Perspective from Northern Italy
I started working from home, in 2011. Actually, I could work from anywhere. That’s what I liked most about it. I could work from my apartment in Bologna, or from Barcelona where we go to rock climb. I’d like offer helpful suggestions for people who are working from home for the first time, but with the COVID-19 quarantine, my routine is completely different now.
I work on my balcony whenever I can. I miss the sun and the fresh air, my friends, and my parents. I’m trying everything I can to maintain a healthy mental state – aperitif with friends on Zoom each Saturday, endless WhatsApp chats, exercise bike, military discipline to clean the house. I am fortunate to have a hangboard and campus board to train for climbing. I used to climb every free moment of my life before COVID-19.
March 10th – Nationwide COVID-19 lockdown began.
March 11th – We were singing on the balconies and clapping to thank doctors and nurses.
March 21st – Military vehicles began transporting bodies to remote cremation sites, because the morgues couldn’t cope with all the Coronavirus deaths in Bergamo.
April 9th – The 100th Coronavirus casualty among doctors and nurses. They’re dying to save us.
Death is all around us. I feel like an invisible enemy is taking away the life I knew. We have over 24,000 reported Coronavirus deaths so far in Italy, most of them in Emilia-Romagna, where I live, and in Lombardy, where Milan is. Every day at 5:59 p.m. we all hope and pray for better news. That is the last minute that I have to push back the COVID-19 nightmare. At 6:00 p.m., our Head of Civil Protection issues a press release informing us that another 500-600 people died that day.
Everything in the city is closed except for essential services – supermarkets, pharmacies, some post offices, some banks and tobacconists. We live in ghost cities. I hear the silence. No traffic, no people. None.
I’m only allowed to go out for groceries, and even then I may be stopped and questioned by the police. I must bring papers with me that state who I am, where I live, where I’m going, and why. This little piece of paper also states that I’m not positive for COVID-19, as far as I know.
If my paperwork is not in order, I can be fined anywhere from €400 to €4,000
We have to wear masks outside. If we want to go to the supermarket, gloves are mandatory as well. People in line at the supermarket stand at a huge distance from one another. Only a few people are allowed in at the same time. You learn to be patient, as a way to protect yourself and others. Two checkout girls died in Brescia, near Milan.
We got to this point gradually. Italy was the first democracy to face the pandemic. We reacted as fast as we could, but it wasn’t fast enough. We are in quarantine now, because we know it is the only way to recover from this emergency. Virologists and epidemiologists explained it to us. Reports, articles and photos from the intensive care units help us understand. Live concerts by celebrities from their homes remind us to stay home, and help us put the fear aside briefly.
Words of Comfort
I’m not religious, but I am comforted by the image of Pope Francis in St Peter’s Square, the cloudy sky behind him, and the glistening, empty square in front of him reminding us, “The tragedy we are experiencing summons us to take seriously the things that are serious, and not to be caught up in those that matter less; to rediscover that life is of no use if not used to serve others. For life is measured by love.”