More than a week ago, I reached out to my relatives and friends in Italy to find out how they’ve been dealing with the national lockdown to control the spread of Covid-19 from the coronavirus. They seemed to be handling it all with grit and patience, making jokes about how clean their houses are and lamenting not being able to get adequate exercise.
Now they’re in day 18 of the quarantine and I went back to them this week. One thing’s for certain, the photo of the military caravan in Bergamo carrying coffins of people who have died from the virus sent shockwaves throughout the country. Because of that image, “no one wants to sing from balconies anymore, out of respect,” said my friend Elettra, who lives in Siena.
In Milan, my cousin Elena said the days go by equally. “We have to stop for a moment to remember what day of the week it is,” she said. “And we try to organize the day in a way to be more or less busy.”
The fact that everything is closed and deserted, to be able to go out just for shopping and having to avoid any contact is tough. “We miss very much not seeing our friends, family. We miss the air.”
Also in Milan, my friend Rachael’s company has decided to shut down its operations temporarily. “I’ve been cooking a lot and doing home workouts,” she said. “I’ve been ordering things from Amazon and trying to limit the number of times I go to the grocery. I used to go every day or every other day Now I’m going once a week.”
As if the lockdown and the restrictions weren’t enough, it snowed this week in Bologna. “Today, in particular, I feel like I’m on another planet,” said my friend Paola. “It’s March 26, it’s snowing and it’s really cold, after a winter that seemed like an extended spring. The gray sky gets me down, especially when I think (and I am convinced) that all of this will not end on April 2, as they speculated. But it will continue until who knows when.”
She spends a lot of time with her mother, who lives in the apartment one floor below. “I listen to her stories of her life as a young girl in the countryside and during the war,” Paola said.
Elettra, from Siena, said morale is just low. “Many friends and relatives are sad. A lot don’t know if they will be able to continue their jobs. Everything’s in silence. Every now and then you hear an ambulance or helicopter or a drone that they control.”
In Naples, my friend Antonio said people are home, the numbers of those infected are climbing and there are still shortages of masks and respirators. “In the hospitals, they are living through dramatic situations. But in spite of everything, we are confident.”
He praised the actions and the leadership of the president of Campania, Vincent De Luca. “The measures of De Luca are often copied by the central government,” he said. “If we are to beat the virus, it will be a battle to relaunch the economy. The mood for now is good but the fatigue is behind closed doors.”
My cousins in the town of Grotte, in Sicily, are doing what they need to do but it’s not been that easy. “We are slowly suffering because to be permanently at home without being able to take in the air from the sea or to take a walk is truly difficult,” said my cousin Claudia. “But we are starting to get used to it, to live our daily lives without too many demands.”
She’s exercising daily, studying, following the online lessons, reading, writing and “I try to not eat out of boredom.”