Thursday, March 12, 11 a.m. My butt muscles start to hurt. I’ve been sitting for too many days, testing the resistance of Italian sofas (a small spot of national pride at a time when the rest of the world is scared of Italy).
It is the fifth day of being confined indoors. We are following the #iorestoacasa (“I Stay Home”) decree of the government.
In just four days everything has changed. Nobody dares to say, “It’s all an exaggeration.” Now the numbers are a confirmation – for some strange reason Italy has the highest number of infected people in the world after China.
And the government had to gradually (but quickly) take isolation measures. Last night, the president announced that all bars, restaurants and shops (except food shops and pharmacies) are closed for 15 days. We can only go out for necessities: a health emergency, to work or to buy food. I confess I’m worried!
One person per family is allowed to go buy food, and yesterday I went out. I have prepared a self-certification document, which is mandatory for walking on the street. The road was half deserted, and nobody wanted to joke or speak. Even my doorkeeper (with whom I have had four laughs every day for years) was in a bad mood.
Yesterday, self-certification in my pocket, I was taking care to display my shopping bag, as if to show everyone that I had a good reason for going out. There was a line at the supermarket, so I left. I went home quickly with a few things bought at the shop under our house.
The strange thing is that I felt some relief in returning home; the happiness of returning to the lair where a virtual kidnapper holds me prisoner looks a bit like Stockholm syndrome – in this case, my kidnapper is called coronavirus.
I have no nostalgia for the hectic life carried out until last Friday. I work as a writer and organize cultural events, so a lot of my time has been freed up. I’m planning a thousand things, reading more, writing more (in Italy the number of writers is greater than that of readers).
My daughter enters my study and asks me, “What pasta will we eat today?” Yesterday, while checking the pantry, we noticed that the short pasta is about to run out. As is well known, a Neapolitan who remains with less than 20 packets of pasta goes into a panic.
So various short pasta shapes were on the list of things to buy yesterday. But there was only rice left on the supermarket shelves, obviously ignored by everyone (we Neapolitans consider rice and tea as medicinal, something to help with stomach pain). And then there was a fair amount of smooth penne pasta (penne lisce). Obviously, I didn’t buy them – in my house we eat only ridged pasta!
I also had to buy eggs, as my daughters are preparing a dessert a day – the new hashtag of the Colella family has become “home sweet home.” We will come out of this experience with 10 extra kilos each.
My brother made bread at home yesterday and shared a photo on the family WhatsApp group of him kneading bread with his wife; it reminded me of the scene in Ghost where Patrick Swayze is making pottery with Demi Moore.
We’re all taking on new domestic activities. I would like to prepare jam this morning if I can get off the sofa. My wife wants to make limoncello with lemons from the garden.
Everything is slowed down. Social distancing has increased, especially physical distance. Many employees are working from home, and priests give communion by using a saucer without ever touching the hands or mouth of the faithful.
The riders who deliver things have seen a large uptick in their activity. They will often leave things in the elevator or in the basket (paniere), to keep contact to a minimum.
Speaking of the paniere, I recommend that all the families in the world buy one. The basket is the greatest invention of man after the wheel. And today more than ever it is a brilliant tool, which allows for the delivery of goods of all kinds while limiting physical contact.
Any self-respecting Neapolitan has a basket at home, tied with a strong rope capable of bearing the heaviest weights. And every Neapolitan, from the first to the top floor of the building, knows how to use it professionally, dodging the clotheslines of the tenants on the floors below and without hitting the head of an unsuspecting passerby. One of the first purchases for a new house in Naples is the paniere – it’s a sacrosanct tradition for us but incomprehensible to the rest of Italy.
Sorry I have to leave you. It’s 12:30 p.m. – time for family calisthenics at home!
Editor’s note: With the coronavirus (Covid-19) crisis rapidly and profoundly impacting many of the cities we work in, we’ve asked some of our correspondents to file dispatches detailing how they and the places they live in are coping with this new reality. Our first report is from Naples, which — like other cities in Italy — has been almost completely shut down by the crisis.