After eight years living and working in San Francisco, I was forced to return home to Italy (that's a story for another time). Only a few months later, COVID-19 took over the country. Just a few weeks later, life in Italy was put on hold for, well, I still don't know how long.
I live in Zelo Buon Persico, a small town close to Milan and about 50Km from Codogno, the first Italian city that was hit by the virus. Fear spread quickly here as people got sick, hospitals became overloaded, and ambulances dominated the streets. We all felt disarmed. People began to run to the supermarket to buy food to fill their refrigerator and cabinets. It felt like we were in a war against an invisible and powerful enemy.
Bars, restaurants, retail stores all had to close and the streets became suddenly empty. No more happy hour, no more chit chat with the neighbors, no more kids at the parks.
The silence was the only voice we could hear.
In a week, we had all rearranged our lives. Companies asked their employees to work from home; the Italian government delivered a series of restricted rules to prevent people from going out. We can go to the supermarket or to the pharmacy, but only with an auto-certification, explaining our reason to be out, to show the police officers on the streets.
It's been about two weeks since I have been lockdown and, even though I know the situation is uncertain, I still have hope that everything is going to be alright. Despite this madness and sense of precariousness, I have decided to lean on my inner hope and make the best of this time of stillness. In this forced staycation, having a routine is very important.
I wake up every morning at 8am and I meditate for 40 minutes. I have been doing this for more than 15 years, so now I hold precious this time to strengthen my practice and my sense of peace.
I take a shower, I dress up, I put on my makeup, and I sit in front of my computer.
I work from nine to five, writing articles, doing interviews, and thinking about what kind of stories I can pitch and how I can improve my writing. I have more time to read newspapers, magazines, and most of all books. I watch more movies, and I bless Netflix every day.
As I cannot see my friends, we e-meet on Skype or Zoom for a virtual happy hour where we can talk, make jokes, and laugh together as if we were at a bar—a good excuse to keep mixing up and drinking my Aperol spritzer.
With a friend we are planning to do some video yoga sessions, just to practice together as we normally do.
The writer, at right, sharing a virtual happy hour with a friend.(Anna Volpicelli)
I do a lot of physical exercises to take care of my body, my mind, my emotions, and my soul. As I love dancing, I started to take some free dance classes and hip-hop tutorials on YouTube and I am having so much fun!
Meals are very important, so I enjoy every dinner with my family, where we cheers to our health and this time under the same roof with a glass (sometimes two or three) of good wine. My dad has an amazing wine cellar. This is a plus.
I am learning to appreciate the slow pace of my life, and even though I don't know what the future holds, I try to enjoy everything I have and I can do.
Although the fear has become part of our lives, there is something truly positive that COVID-19 is serving on the table and showing me—us. Italian people are supportive of one another and we are trying to find creative ways to shorten the distances. How? By organizing music flash mobs.
Every day at 6pm people go out to their balconies to sing together, to play music, and to keep each other company. Many famous Italian musicians are even performing for free from their terraces as all the concerts are canceled. In some ways, the neighborhoods have never been so alive as they are in this moment. This behavior has changed our days.
COVID-19 is highlighting compassionate, strong and positive souls, and it is showing off our humanity, creativity, and willingness to overcome this all together. Apartment buildings are covered with paintings made by kids: a rainbow in which there is written "Andra tutto bene" (everything will be alright).