Located approximately forty minutes away from Bologna in the Emilia Romagna region, our town is nearing the end of its first week of government ordered quarantine in Italy during the coronavirus. About three weeks left to go I think to myself… hopefully that’s it. Theories of warm weather helping to contain covid-19 are a beacon of hope amidst the sea of articles circulating social media describing the doctors in Lombardia, the worst hit region, having to pick and choose between who lives and dies. Anxiety about how to keep busy never enters my mind. I have a 13 month old whose discovered the joys of walking two weeks ago.
Living in Italy Under Quarantine During Coronavirus
To be honest, our town of 60,000 people although located in one of the worst hit regions in the North, felt somewhat sheltered from the coronavirus. The first case was only announced last week and to date, as far as I know, only a few others have popped up but were swiftly addressed. The statistics nerd in me knows the number of infected with the virus are probably much higher but not exhibiting symptoms.
Videos of twenty somethings in Naples hitting the bars (pre full lockdown mode) rebelling against the government mandate annoy me. But I think to myself, this isn’t China, and this behavior would exist in any modern democracy today. Controlled quarantines are tough. I imagine a “lockdown” being imposed in the U.S. …I can just picture it now, pockets of gun loving idiots screaming about martial law with zero ability to think about the greater good or their fellow elderly citizens.
I am in favor of Giuseppe Conte’s decision to close all cafes, restaurants and retail spaces, it seems necessary given the magnitude of what’s happening. Emails from friends and acquaintances in New York and Dubai flood my inbox asking whether there are military trucks and soldiers on the streets. “No there is nothing like that” I reply. “We’re supposed to carry identification, stay three feet apart from eachother and not leave town”. Some of them write me daily and genuinely care. The other assholes haven’t even congratulated me on the birth of my son but all of a sudden care about how I’m doing in the time of Coronavirus. Sure. “You must be so freaked out” they write. But I’m not.
I’ve read all the stats to date on the novel Coronavirus. I know that myself, my husband, my child will most likely be fine. I do worry about my husband’s parents who are in their mid 70s and maybe not in perfect health and for the elder members in my own family. I worry about the overburdened healthcare system and selfishly think about if one of us has a medical emergency, whether we would get treatment. But that is going to soon be the situation for many back home, whether it’s one or three weeks away. They have been deluded for years into thinking that the US healthcare system is the best in the world, I once thought that too. I am relieved my husband is a native of a country where universal healthcare is the norm. Any hospital system would be overcapacity in a situation like this.
New Yorker Under Quarantine in Italy
For now, the New Yorker in me has kept a tiny suitcase full of tuna, chickpeas, pasta, baby formula, shelf milk and peanuts (and some chocolate) in the back closet apart from our regular quarantine supply, even though supermarket shelves have been quickly restocked whenever low. I haven’t really done any panic buying, more like a small steady stream. I take extra solace in the fact that we have a 110 pound guard dog, an indigenous Maremmano, living with us in case anything goes awry. At the moment, he mostly lazes around and naps on a double cushioned plush bed made for dogs with arthritic elbows.
The people in our town have been incredibly civil. No pushing or shoving at the supermarkets, no major panic that I can see. They are confident in their health system and government to do what’s right, even as case numbers and the death toll continue to rise. When is the peak we all wonder. Quarantine and staying home doesn’t bother them as much I believe. There is a slower pace of life here anyway. I cast CNN and ABC News on our Google Chromecast (Fox News never even a consideration) for a few and I think, screw this… a vortex of panic. I keep away from the TV and urge my Dad in the States to do the same. Nothing of value can be learned there that can’t be found out from a quick read of a newspaper.
Italian Mindset Under Quarantine
Instead I turn to my WhatsApp group of about thirty women here in Italy …a fantastic and helpful group of ladies, some english speaking locals and the rest expats here on a short and long term basis from different parts of Europe and the States who live minutes away. Apart from my husband and own family and friends, they have been my saving grace over the last year as a new mom in a country where I am no where near close to mastering the language. F*ck, I barely know English. I feel like I’ve hit the expat jackpot, mostly like minded Moms and well traveled calm spirits who love having aperitivo get togethers in the town centro. One of them is a doc on the front lines who we try to give daily praise to in one of the smaller group chats. I know she is stressed and worried, and has a daughter close to the same age as my son. She is also a source of real news that I pay attention to.
I learn from the bigger group chat this morning about two quasi ‘flash mobs’, one scheduled for this evening and the other for tomorrow afternoon. The whole of Italy is meant to play a musical instrument on their balcony to show their solidarity. I’m meant to look up a good video platform so we can take part in a virtual aperitivo next week. This is what it’s like to live under quarantine in Italy during the thick of it. Yes, there is an air of worry and concern but also an optimism that I take comfort in. Signs and posts saying “Andrá tutto bene” are everywhere. Translated: Everything Will be Fine.
Ask me where I’d rather be during the Coronavirus pandemic. Nowhere else. Viva l’Italia. #iorestoacasa