What It's Really Like Living On Lockdown In Italy During the Coronavirus Pandemic
With so many deaths due to the widespread coronavirus, the country has had to take drastic measures.
Never in a million years could I have dreamed up this reality, but it's true.
I am currently living in lockdown with my family—my 66-year-old mother, my husband, and our 18-month-old daughter—at our home in Puglia, Italy.
On March 11, 2020, the Italian government announced this drastic decision with the goal of stopping the spread of the coronavirus. With the exception of two trips to the grocery store, I've been home ever since.
I feel terrified. I feel scared. And worst of all? Like so many people, I feel helpless because there's nothing I can do to control this virus and bring back our old life faster.
I'll be here until April 3—though there are whispers that it could be longer.
No visiting friends. No trips to the movies. No dining out. No shopping. No yoga classes. Nothing. We are only allowed to go out for groceries, medicine, or emergencies, and when we do leave the house, we must carry a government-issued permission slip. (And, as for running or walking outside, we can't leave our property.)
Don't get me wrong, I am all for the lockdown if it means returning to some normalcy and keeping people healthy, but I've admittedly gotten used to these "privileges," and it's been difficult adjusting to life without them, especially when you don't know when they will return.
Among a million other thoughts swirling in my head, I keep wondering, 'How am I going to make it through this? How will I find ways to exercise, maintain a healthy diet, or get enough sunlight and fresh air? Should I be doing something to make the most of this extra time together or just focus on getting through it? How will I continue to take the best possible care of my daughter while still keeping myself sane and healthy?'
The answer to all of this? I really don't know.
The truth is, I've always been an anxious person, and a situation like this doesn't help. So, one of my main concerns is keeping a clear head. For me, physically remaining indoors has never really been a problem. I'm a freelance writer and stay at home mom, so I'm used to spending a lot of time inside, but this is different. I'm not choosing to stay inside; I have no choice. If I'm caught outside without a good enough reason, I could risk a fine or even jail time.
I'm also nervous about my anxiety wearing off on my daughter. Yes, she's only 18 months old, but I believe she can sense things have changed. We're not leaving our property. She is not getting in her car seat to take drives. She is not interacting with other people. Will she be able to pick up on the tension? On my tension? (Related: The Psychological Impacts of Social Distancing)
TBH, this all happened so fast that I'm still in a state of shock. It was just a few weeks ago that my father and brother, who live in New York City, e-mailed my mother to voice concerns about the coronavirus. We reassured them we would be fine, as most cases were centered in northern Italy at the time. Since we live in the southern region of the country, we told them not to worry, that we had no reported cases nearby. We felt that since we were not in one of the bigger cities like Rome, Florence, or Milan, that we would be okay.
As the situation here began to change hourly, my husband and I feared that we could be quarantined. In anticipation, we headed out to the supermarket, loading up on staples such as canned food, pasta, frozen vegetables, cleaning supplies, baby food, diapers, and wine—lots and lots of wine. (Read: The Best Staple Foods to Keep In Your Kitchen at All Times)
I am so grateful we thought ahead and prepared for this even before the lockdown was announced. I'm happy to report that in Italy no one has been hoarding items, and every time we make a trip to the market, there is always plenty of food and toilet paper for everyone.
I also recognize that my family and I are in a very lucky position compared to others not just in Italy but around the world. We live in the countryside, and our property has a terrace and plenty of land to roam, so if I'm feeling stir-crazy I can easily head outside for some fresh air and vitamin D. (I often stroll with my daughter to get her to sleep for her afternoon nap.) I also try to squeeze in a yoga workout a few times a week for some added movement and to ease my nerves.
While I have found things that have helped me get through these long days, the heaviness of my worry is not getting any easier to carry.
Every night, after I get my daughter to sleep, I find myself crying. I think about my family, spread apart across thousands of miles, here together in Puglia and all the way in New York City. I cry for my daughter's future. How will this all end? Will we make it out of this safe and healthy? And will living in fear be our new way of life?
If I've learned anything from this whole experience thus far, it's that the age-old sentiment of living every day to it's fullest is true. No one is guaranteed tomorrow, and you never know what crisis could be coming next.
I want to believe my country (and the rest of the world) will be fine. The whole point of such drastic measures is to stop the spread of this coronavirus. There is still hope; I have hope.