It seems like every day since Sunday, something has changed just a little in our little corner of the world. On Sunday, we went to our “Sunday bar” (remember a bar is kind of a cross between a coffee shop, a sandwich shop and a bar) for our breakfast. Sunday we were told that our province of Parma had been added to the “red zone”. That meant that were were not allow to travel out of our comune, and the bars and restaurants would only be open from 6:00-18:00. We went grocery shopping that day, and everything seemed mostly “normal”, except that we were asked to keep a one meter’s distance from other customers. The lines at the checkout were uncommonly orderly!
Monday we went to breakfast again, and then came home. By Tuesday, the “red zone” had been expanded to all of Italy. A number of local bars announced they would be closed until given the “all-clear”. Tuesday night, the government announced that ALL businesses of a non-urgent nature would close. Businesses that remain open are grocery, pharmacy, health & hygiene, some take-away food locations, medical, hardware, pet products and oddly perfume? To be fair, I have no idea what shops are actually open in town. Our little grocery store is straight down our street, and we have not wandered off from our direct destination.
By Wednesday we were experiencing a bit of cabin fever. It’s kind of odd, because we truly are home-bodies. I’ve worked from home for 26 years! However, just knowing that we can’t run down to the bar for our morning cappuccino, or head out at 6:30 pm for our traditional pre-dinner aperitivo has a certain sobering effect. So come Thursday, we were ready to do some shopping and get out of the apartment! Generally, here are the rules:
- Grocery shopping – we are to go to the store closest to home, but only when we need essential items (i.e., running down to the grocery store just to buy ice cream or candy would be frowned on – I know, ice cream is essential, but . . . .)
- Dealing with medical issues, including going to the pharmacy, doctors’ appointments, or caring for family members who are not self-sufficient.
- Walking pets, but only in the vicinity of your home
- Exercise, but maintaining a distance of at least a meter from others.
This last point seems to be an iffy one. Some areas report no problems with folks going for walks/runs/bike rides, and other areas are being more restrictive of having people out for any reasons other than just “getting essential business done”.
We are required to carry a self-certification form with us when we are out, declaring our reason for leaving our homes. We can be stopped by the authorities and asked to show the form, or otherwise explain our being out of our homes, and the police can provide this form to fill out if you have no access to one before you leave home. Again, some areas are monitoring these things more than others. It really depends on whether there are too many people out and suspected of not following the rules.
So, Thursday it was shopping day again. We walked the approximate 500 meters to our grocery store. There were no lines outside of the door. The shelves were well stocked, and nothing we wanted was unavailable (except cicioli, the Italian answer to American pork rinds, which have been out of stock for a couple of weeks!). The checkout line was orderly. All shopping carts keeping customers 1 meter apart. I noticed that they were doing some new things though. Around the cashiers’ booths, they were wrapping plastic wrap above the payment shelf, apparently to keep people from leaning in too closely to the cashiers. And while I was waiting to pay, the elderly woman in front of me turned around and walked back to me and thrust her “bollini” (the equivalent of green-stamps) into my hand. It’s hard to keep Italians, especially older Italians, from being demonstrably friendly and touchy!!
We are now reaching the end of our first week of isolation. Thankfully it has not yet affected us financially. Our means of income remains the same, mostly online consulting and ecommerce sales. That’s of course not the same for many small businesses and workers here in Italy. Bars are entirely closed. Restaurants can only provide delivery service, and many have decided to just close down for the duration. Toy stores, clothing stores, sporting goods stores, the drapery shop across the street. All closed. Offices are generally either closed, or most people are working from home. The people who continue to have their usual jobs are healthcare workers (often working longer hours, and even having tested for COVID-19), government workers (the trash collectors are still out every day), public service/police, workers in “essential stores” (food, pharmacy, banking, pets). Banks and insurance offices. Schools are generally continuing with online classes. Not having children in school here it’s difficult for me to judge how well the educational systems are doing, but it’s clear that everyone is learning how to do some “distance learning’, which could be a positive in all of this, improving the ways education is delivered even on a routine basis.
We miss our daily interactions with people on the street, in the bars, and in the shops. Although my husband and I are truly “online people”, we are feeling some loss at not being able to just stroll through our beautiful little town, greeting people and peering into shop windows. That said, people are coming together in interesting ways.
Last night at 6:00 pm, everyone went out on their balconies, or windows and played a musical instrument or sang a song to show unity in our country. Today at noon, we all went to the windows to have a round of applause for our healthcare workers. Tomorrow I’m participating in a Zoom meeting with a group of people who I’ve come to know online here in Italy. We’re just going to have a virtual “party” to talk to each other, share our quarantine stories, and generally have a good time. We’re in quarantine, but we don’t have to be alone!
And this afternoon? I’m going to be working, online, as usual! I guess if we have to be in quarantine, there are worse places to be!!