Dear Italy,  Life in Italy

First Week under Quarantine in Milano: Looking on the Bright Side

It’s been exactly a week since the Italian government announced the quarantine of the Lombardia region and fourteen other provinces in the north. We were directed to avoid going out and keep at least one meter/three feet from each other if we do. As you may have heard, the prime minister–Giuseppe Conte–took the restrictions a step further, signing a decree the following day that extended the quarantine to all 20 regions. At this time, many businesses were closed but restaurants and bars were allowed to stay open until 6pm.

That changed, however, with yet another decree a couple of a days later.

So, what is allowed?

  • Food shops, supermarkets, gas stations, newspaper stands, tobacco shops, pharmacies and other essential businesses can remain open
  • People can leave their house only for work, health reasons or necessity (the last two, it seems, are up for interpretation) and must possess this government-mandated document validating why
  • Travel between and among regions is allowed with the same justifications as above

It’s been a SURREAL seven days, to put it lightly.

Despite our boredom and intense yearning to resume our normal lives, we know that these measures are necessary to ensure the health and safety of the nation, especially for those at risk. As of today, March 15th, there are 24,747 cases, according to the Ministry of Health website. However, only 20,603 of those cases are patients whom tested positive. In good news, 2,335 of the same number have been cured!

Let’s just get it out of the way–being stuck inside the house for weeks, right on the cusp of spring, fucking sucks! However, last Monday, after needing a day to process it all, I decided that I’d try to see this in a positive light. As the quote I literally just found goes, “Even though life hands you a pile of shit, you don’t have to roll around in it” 🙂

So, I began a series on my Instagram account (@diaryofaduelcitizen) where I shared one good thing daily that is coming from all this. Today, Day 7, I’d like to share them on here:

1) Quality time with loved ones: Sure, the circumstances could be better.. but how often do we actually bond with our significant others, parents, siblings, roommates, etc. when we’re home? After a long day, we might not be fully present with them, and it’s totally understandable–life happens. However, now that we have no choice (lol), we can use this opportunity to really [re]connect with our loved ones.

2) Space: In Italy, space is hard to come by. With this quarantine, though, Italians are forming lines and keeping their distance–a sight for sore eyes for a personal space-loving American like me! Other than physical space, I feel like this ordeal has given us some much-needed mental room as well. Personally, pre-Corona, I focused a lot on menial matters that seem so incredibly stupid now that I think about it. I’ve been able to clear a good chunk of that out now, and focus on things that are important to me.

3) Civic responsibility: This entire situation has seen Italians band together and put aside their ego for the common good. If you’ve never been here, I can tell you that rules here are quite blurry–they exist, but aren’t really enforced. There is a heightened sense of civic responsibility among the population now, and it’s comforting to witness. On a related note, I’ve also seen immense national pride in the past week. In fact, since Friday, there have been daily flashmobs at 6pm to boost morale, where Italians from north to south go out on their balconies or appear at their windows to sing, wave the Italian flag and forget about the quarantine for a bit–together.

4) Appreciation: Times like these provoke us to think about how good we have it, don’t they? I recently learned that the Italian healthcare system ranks #2 in the world for “overall efficiency”. This paper by the World Health Organization places France in the top spot, and the United States in the 37th. I appreciate that I live in a nation where healthcare is a right, not a privilege. I appreciate how the region of Lombardia and rest of Italy has handled the outbreak, albeit not perfectly (but no government has). I appreciate all the doctors, nurses and medical staff whom have been working tirelessly to treat the exorbitant number of sick patients each day.

5) Better air quality: As was the case all over China, the air pollution has decreased drastically here as well. The usual Milanese smog has diminished, and the air smells crisp. With more people at home, less are out driving in the city and the result is much fresher air. I mean, we can’t really go out and enjoy it to the fullest, but–when we’re able to–it’ll be glorious 🙂

6) Time: This quarantine is forcing us to slow down. Take it easy. Take our time. We’ve essentially been granted the gift of time, and–whether you use it to watch 15 new TV series, or learn how to speak Arabic, or both–it feels damn good to not be rushed. We have time to do nothing. Time to do anything. Time to make veal meatballs from scratch. To video call family and friends. To catch up on work. To bond with neighbors you’ve never spoken with before on the balcony. To try Korean sheet masks you ordered on Amazon. To dance by yourself in your living room to 90’s freestyle songs on Spotify. (Is it obvious these are all from experience?) Point is–we now have the luxury of time, even in a not-so-luxurious situation.

Wherever you are in the world–whether you’ve been quarantined or not–this pandemic is not to be taken lightly. Please take care of yourselves and heed the advice of your local health authorities! When this tremendous pile of shit recedes, I hope we’re–myself including–are able to keep in mind the good things.

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