Streets are empty, shops, public parks are closed. No one is around. Public tansports are empty. Spring is advancing, flowers are blossoming. Usually at this moment of the year bars and caffés are crowded by 6pm for the traditional “aperitivo” time, that is drinking something with friends before having dinner. But no. Now there is no need to look at the traffic lights while crossing the street: very few cars are around.
Since the spread of coronavirus, Milan, Italy’s economic beating heart, known for its crowd and frenetic life, for its lights and people, is in an unreal situation of calm and silence. The city and its region, Lombardia, are in the eye of the storm since the end of February. Now the whole country is locked down. According to the Legislative Decree of the 11th of March signed by prime minister Giuseppe Conte, who extended to the entire country what was initially thought only for Lombardia and other cities in the North. Italy is locked until the 25th of March, fighting thw worst of its wars since 1945 against an invisible enemy. Restrictive measures are: stop all to all shops such as hairdressers, cosmetics, canteen services, restaurants, bars. Newsstands, tobacconists, laundries, banking, insurance, postal services, factories, supermarkets and pharmacies remain open, provided that safety measures are complied with. “#iorestoacasa”, “I stay at home” is the main hashtag. It is used to help people to understand that staying at home is the only way to stop the virus from spreading the way it did so far.
From North to South, people’s life is at home. People work from home. Everyone is connected. If there is the need to go out to the supermarket or to the pharmacy, you need a self certification that proves the real need to go out. Otherwise severe fines are imposed. Policemen are in the streets. And in case you go to the supermarket, there is the line to do: 5 or 6 persons at a time, depending on how big or small is the supermarket. It happens therefore that to buy litte grocery takes you 2 or 3 hours. Time lapse has changed. Online ordering is very hard: everyone has ordered grocery online, and slots are over, therefore you might get at home your grocery shopping 3 weeks later. Better lining up for 3 hours. People are learning to wait and to be patient. No one controls time anymore. We are used to order something on our smartphone with a click and to receive it in the next few days. Not anymore. For now.
The week Italy turns 159 years old as a nation, no celebrations will take place. No parades, no ceremonies. Since the spread of coronavirus, life in Italy has changed.
But, as a young national state, compared to other European countries, Italy, who’s unification took place in 1861, is demonstrating a wide sense of unity, despite its young age. In these days a lot flash mobs are taking place. Through the internet, people date all together at 18 on their balconies and windows. One day it’s for claping hands honouring doctors and nurses for the great job they’re doing; another day is for singing popular Italian songs. Most of the times is to sing the national anthem “Fratelli d’Italia”, “Brothers of Italy”. It’s in this borthehood that pepole, from North to South, live this surreal situation, holding the Italian flag at the window. People are giving great examples of solidarity. Youngs often line up to the supermarkets for elderly and bring them home grocery shopping. In these days there has been a solidarity race: many businessmen from the industry or fashion donated large sums of money to hospitals in order to enhance structures and to buy masks, respirators and protection devices. Instruments that are lacking more and more.
Even if it’s forbidden to meet outside, people gather on wazap collective phone calls. Most of the time it happens at evenening, with a glass of wine or a homemade cocktail. People exchange a lot of jokes. For instance, one of the exceptions for wich you can go out is in case you have a dog. A lot of Italians have pets at home, who obviously need to go out. Only little and solitary walks are allowed. For those who don’t have dogs, the joke is that they ask their friends to lend them their dogs. The new idea of “dog sharing”.
The coronavirus emergency is the worst Italy has ever dealed with since the end of the war. The economic impact of this shutdown decree will be important, and the government is working on am econnomic decree to help factories, companies and economic activities. Our cities, usually full of tourists, are empty. And yet, except for Milan who’s beauty is its crowd, the rest of Italian hisorical citites look perhaps even more beautiful. In Venice, water in canals has never been so clean and transparent. Rome has never been so quite. It’s as if the time has stopped. Yes, time has stopped. All Italians hope that it’s a moment and that it won’t last too long. The most clicked hasthag is “#andràtuttobene”, “it’ll be fine”. We all wish it from the deepest part of our heart.