Last Monday we had our first day of freedom – phase two. What kind of freedom was included in phase two? Being allowed to walk more than 600 feet from our homes, outdoor exercise (not in groups), ability to visit family (only within your region) and the opening of restaurants, ice cream shops and cafes (only for takeout). That restaurant and cafe part was a new thing for Italians because they just really don’t go to those places for takeout. In fact, paper cups for coffee aren’t used very often in Italy apart from the coffee shops found off the highways. The Italians took it in stride though – saying how they all felt “American” walking down the street with their coffees.
However, they might be able to take their coffee the old-fashioned way sooner than expected. Just yesterday the timeline for the further easing of lockdown was changed once again. Italy moved up its reopening date for many businesses to this coming Monday, May 18th which was originally set for June 1st. Most regions will have the power to manage openings that best suits the needs of their situation. What will be open? Restaurants, cafes (eat-in) and HAIRDRESSERS!!! Whooohooo! And this is not a whooohoo for me, but for hubby and sons who are badly in need of a trim. So, we shall see how things go.
But what about the first week of phase two? How were things out there? They were…..different…a little sad…and also beautiful. So much emotion! Cannot deny it. I spoke with a lot of business owners in our town to get a feel for the economic situation. As expected, it was not good. The tobacco store guy told me he has been earning 10% of his usual income. This surprised me because the tobacco shops were allowed to stay open even during the lockdown, but the owner said since no one was out and about, his sales were down, and that things had not improved last week. The taxi drivers said that folks were only using their services “to go to the hospital or the supermarket.” The florist said he was just happy to see people on the streets. Some cafes had their doors blocked with a little makeshift counter so no one could enter and they took orders from there. Of course, everyone was still wearing their masks. The gelato stores had a similar setup. Here are some photos of how that all worked.
Now, speaking of takeout. Let’s talk about McDonald’s. Sometimes people are surprised to hear that Italians like McDonald’s – but they do. And just to show you how much – check out this video. (Don’t mind the dirty windshield – we have not been allowed to wash our cars.) This was the first day of freedom. Look at the crazy number of people!
In addition to the soft opening of these places, as I mentioned above we were also free to walk! Just to walk and walk and walk. And so we did. Happy for the simplest of pleasures in life. We walked for hours.
And I have to say in all this walking we came across so many Italian flags. And ok, April 25th was Liberation Day in Italy (just about the only time I see Italians hang flags apart from soccer season), but this year, they have stuck around much longer, and it has been so nice to see this kind of patriotism.
So, the numbers are improving, and we will soon be moving into the next phase of slowly getting back into the normal swing of things, but oddly enough I kind of already miss the uniqueness of staying home and the daily walks around the little garden of our apartment with our cat. (Yes, our cat walks with us – just like a dog). I am sure I will never walk around those gardens again knowing I can go outside and somehow that made me feel a little nostalgic and sad. So there it is….a weird period of excitement for freedom coupled with the twinge of sadness for leaving a new routine headed into the unknown of what will be the “new normal.”
Wish you all the best with your new normal too!