Como mayor calls on residents to attend funeral as the "family" of woman whose death went unnoticed.
The macabre discovery of the remains of a 70-year-old woman seated at the kitchen table of her house more than two years after she died alone has prompted a debate in Italy about loneliness and care for older people living on their own.
The body of the woman was found on a chair at her home in Prestino, in the outskirts of Como, after firefighters arrived over concerns about trees falling in the garden during the recent high winds in the northern Lombardy region.
An investigation is underway into the death of the woman - identified by Italian media as Marinella Beretta - who allegedly has no living relatives and is believed to have died from natural causes, probably some time around the end of 2019.
Neighbours told reporters that they had not seen or heard from her in at least two and a half years, and had assumed she had moved away when the coronavirus pandemic first hit northern Italy.
The mayor of Como, Mario Landriscina, has appealed to the city's residents to give the woman a decent farewell as police continue to search for relatives, reports Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera.
"We must become her family and participate as much as possible in the funeral" - he said - "It must be a moment of reflection on an example of loneliness that must really lead us to improve and change certain dynamics."
No date has been set for the funeral whose costs will be covered by the municipality if no next of kin are found.
Landriscina said that authorities must first "be certain there really are no relatives" as well ascertaining the woman's religious beliefs and respecting any final wishes.
Describing it as "a painful, bitter story", the mayor said: "It is a tragedy that occurred in a context complicated by the pandemic... Who knows how much this woman suffered."
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Italy shocked by discovery of woman two years after she died alone
Prestino, 22100 Como CO, Italy