Notes From The Italian Lockdown


Today is Day 16 of the official lockdown in Italy. Despite the change from warnings to enforcement by the police, the number of cases and deaths has continued to rise, fitting an exponential curve seen elsewhere and now been repeated in the U.S.

Watching these numbers relentlessly increase has been disheartening, as its human nature to hope for a positive sign. Although one day’s numbers do not constitute a trend, yesterday saw the first decrease in the rate of cases. Deaths are still increasing but at a slightly slower pace. This week is probably critical in seeing if the now widespread and enforced social distancing has actually worked.

It has taken police enforcement; as some people interpreted the rules generously and continued to jog, bike, and take walks in parks. So far over 40,000 people have been arrested for violating the rules. The infraction is also listed as a felony, as it should be. People are endangering other people’s lives, not just their own.

In our own village, both the food markets and the pharmacy have installed barriers of plastic sheeting above the counters, with a gap for transactions. Everyone, when they do go out to shop, is wearing masks and gloves. And, of course, honoring the meter separation rule.

My wife has been using her sewing skills and an industrial grade sewing machine she bought last Fall to make face masks — some in the tricolors of the Italian flag. She is giving them to anyone who wants them. The always gracious owner of a nearby traditional market known as an alimentari (similar to the old “general stores” in rural American) has donated fabric and elastic strips. The owner of another food market has been taking orders for the masks.

As I’ve noted before in articles, as with many small towns, people keep in touch frequently, sharing news and stories. Since we cannot do this in person anymore, its happening online. Every day my inbox is filled with  messages from people I know all over he region, the country, as elsewhere in Europe. Our friends in the U.S. check in frequently.

“We are fine,” we say “we are staying in the house. The phrase “Io resto a casa” is everywhere. Sunny is sewing masks. I am rediscovering the delights of sketching with pen and ink. And we are eating well. There is no shortage of food or TP here; everyone is being considerate of the needs of others. We still say “Buongiorno!” albeit through layers of fabric.

The silence outside is, at the same time, both peaceful and disquieting. 

Mark Hinshaw
Mark Hinshaw
Mark Hinshaw is a retired architect and city planner who lived in Seattle for more than 40 years. For 12 years he had a regular column on architecture for The Seattle Times and later was a frequent contributor to Crosscut. He now lives in a small hill town in Italy.


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