I’ve read a lot from my UK friends about life during and after lockdown on Twitter and Facebook. Italy is slowly coming out of lockdown too. I decided it was time to do a post about what happened here in Italy.
In March Italy said “the country is going into lockdown” and they really meant it.
This post contains the “bad” and the “good” of lockdown. Please keep reading to the end, as I genuinely feel that something good has happened during the last few months.
Firstly, I’ll hold my hands up and admit I was wrong. When I first heard of the pandemic in China, I didn’t take it seriously. I thought it would burn itself out, like SARS and bird flu had in the past. However, the numbers began to rise, and then it hit Italy, so it suddenly became very real.
Many of my UK friends told me that they looked forward to the times they could go out for a walk in the country or in a park. This was not allowed in Italy.
The lockdown started in the north of Italy around 21st February and was then extended to the whole of Italy on 9th March.
This meant that we could not go more than 50 metres from our house unless we were shopping for food. You were also allowed to go out for “proven emergencies.” Every time you left your house you had to carry a fully completed “permit”. This showed your name, etc and the reason for going out.
In addition to carrying a permit, there were checkpoints to check that you were out for a valid reason. Every day we would also see army helicopters flying over our house and police on the street. As we live by the coast, we also saw navy gunships and submarines patrolling.
If you went out, masks and gloves were mandatory. No ifs, no buts. No exemptions. Daily exercise wasn’t allowed like in the UK. You were completely confined to your apartment.
Italy is normally known for ignoring anyone in authority. However, surprisingly, they accepted these rules. Complete, total and utter obedience. Streets were deserted. The usual chatter and pace of life gone. Apart from the odd noise, all was silent in our local town.
The lockdown also restricted travel to that necessary for work. So overnight we had to become experts in online teaching. Our apartment had to be reorganised to accommodate a home office.
We were placed on furlough like in England. However, Italy is justifiably famous for its bureaucracy. It decided that instead of one department dealing with it, they would use several. This meant that the application went to the local regional government, then to the department of employment. Once approved, it was then returned to the local government to be paid. This has meant that next week I will finally receive my pay for March and April. Three months late.
Life In The Red Zone
We slowly adjusted to the new “normal.” However, on 28th March, things became even worse. Around 8pm, we heard continual police sirens and instructions being issued through loudhailers. The instructions were to clear the streets and to stay indoors.
You can see our Facebook video of what happened by clicking here.
What we didn’t know at that point was that some idiot from Lombardy who was positive for Coronavirus had travelled here. He decided it was a good idea to stay with his family and infected them. He then went to visit his grandparent in the local care home and infected her and many other residents too. Several people died.
This meant that we were now a “red zone.” More restrictions. Only one person could go shopping. Large queues at food shops and supermarkets. Further restrictions on your movements.
All because one person felt that the rules did not apply to them.
Life After Lockdown
Bars and restaurants were finally allowed to reopen on 18th May but with strict safety guidelines. Masks are still mandatory if you are less than 1 metre apart. Masks are mandatory if you use public transport, visit the supermarket, or any other shops. Only very recently have we been able to travel between different regions.
People are still being very sensible. The streets are quieter than they were before lockdown. People are still adhering to social distancing on the beach. The traditional Italian greeting of a kiss on both cheeks has been replaced by an “elbow bump.”
Finally The Good Things …
I genuinely believe that something good has come out of all of this. Some of it has shown why I love this country and the people. It has also made me reassess my life.
The family we rent our apartment from live downstairs. During the lockdown we were helping each other out with shopping, and checking we were all ok. They would bring meals to us on a regular basis in case we hadn’t been able to go to the supermarket.
During the lockdown Andrea Bocelli the blind Italian opera singer, songwriter, tenor and record producer did a live concert from a deserted Duomo in Milan. Watching a blind man walking down the aisle to go outside to deliver the most beautiful version of “Amazing Grace” still brings tears to my eyes. If you haven’t seen it, click here to view it on his YouTube channel.
People sang to each other across the empty squares, keeping their windows open so that those who were alone could hear the sounds of family around them.
It also showed how little control we have when things go wrong, and the saying “take time to smell the roses” was true. We both became closer, and appreciated what we had and not what we wanted. The songs of the birds were louder during the silence. The air is definitely cleaner. The sea is an even more vivid blue. The local people are even more helpful and affectionate than before.
So, people of England, please remember your death toll is larger than ours. Wear a mask, unless you have a valid medical reason why you can’t. It’s not an erosion of your civil liberties. It’s a matter of life and death. Literally.