Before we got locked down due to the Coronavirus pandemic of 2020, we took a glorious trip to the Piedmont region with friends from back home.
It is Monday, March 23, and we have (once again) awakened to new restrictions. Now we are not permitted to go outside for exercise and we are strongly discouraged from even going to the grocery store more than once a week. If and when we do go to the grocery store, only one member of the family is supposed to go. I wake up early after another fitful night of sleep, determined to venture to the larger grocery store for a bigger shopping trip of heavier items we need before whatever the next restriction ties us down even further.
On Sunday March 9,2020, less than 24 hours after we returned to Milan from America, we awoke to the news that the 11 municipality quarantine zone was now expanded to cover much of northern Italy, affecting over 16 million people. Restaurants and cafes were permitted to remain open, but operations were limited to the hours between 6 am and 6 pm, while many other public locations such as gyms, bars, museums and swimming pools were closed altogether. Businesses were told to begin allowing nonessential employees to work remotely. At the time of this announcement, these restrictions were considered among the strictest of any country outside of China, and certainly led us all to wonder whether citizens of a democratic country would abide by the rules. We walked up to the Duomo that Sunday to see for ourselves. At this point there were no restrictions on outdoor exercise, provided you kept the 1 meter distance apart from others.
It feels a bit strange reflecting back to well over a month ago when we left Milan for the coastal town of Sestri Levante (one of our favorite spots in Italy) just north of Cinque Terre. Kevin was on his winter break (called “White Week” because most people go snow skiing). We had just spent a fabulous few days with our friends David and Casie, exploring some wineries in the Piedmont region, enjoying Barolo wine and learning about the winemaking process. The remainder of the week would be spent with our friend Wayne, hiking and showing him some favorite spots less travelled by American tourists. We couldn’t wait.
Now that Spain, France and the United States have followed Italy’s lead and implemented modified conditions of confinement, scores of stories are coming out about what people are buying to prepare for their isolation. In Italy it was pasta and in the United States it seems to be toilet paper. Go figure. Yesterday I heard a story on the BBC World Service’s Global News Podcast (which I recommend, by the way) that in Italy, although the pasta aisles run low from time to time, a particular type of pasta appears to be the “Rodney Dangerfield” of pasta (young people, that means it gets no respect)- no one appears to be buying it! It is the penne pasta that is smooth, without ridges. We guess that is because the smoothness hampers the ability of a meat sauce from clinging to the pasta.
Becky sent me this video of a couple living in Milan like we are, explaining what it’s like to be under lockdown. You have to watch it! It’s spot on. If you can’t click on this and watch it, then just google CNBC and this title. Now imagine that we are the ones who posted that video, except our apartment is about 1/4th the size of their apartment!
Day one of Corona Confinement in Milan and we took a morning walk to the nearby supermarket to stock up on necessities (fresh fruit and veggies) and luxuries (i.e., yeast for me to try to make foccaccia, chocolate bars to ease our anxieties and white wine for risotto). Word on the street and in the newspaper is that bars and restaurants must be closed by 6 pm every day.
Our longest excursion while staying in Sestri Levante began one Saturday at 9 am and ended around 6 pm. We left from the train station, traveling to the town of Levanto, where we walked around and visited the church, and then headed for a 5 kilometer walk along a former train track that is now designated for walks and cyclists, passing through the very small villages (or borghis) of Bonassola and Framura.
On the recommendation of a friend, one of our last fun trips with Mom on this “Mother-Daughter Trip of 2019” was a day trip to Vigevano from Milan, known as the “Ideal Town”; home of a modern-day “Museum of Shoes” and boasting a beautiful piazza and castle.