Well, this has been a very unusual month. We definitely did not expect this when we moved to Italy 15 months ago, but here we are.
The beginning of March was pretty much normal in Scalea, obviously in the north of Italy things had progressed quickly, but it felt that bit far away. Bars and restaurants were still open, we were still seeing our friends. In fact, it was our friend Denisa’s birthday so we went on a day trip locally ro Praia a Mare and had a meal at their home. We were mindful that this virus was spreading but it hadn’t reach Calabria… yet.
I looked at the figures increase daily and a few were diagnosed in Calabria by 8 March but that was in Reggio Calabria in the deep south. So, again it still felt a bit far away. I guess this was denial. Then it was leaked that the Italian government was going to lockdown the whole of Italy. So, a lot of people who originally come from the south and went to the north to find work, decided to head home. Or people who have holiday homes in the south were travelling there to get away. But this action was possibly spreading the virus. This started to feel wrong.
By midnight on 10 March, Italy went under a semi lockdown compared to now. We were meant to return to Rome on 13 March to watch the Six Nations rugby union match between Italy and England, obviously this was postponed with no idea when it will be played. At this point, it just felt like an inconvenience, we even thought we’d go to Rome anyway. Bars and restaurants were still open, but only from 6am until 6pm as long as we practised social distancing. So, we went to our local beach bar, Bar da Pietro to show our loyalty, little did we know it was our last drink there for a while. We discussed what we would do on Sunday as we go to Il Corsaro for dinner and thought about going at lunchtime, again to show loyalty and help in our own little way. Then on the night of the 11 March, it was announced that the whole of Italy was under a tighter lockdown. Only necessities are open, like food shops, supermarkets, banks and pharmacies. Bars, restaurants and others classed as non-necessities were now closed. Then it felt more serious and obviously the Rome trip was cancelled.
The question we are asked a lot is ‘What is it like being under lockdown?’ especially from people who are not long far from being under lockdown themselves.
At first as I have said, we thought it is just an inconvenience, a bit over the top, it is just like flu. Then the understanding and therefore the seriousness of it all sinks in. Then we had to sort out practicalities. We can only go out one at a time to basically go to the supermarket or pharmacy if needed. We must complete and sign a self-declaration form each time we venture out. That form, by the way, has changed five times in three weeks! If we ran or jogged for fitness, we could do this as long as we keep our distance. I think that has changed as too many people across Italy were going to parks and such like. Unfortunately, we do not own a pair of running shoes or trainers, so we cannot even pretend to go jogging or start the couch to 5k. If we had a dog, we could take it out for a walk but only metres from where we live, and again keeping our distance from others. We do not have a dog, so our only opportunity to go out for a walk is to shop for food. I guess they don’t really want us to go out every day and printing the declaration form to sign uses our limited supply of paper and printer ink. Now we each go out about one or twice a week.
More recently there have been further measures. There are barriers around Scalea to stop people in vehicles arriving and leaving the town on minor roads. I have seen them on a road that is on my way to the supermarket, but forgotten to take a photo. I will update next time I venture out. Not sure how it works if people work in another town, for deliveries or even for emergency vehicles though.
So, this has completely changed the way we live, our freedom is limited but it is for the greater good, just like most of the world now. We changed our attitude to material things, when we moved here anyway. Living on a limited budget made us realise what is important, food, shelter and warmth. But I do miss taking a walk on the beach and meeting with friends. It has taken a while to accept and get used it, but we have. We are doing what we are told to do. Luckily, we have our terrace so we can sit outside and see the world and a little garden to potter about. During the extra time, John has put up our old bar optics on our kitchen wall. We tried to recreate the bar we had in the UK outside but obviously that was a special place and cannot be replicated. I am baking a little more, but not too much as I don’t want to get huge, ha-ha.
We keep in touch with people by social media and phone calls etc. Also, our Italian language teacher is emailing us tasks to complete and return so we are still learning Italian. But this means we are not hearing it as much, so we listen to learning podcasts and watch Italian TV in the hope we understand something. I think we are very slowly getting better. Also, as our regular restaurant Il Corsaro is delivering pizzas, to show our loyalty we order pizzas now and then.
This is affecting others far more than us. There are people who are not earning anything nowor don’t even have a home to go to. Yes, it is usually quiet here at this time of year, but it is not as dead as it is now, and it is getting close to Easter. Easter is when things usually start to kick off. I really hope the government will bring out measures to keep everyone going. Only time will tell. I have read the food voucher system will be extended and there are boxes in the supermarket for food delivery to people struggling. We make sure we put something in when we shop.
This situation has also shown that Italians have resilience. It has been great to see the singing on the balconies, although not here as we live in a holiday home complex, so there is no one about. Also seeing the hashtags #iorestoacasa (I stay at home) #andratuttobene (everything will be ok) in social media to help build up morale. I think in the main, people doing what they are told but, there are always the few who don’t, and this reaches the press very quickly.
From where we are situated, we look over Scalea, so we notice how quiet it is now compared to before lockdown. There is usually a buzz from cars driving around or beeping their horns, people meeting and talking, walking and seeing people on the beach. Also, there are usually planes flying over us, but now there are far fewer. Now, during the day, the birds seem to sing more loudly, we hear neighbours talking in the distance, the sound of the sea, the sound of church bells across the town and fewer vehicles, mainly commercial. But unfortunately, there is still someone using a pneumatic drill type tool across the valley which has been going on for months, we have no idea how that building is still standing! Anyway, during the night it is quieter still, we just hear the brook at the bottom of the hill, the sea and a dog barking. Humans are pretty much silent. It is very eery. I posted a video of the night time on my instagram page.
What is also weird, is seeing how the UK and other countries are handling it from afar. We are about 2-3 weeks in front so I guess they can see what is happening here and adjust to fit them. Obviously, no one really knows what the best way is, as this is a completely new thing. The ‘experts’ are using computer modelling, programming and such like to decide what is best for them (hopefully). Viewing from afar and how it affects family and friends is very concerning. I guess history will say what the best plan was. But I hope they will explain the toilet roll hoarding thing, I have no idea about that one.
At time of writing, the measures in Italy are until 3 April, but no doubt it will be longer. As of 30 March, the daily number of new cases are decreasing but, there is still a way to go. On 31 March at 12pm there was a minute silence to remember those who have died. It is so sad that so many have lost their lives because of COVID-19. We must remember that this virus is killing people and it is serious. Life is different now and this change is saving people’s lives and that is all that matters.
The Italian government is issuing daily notices just after 6pm. If you are interested in what is happening in Italy regarding the new coronavirus or COVID-19, personally I think the best place is to look at official information on the Ministero della Salute (Ministry of Health) website http://www.salute.gov.it/nuovocoronavirus. I am trying not to read sensationalistic press coverage or conspiracy theories as I don’t see the point an can be very er… stressy if that is a word, but it can be really hard to avoid.
I also want to say thanks to everyone all over the world who are suddenly called keyworkers and are people who are not necessarily paid a lot and must work to keep everything moving. People from healthcare, police, fire, other emergency providers, carers, shops, factories, food producers and providers, transport whether commercial, public or other, IT sector people (imagine this without the internet)… The list is huge so I am sorry for not mentioning you, but you know who you are. So again… THANK YOU.
This is a different type of blog this month as we are not doing much but experiencing this lockdown. But we are all experiencing it all over the world in one way or another together, even though we are apart.
So that is it from me. All I can say is stay home as much as you can. Wash your hands every time you use them, especially after being outside. Don’t touch your face (I find this particularly difficult). Keep your distance from everyone outside of your household. Keep in contact with neighbours, friends and family. I wish you good health.
Until next time. Ciao