Following the previous post Timeline of Italy Coronavirus Lockdown, here is a quick overview of what life in Italy is like now after lockdown.
Statistics of new cases of Covid in Italy today have dropped drastically to under 1500 per day, a far cry from the peak on March 21, 2020 which reported 6,557 cases. People feel more comfortable going out and are returning to work and school.
Open the real time data chart to learn about cases of Covid-19 in Italy today. Source: Italy Department of Civil Defense
Today is September 17, 2020. Life is getting back to a new normal. I have been to the doctor, the dentist, on vacation at the beach and on a flight to the U.K. I’ve been to a wedding, a funeral and have led tours at the tower where I am a volunteer guide. It seems weird, but I am experiencing these routine activities for the first time after shelter in place and they all feel like new encounters.
In Italy, you must always wear a mask when in indoor, public places. When entering any public place, you will have your temperature taken with a digital, infrared thermometer. If you are outdoors and able to social distance, it is not obligatory to wear a mask, but if you are outdoors and social distancing is not possible, for example at a street market, you should wear a mask.
In the early days after lockdown lifted it was very awkward meeting friends. No one knew what the appropriate greeting was; an elbow bump, a fist bump, air kisses or just a wave. People are not really shaking hands, hugging, or even saying hello with the traditional double cheek kiss. I went to a wedding where everyone kissed the bride but not each other. I have also been to a funeral where people hugged and consoled the family members while keeping their masks on.
People want to follow the rules but also need the human contact.
I usually just wave “hi” or greet people Japanese style, hands clasped with a simple bow.
Discos and clubs are still closed at this time, and although I like to boogie, I do not miss being on a small dance floor shoulder to shoulder with strangers. I must admit, I am sensitive to being in any crowd, but more so now.
“Aperitivo” is happy hour in Italy. At first, pubs and cafes would ask if you were all from the same household. If not, they would sit you at separate tables but nearby each other. If there were only two of you, they would ask you to sit opposite each other at a diagonal to keep a safe distance from one another. The same at restaurants. Some places have added plexiglass partitions on or between tables.
The dentist’s office was pristine. The usual sofas in the waiting room were replaced with singular armchairs. Some had “do not sit” signs on them. There weren’t any newspapers or magazines and the coffee table had been removed. Hand sanitizing gel stations were at every doorway. I was asked to place my foot on a machine that wrapped and covered my shoes in plastic before entering the treatment room. The hygienist wore not only her usual gloves and mask but also a plastic face shield. Of course, during the visit I had to remove my mask.
At the hairdresser, both the stylist and the customer must wear a mask. It’s uncomfortable, but I really needed to get my hair done by a professional! The same at the manicurist, you need to keep your mask on.
Supermarkets did not close during lockdown but they were quite strict about how many people could enter at one time, they checked you had a mask, checked your temperature and distributed disposable gloves. During lockdown, people would line up outside supermarkets and load up on groceries as if a hurricane were coming. Now, supermarkets no longer check your temperature or distribute gloves, but they are available.
I recently visited an outlet shopping mall. It was good to see that all health and safety measures were being followed, but the mindless bubble of pleasure you get from roaming and browsing was burst each time someone stopped to check my temperature. I must have sanitized my hands 80 times that day!
The beach club
Filmed July 26, 2020
My friend was celebrating her birthday and we met for the day at a beach club on Lake Como. There were ten of us from four different families. The club was very accommodating; they gave us two big gazebos and all the sunbeds we needed. The children didn’t stay put but the adults all sat together under one gazebo. Lunch was outdoor dining and we all sat together at one table. Apart from our party, there were two groups of girls having bachelorette parties and a few couples who kept to themselves. At about 5 pm a party boat full of college students arrived. None of them had masks or kept any sort of social distancing. Soon after they arrived, we left the scene because it started feeling too crowded.
We had plans to visit Spain for our summer vacation but cancelled at the last minute. The government announced that re-entry to Italy would require testing and possibly a 14-day quarantine. The stress of worrying about additional lockdowns and restrictions discouraged us, and we decided to stay in Italy and visit Liguria. We traveled by car and stayed in a beachfront hotel that followed safety protocols. At the hotel, there was restaurant service, but no breakfast buffet which was disappointing as it is one of my favorite things about staying in a hotel. The beach club was set up nicely with sunbeds and umbrellas at a safe distance and restaurants in town were careful to follow the rules.
Coming soon: My vacation in Diano Marina, Ligura
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The airport and flight
I went to the U.K. for a weekend to visit family. There are no restrictions going to or coming from the U.K. so I felt safer in a sense. I was a bit concerned about being on the flight with so many people as I haven’t even been on local public transportation or trains since February!
The airport was not empty, but the lack of passengers was noticeable. Going through security was quicker than usual as was boarding even thought the flight was almost full. All passengers complied with the rules and wore masks during the flight. You could remove your mask only to eat or drink.
I do most of my work from home and this has not changed. I can still run my online business and the other projects I follow. In-person appointments have been replaced with video conferencing. Some of my friends are returning to the office for the first time after months of working from home. Some are happy about it because they like their office routine. Others have found they work better, are more productive and more relaxed working remotely. I also know a few people who work in companies which have downsized the corporate office spaces and have asked employees to work from home.
I am a volunteer guide at the San Nicolò Bell Tower in Lecco and the guided tours opened again in August. All staff members and all visitors must wear masks. Hand sanitizing stations are at entrances and we clean the banisters, railings and surfaces before each group enters.
Follow the Campanile di Lecco page on Instagram:
I am not qualified to comment on the socio-economic consequences the Covid-19 pandemic has had on Italy, but I do see that a lot of businesses have struggled, and families have suffered great loss.
Italy and its citizens set a global precedence by implementing such strict health and safety measures and have shown that it is possible to contain an outbreak of this scale as long as everyone complies.
I do hope that the hardest part is behind us, but I am also reassured that in the event of a new wave of Covid-19 cases, the correct measures and actions will be taken by the government and citizens.
We have to wear face coverings, sanitize our hands frequently and awkward social moments may now be part of everyday life, but all in all I feel like things have returned to normal, or at least a new normal.
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