Diary from a Roman quarantine… and a half

Roma, May 2020, a famous bar with its piano still closed (all photo credits StereoType Mag)

We are (almost) done. Maybe. And we are here to tell our point of view…

We are “fine”. Without taking into account the deaths, the infected, the people without home or job, or both, the deep discomfort for a lost freedom, fear, uncertainty of the present and the future. At the beginning this “emergency” seemed to regard only Italy in the “Western world”, but now we are all involved. We had the record in deaths. While in these days we can really see that we aren’t the first anymore. It was just a matter of time: all the countries that lost time at the beginning now have reached the “records”. Usa and Uk are now above Italy in number of deaths. And regarding the number of confirmed cases Usa, Russia, Brazil, Uk and Spain are all above Italy.

Fortunately, in this panic, we and the people near us still live in situation in which no one that we know is sick or in a situation at risk. Well, my cousin was in strict quarantine for 4 weeks due to a positive friend (and then another). So even no use of the courtyard. Well, also my grandma is basically locked down at home since 3 months and I don’t think it is easy, but she is still afraid to have a walk. In the meanwhile many Italians got a lot of heavy fines during “the first quarantine”… just for a walk exceeding the 200 mt permitted. It is right, you know, if everyone had done a walk, the situation could have been packed again. But they didn’t think (in my opinion) that the most important thing to make clear was and is the “phisical distancing” (not “social” please, that is a different thing that we should avoid) and not so much “stay at home”. This helped to point our finger on the runner/ciclyst of the day, letting people continue to go at a supermarket just because was the safest place where to go – in term of fines – but not in term of security! So be courageous and say: “go for a short walk alone”. Less people would have attack supermarket for a piece of cheese just to have a receipt to prove their good intentions! Police in fact was also capable to ring on the bell of the fined person, the day after, to get the prove!

Fortunately this “quarantine phase” is finally done (not 40 days actually, but 56 in total from March 9 to May 3)… actually 73 days until today, if we consider that we are in a sort of “quarantine and half phase” (Govern call it “phase2”) and only if we have been doing good enough in these 2 weeks of few more available activities (take-away, gardens, villas and parks reopened, walks permitted everywhere inside their own city): we will discover it just in these days. From Monday May 18 almost everything (inside every Region) has been re-opened (on paper) with all the precautions to be taken. Many bars and restaurants and shops, in fact, don’t feel at ease in re-opening, deciding to wait.

Roma April 2020, via Panisperna with Santa Maria Maggiore basilica in the background

For sure the situation is still intense. At the beginning we (people who can’t do almost anything, but wait inside their homes) were fully inside a “strange scared boredom”. Italians used to exorcise fear “playing down”, through jokes and paradoxes. And this is a nice philosophy, but already after the first week, we could see that this attitude changed. Now, there is much more silence on our Whatsapp group chats. Few weeks ago they were “hot”. Then solitude broke in. Moreover it is normal to try to live the first period like a kind of vacation. Forced and closed, but a sort of vacation (if you have enough money to survive). We saw that the same happened to our friends abroad, when their quarantine begun. After a lot of flash mobs, applauses, music from the balconies, live streaming and aperitifs on Skype… people seems “quiet” again.

But they are not. The Phase2 has brought another “sentiment” that is more about anger (again). At the beginning we only thought about our family and friends because any one of us have someone in the family or friends, because many can be at risk for the age or some pathology. Italy tried to do a good application of our “better safe than sorry” way of saying. We are seeing that the severe cases and deaths go to involve all the ages and characteristics. Recently also all the organs, and not only lungs, as some new research is claiming. It seems almost “funny” now thinking that someone pretended (only 2 months ago!), that this was “like a normal flu”, and Trump repeated it until 1 month ago.

In part we are still bored. Because we still have to manage our life somehow. Mine is a fortunate condition at the end: I have a house, I have something aside, I have a sort of “tranquillity” in waiting. But even thinking about what to do “afterwards” (starting from now) brings a lot of anxiety, because for sure the sector where I was trying to settle down (tourism) is the one in the worst condition and probably for a longer period than an already long quarantine. We can only continue our profession as journalists, but as many can imagine, at least in Italy, this wasn’t the one that gave us the peace to live so far (in two we get 400 euro per month). But this is a fortune, repeat: I have friends that in few weeks have had already big economic problems, with money to count to do the shopping at the supermarket.

Roma, April 2020 – a closed restaurant 

Italy’s position is often in the middle, in this case between “a good way to think how to do it” and “the usual not uniform capacity to do it”. But at the end I don’t feel to blame it a lot. I think that the whole effort was genuine, the machine even tried to go faster than usual, leaving behind pieces of burocracy, but so many lack of (good) government, from incompetence to corruption, from State to mafia, leave the path to horrible ways to manage the whole thing.

I am convinced that the problem of Italy are individuals without any competence or any heart (or both) that unfortunately have the power to manage single reality, destroying the whole project. If it is only mafia that lead these figures where they are, I don’t know, but they are our downfall. This is explain what is happening: why some cities or Regions, or even districts and hospitals, are doing great and others not at all. And it is a bit “funny” also that, among these, there is Lombardia. The Italian pride, the more modern region with a high tech health system, with the globally famous fashion, design, new architecture… blah blah blah.

Here is your fantastic Region, a place that is smelly polluted, that is not capable to save its inhabitants from its exploitation. Sold to the “strictly business” logic that part of the world is leaving behind. A cold logic that have destroyed the territorial health system in name of the private sector. This is, in fact, the reason why all the other four Regions (the more involved) are doing much better. They preserved their territories. Lombardia in fact worked until the end, putting a lot of people at risk, to go on with business and money. This is not an example for the rest of Italy. Or better this is the example from which to stay as far as possible.

Roma, a message for a “solidarity’s basket”: “if you want you can donate to who needs something to eat”

Lombardia, in the name of money, is moving away from the good the Italy has. Other Regions have “pieces of corruption”, but there it seems systematic, because all Italy wants to invest in that Region. In any case I’d rather prefer a Sicilian condition, that can be (also) poor, dirty, with no certainties. And mafia for sure. But it keeps a heart beating and if you go there you can feel it. And they aren’t rich as Lombardia is. But what should I feel inside Milano? Yes, a super beautiful city, full of interesting stimuli, but I am coughing and sneezing and the sun is velated. My enthusiasm can stop here. I would rather be in Palermo with a cheap beer in my hand but a full breath in front of the sea.

Fortunately we received a lot of help, from everyone. China, Cuba, Albania, Germany, Russiaall the world has given some help in the way it could, since all the world is actually in our same condition. Even if our epidemic started with the worst scenario – our first patient went many times in a hospital without being recognized. But now we are some week in the future.

At the beginning we hoped in warm temperature but now we know that the virus has a “favourite weather”, but basically it can survive from Africa to Russia. Now we’d rather hope not to have a resurgence during summer or fall, like happened with the “Spanish flu”.

Roma, March 2020 – people who lives in the street and can’t “stay home”

Anyway, first or last, the problem is always the same. Pointing finger being confident to be on the right side, but looking deep down we are on the same “guilty” part. Not only wet market and not only in China, but they are only the iceberg point of an animal trafficking done by a lot of people in many countries (people that sell and people that buy). The sooner we will understand that wild animals must be left in peace the sooner will be protected by illnesses. And the sooner we will understand that we should be protected from our pollution the sooner will be healthier. It is not so complicated.

The messages of support are also leaving the pace to the political polemics we hoped not to hear anymore. But the general suspicion is leaving the eyes behind the masks. We can only hope that it will be sufficient until June 1 when we will be able to move in all Italy at least.

For me (and I don’t think to be the only one) this quarantine has also been a paradoxical liberation: in the “life of before” everyday urgent must-do took place while all the things that matters remained at the end of the list. For the first time suddenly I feel free from any stupid move away from what matters, what I love, what I really want to create. Go further until you can. It is true that any plan can collapse, even if the fall goes slow.

Roma in quarantine, sunset May 2020 

Will the human beings understand? For sure all this will bring a new mentality, more cautious but also more sensitive.

We are fine, anyway capable to adapt and see the good things. We are having a lot of time to think about everything happened in our lives. I’m sure that we’ll miss this calm, once we will come back to our daily routine life. But this will not happen soon. So I think that is better to adapt at this new daily life a bit different. We are already closer to a society that is capable to grow without losing its heart.

We are spending this strange suspended time through old and new habits; for the first time we experienced really beautiful, even if spectral, cities because they are anyway full of pure air, silence, nature, old sounds like the churches bells, moments of music, merry distinct voices and nice smells that comes from somewhere and you feel all this for the very first time… in the middle of fear and anger, there is still peace.


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