Day 3, Quarantine, Città della Pieve, Umbria, Italy
Thursday, March 12, 2020
I live part of the year in Italy, in a town called Città della Pieve. It is located midway between Rome and Florence, in Umbria, known as the “green heart of Italy.” I fell instantly in love with this town on my sixtieth birthday. I decided to buy and renovate an apartment in a palazzo, just outside the city walls, six months ago. I don’t have many friends here yet, although I do know a lot of people. With the newly- instigated Coronavirus-prompted-quarantine, I am spending all my time alone with my Italian Waterdog, Chianti, a Lagotto Romagnolo, that I got from a kennel called IL GRANAIO DEI MALATESTA in Montefiore Conca, in the region of Emilia-Romagna, one of the hardest hit Red Zones of the Coronavirus.
Although Chianti’s company is great, conversation is limited. I have thus decided that I would write about my life under quarantine and how COVID-19 is impacting my life and the lives of people I’ve recently met, or I know and love, when they give news. I vow to start using my phone as a phone – to call people – not as a message device. I plan to start having conversations with old friends again. What a novel idea! All this to mitigate the isolation that quarantine ensures. I encourage friends to pick up the phone and call me, too! While I know it will be a while before I start seeing people again, at least I can look forward to hearing friendly voices from the past and present!
The WHO declared a Pandemic this morning. My life proceeded in a more mundane fashion. The painter came by just after the pandemic announcement and we decided on a ceiling treatment for the guestroom of my under-renovation apartment on Via Marconi. I walked Chianti in the Public Park after meeting the painter, then picked up pasta and farina di marroni (chestnut flour) to make home-made bread at the fancy deli, the only store besides the grocery store open on our own “Champs Elysées,” the Via Vannucci,. I cooked Pici (a fat, hand-rolled spaghetti-like pasta) al sugo di pomodoro e basilico for lunch. Then I had chocolate for dessert. My 16-day stretch of eating healthy shot to hell, I had sugar in my expresso! In contrast to yesterday’s brilliant sunshine and spring feel, the sky today was overcast, but the temperature was not too cold. Chianti and I took another walk in the afternoon. We saw only one person, the neighbor from the upstairs apartment of my temporary flat walking his 20-year-old black lab mix. The dogs flirted; we chatted. He spoke broken English to me; I responded in pigeon Italian. So, go the days of Coronavirus quarantine. Chianti and I discovered a new tiny street, Vicolo Popolo, translated literally, Alley of the People, ironically, we see no one on the Alley of the People, just as we’ve seen only the neighbor for the entire walk even though we walked through the entire town and skirted the fortified brick walls of the commune.
My phone rings. I glance at the screen. Louis C. pops up, the son of one of my closest friends, Liz. I greet him enthusiastically. We haven’t spoken in more than a year. I am happy for the opportunity to communicate with A), my own species, B), someone of my species who understands me. There have been far too many conversations with Chianti and Italian grocery store clerks these last few days.
Louis is concerned about me. How am I holding up during quarantine? Fine, I assure him. I tell him that it’s an existential survival act here in Italy with the country-wide quarantine that was initiated by the government on Tuesday. I explain that I can’t stop thinking about Camus. We are living “La Peste.” How are things for him? What’s it like at University in Leeds? He tells me that Boris Johnson and the powers that be in the UK are bungling the response to the Coronavirus, trying to stave off the peak of the virus until summer. I wonder aloud why they would do such a thing. He laments his government’s response to the virus and we get into a competitive discussion about whose government and leaders are inepter. I rejoin that after the modest market rally of yesterday, Trump’s speech last night precipitated another market circuit breaker, a fall of over 1000 points and the promise that the bear market is firmly upon us now. I ask him how the Coronavirus will impact him, specifically. He’s graduating this spring from Uni and has applied for master’s programs at UCL, LSE and Oxford. Leeds University lecturers are currently on strike, so he’s not had class for a few weeks and with the imminent COVID-19 precautions and measures bound to be enacted at universities across Europe, it’s very possible the rest of the term will be a wash. What then? He doesn’t know if he’ll graduate. He tells me he’d like to plan a little R&R and a holiday in Italy would be great. I tell him I’d love for him to visit. He says he’d love to, but with the Coronavirus, everyone’s plans are on hold. He doesn’t know if he’ll graduate, he doesn’t even know if he’ll go on to his master’s program, and he certainly doesn’t’ know if he can plan a vacation. Like everyone, he waits and sees what tomorrow will bring.
The Coronavirus boils down to a giant question mark. We all wait and see. Here in Italy, every day, a new edict from the government with stricter and stricter rules. I just received a new one sent from my friend, Catherine. One is not allowed to walk one’s dog further than the immediate vicinity of one’s home! These rules will only serve to make people go mental. I huff and I puff and then I remember those who are sick. Every day, news of more and more sick people, exponentially growing numbers of dead people. The stress mounts and isolation looms vast and far on the horizon. Then, I read the news again for the sixth time in the day.
CORONAVIRUS: The numbers in Italy:
Total infected Citta Della Pieve: 8
Total infected Italy: 15,113
Total Recovered: 1258
Total Deaths: 1016