Since my post of two weeks ago, much has changed here in Italy. Stricter measures and directives have been imposed on residents regarding COVID-19 containment not only in Lombardy but in ALL OF ITALY.
(March 18, 2020) With the new Shelter in Place directives being instated across America and other parts of the world from the UK to South Africa, I have been getting lots of messages with questions about what is it like living in lockdown?
Italy remains optimistic. We’ve all seen the videos of entire neighborhoods singing and you see posters made by children posted around town, with the slogan Andrà tutto bene– everything will be ok.
Here in Italy the lockdown means staying home, not going out, period.
All theatres, shops and businesses are closed, even factories are closing. The only businesses open are grocery and food stores (bread shops, delis, take away restaurants), supermarkets, tobacconists and pharmacies.
To move around town you need a self-certified declaration stating that you are aware of the situation and that you are not ill or have been diagnosed with COVID-19 and you must have a good reason to be out. Good reasons include work, health (doctor or pharmacy visit), getting food/supplies, or urgent matters. Click here to see the certificate.
People who have dogs can go out for a walk but it is important to stay near your home. You do see people out jogging but it’s discouraged. If you are stopped, you can be fined or even jailed.
I wouldn’t exactly call it martial law, but it is a bit disconcerting to see police road blocks. (image above, a police check-point at the Ponte Azzone Visoconti bridge, Lecco)
One of the reasons these types of measures had to be imposed was because many were not following the original directives. They said don’t go out, yet people were still going out for pizza night as usual. They said school is closed, so people went to ski resorts and packed onto the cable cars and ski lifts. The problem can’t be blamed on them, but it certainly didn’t help.
Italians are known for their “creative” ways of bending the rules (just look at the cars parked on the sidewalks) but in this case where people’s health and even their lives are concerned, the authorities had to take drastic measures.
At first the sanctions were only in Lombardy and a few regions where the virus was spreading but as of Monday March 9, 2020 the directives were extended to all of Italy.
People living and working far from home rushed to the nearest train station in fear that all transport would be stopped. Train frequency has been reduced but not discontinued. The governor of Puglia mandated that anyone arriving from the north would have to stay in self-quarantine for 15 days or risk fines or jail. Authorities in mountain resort areas such as Alto Adige “invited” non-residents to return home.
I am here at my home and staying in – everything is OK. I and my family are healthy. Although many may find it boring to stay home or find it difficult to manage their time working from home, I am quite used to it.
Apart from the Business English courses that usually call me out to local companies of the area, I’m still working on translations, writing and my blog. I have even found a way to license my photos online (more to come in the near future).
To answer some of the questions that have come in preparation for Shelter in Place, here are some of my answers to:
What is it like living in lockdown?
I do not have children or sick elderly relatives to care for, but for those of you who do, take extra precautions to keep them safe.
Living in lockdown has its drawbacks and benefits, here are some of my personal insights and experiences:
Lockdown drawback: Being Isolated from others. I enjoy my private time, but I also like socializing. I miss my weekly prayer meetings and going out for walks.
My friends with children are homeschooling their kids and dealing with the daily hair-pulling, fighting for the game controls and general chaos of having kids in the house all day.
Lockdown benefit: I feel fortunate. Just weeks ago we were watching Australian families forced to move out of their homes because of the disastrous fires.
People complain, but when you think about it, we are being asked to stay home with tv, internet, a full fridge and spend time with our families. It’s important to stay safe and healthy.
Working from home
Lockdown drawback: Although I can do some work, with the new climate of economic uncertainty, the clients I usually work with on a freelance basis have put some of their projects on hold.
Lockdown benefit: Without having to keep deadlines and appointments, I have time to study and improve my skills. During the Black Friday sale last November, I registered for three courses on Udemy and I am finally doing them now.
Lockdown drawback: I like going to the gym and I follow a Pilates course twice a week. I try to do what I remember or follow a Youtube video but it’s not the same.Walks and jogging are discouraged by the directives.
Lockdown benefit: I am dedicating more time to meditation and spiritual practice.
Lockdown drawback: Ever have that day you just feel like going for sushi? Can’t do that easily. Restaurants are closed, there are however a few operating only offering delivery services. If I really wanted something, I could order it but I would feel terrible about making the delivery person go out!
I did a lot of grocery shopping before the rush. I thought of going to the bigger store and turned back when I saw a line of people way out to the parking garage. Everyone had to stay 5 feet apart and they only let one person per shopping cart in at a time and only when someone exited.
Lockdown benefit: My aunt wrote to me “Now you can use all your cooking skills!” I love eating but I confess, I am not such a great cook. I know how to make a handful of recipes and have been doing well. I’ve been eating healthily and I’m not going out for afternoon snack breaks or aperitivo happy hours.
I went early this morning to a small grocery store. Walking to the town mini-market with my “granny cart”, I got some exercise, fresh air and my groceries. At 8:30 am, there were no lines to get in. In fact, there were more employees than customers. I was able to stock up for a few more days. All OK.
Lockdown drawback: I like going to events, exhibits and museums. They are all closed now. I am a guide at The San Nicolò Bell Tower in Lecco and all visits have been suspended. I think I miss that the most.
Lockdown benefit: I am studying. To be a guide at the bell tower there is so much to remember. I am learning so much about the tower and the city’s history.
I have discovered virtual museum tours on Google Arts & Culture Project. You can do a virtual tour of hundreds of museums throughout the world – and it’s FREE.
Lockdown drawback: The news reports it 24 hours a day. People have taken to social media and are posting about Coronavirus left and right. It’s becoming unbearable!
Because of the lockdown we are more isolated than usual especially those who live alone or the elderly.
The economy will be damaged. Small business owners will struggle.
Travel is and will remain suspended for months. The Italy travel industry is one of the country’s driving forces. It has already suffered significant loss.
Lockdown benefit: Maybe we will all learn to slow down.
I have seen an increased appreciation for medical professionals, especially nurses, who are often underrated.
Neighborhoods of people are singing and dancing out on their balconies. Ironically, confinement seems to be creating a new sense of solidarity.
Below, Naples singing: @mmarrucco via twitter.
Napoli non morirà mai 💙 pic.twitter.com/JjcAd7ePZQ— Massimo Marrucco (@MMarrucco) March 13, 2020
All in all, here in Italy we are quite lucky. The health care system is of excellent quality, and the authorities have stepped up to take action to safeguard the public; exactly what every citizen hopes their legislators will do.
I am hoping we will come to the realization that we are all inter-connected, not just here in Italy, but throughout the world.
My actions affect others and the actions of others affect me.
Feel free to write if you have any other questions and I will do my best to answer and share my personal experience.