed the trip, hoping to return to Europe this weekend. The continued crisis, along with a canceled flight, postponed those plans.

"Right now, it seems like it would be like flying into a war zone with a 4-year-old," Borrelli said, adding that staying in the United States allows Luca the freedom to play outside, something that is currently banned at home.

"In Italy, people are only allowed to go for a short walk if it's with their dog," she said. "We don't have a dog, but we're hearing that people are renting out their dogs.

"Of course, we'd like to get home, but we're going to wait it out here until the situation gets better both in Italy and the U.S. Realistically, I think it will be early June," continued Borrelli, expressing gratitude that no relatives or friends in either country have contracted COVID-19. 

"We'll keep watching for the window of opportunity (to return)," she said.

Until that happens, the duo remains busy. 

Having already reworked her self-published children's picture book "Once Upon a Time in a Universe" to include a tribute to her father, Borrelli also established a Facebook fundraiser for Luca's preschool where she teaches English. The recently ended Rainbows for Solighetto campaign raised about $2,500, which Borelli said will be used toward the facility's rent.

It was her work at the school that gave Borrelli her next project idea – videotaped English lessons posted to YouTube.

"In talking with some of the parents, they were feeling frustrated, stressed," Borrelli said. "So, I offered to do some lessons for them to show their children at home. It gave them something kind of fun to do and it let them see Luca.

"Luca loves 'Ryan's World,' so when I told him he'd be just like Ryan, he had stars in his eyes," Borrelli said, referring to the popular children's YouTube channel.

Showing the videos to her family, she also learned that the short films work in reverse, teaching English speakers some Italian.

"It's fun, and maybe a bit more educational than a lot of the things we're watching," Borrelli said.

As for Luca, when he's not starring in his mom's videos, which can be found on YouTube by searching "Leanne Borrelli," he's busy playing in his grandma's large yard.

"I don't even think he's noticed how long we've been gone," Borrelli said of her son who proudly displays his "permission to drive" license made by his grandma as he tools around on a battery-operated Jeep. "I'm glad he's had this time to learn to enjoy the simple things."


Renee Gendreau is a lifestyles reporter at the New Castle News. Email her at rgendreau@ncnewsonline.com.

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