Of course it has been for some time that we have been keeping an eye on the COVID-19 situation here in Italy and a week ago schools were closed, public gatherings were cancelled, restaurants and bars were only allowed to operate if they could guarantee a 1m distance between customers, and we were pondering whether or not to go ahead with our fortnightly English evening at the circolo. We had sent a message to the group of attendees to test the water and most (but not all) said they would rather not come, so we had taken the decision to put it on hold for a few weeks, feeling that that was the most responsible thing to do. Little did we know that matters would be taken out of our hands the very next day, with the Italian government announcing an enforced lockdown country-wide.
Initially there was a lot of confusion - bars and restaurants were allowed to open but only if they could guarantee a minimum 1m distance between customers and only from 6am to 6pm. Yet at the same time we were all told we were only allowed to leave our homes for "essential" travel - going to and from work, doing essential shopping, or going to medical appointments, so who was going to be frequenting the bars and restaurants? Confusion reigned and while we dutifully stayed at home we heard stories of the streets being full of people, school kids meeting up and playing together, and it all seemed a bit chaotic. Little surprise, then, that the following day the government tightened the restrictions yet further, also closing all bars and restaurants and all shops other than food shops & tobacconists. At least this made things much clearer, and sanctions were brought in to deal with anyone found to be abusing the regulations. The police are operating random checks to make sure that anyone out and about has the required self authentication paperwork that states where they are going and why (the reason needing to fall within the limited number of allowed essential activities).
The supermarket now operates a system in which only a limited number of people are allowed in at once and only one person per family is allowed in. This results in people queuing for up to two to three hours just to get inside the supermarket. Larger supermarkets are closed at the weekends. You are only allowed to visit your nearest supermarket (a maximum of two times in a week) and absolutely are not allowed to cross into a different comune to do your shopping.
We have been taking it in turns to go and buy our fresh bread from Amanda's shop in the village. It was my turn yesterday - the first time I'd left the property or seen another face in 5 days. The road was unusually quiet and when I got there both Amanda and Samantha were wearing face masks and gloves. It was hard to hear what they were saying through a face mask and there was a strange awkwardness as everyone did a strange sort of dance shifting around trying to keep 1m away from each other. Another lady was waiting to come into the shop when I left - she had seen I was in there and waited outside until I'd left..
A lot of local businesses have started offering home delivery services - initially for the elderly population but also now extending that to others as well. We bought some sheeps' cheese from our friend Stefano the shepherd in Medicina (which wasn't exactly delivered to the door, but Stuart was able to collect it from the car park behind the circolo). We've just discovered that one of the local places that sells wine in bulk is also doing home deliveries, so will probably be adding that to the list at some point soon!
|Update: We did add it to the list and 10l of white and 10l of fizzy wine were delivered to the house yesterday!
The weekly market ran in town yesterday - although only the food stalls were allowed to set up (none of the usual clothes stalls etc.) and everyone had to keep 1m distance from each other and wear face masks. There were civil protection officers on hand to make sure people followed the rules. They have even started spraying the pavements with disinfectant, which seems a little over the top (I'm not sure there's any evidence to support that as a form of prevention), but I guess it makes people think/feel as it something is being done.
The last week saw the second confirmed case of COVID-19 in Pescia, although it was unrelated to the first and there's no indication of further cases relating to this one either.
Of course, here at numero 182 we are already quite isolated in a physical/geographical/topological sense, and I already work from home, but the difficult part is the not being at liberty to go out and do what we want - to go for a coffee at the weekend, even do the supermarket shopping together, and not being able to meet up with friends at all (technically you're not even meant to go to visit family members).
We are incredibly lucky to have 12 acres of land to roam around in, a beautiful view, and to be in the middle of nature, but even with all of this the prospect of not going anywhere else for the next few weeks is quite tricky, as is the prospect of not being able to socialise with friends and see others in the community.
But, on the bright side, lockdown has - so far - been incredibly productive for us. With no errands allowed to be run, no Italian lessons, no Nordic walks, no friends to meet up with, all of our time (for me my time after having finished my office work) can be (and has been) dedicated to working on the land. We are also very fortunate that lockdown has thus far coincided with a period of dry, sunny weather.
Just prior to lockdown Stuart completed his beautiful set of steps from the car park down to the lower terraces - a construction that almost rivals the Great Wall of China!
We also put together one of the two metal-framed raised beds we had bought (from Amazon) a few weeks ago before we had managed to source the plastic containers that we will also be using as raised veg beds.
You'd have thought that putting together a rectangular metal box would be relatively simple, but this thing (and its "instructions") made assembling an IKEA bookshelf look like child's play. It took us around 3 hours to get it all sorted, all the hundreds of tiny fiddly nuts and bolts in the right places, but we were pleased with the end result and look forward to filling it with seedlings soon.
We have placed the bed on a double-thickness layer of small-holed fencing material - the idea being that voles shouldn't be able to dig up through the fencing material. With that to stop voles and the height being enough to stop porcupines, it will (should, at least) only be deer that we need to worry about, and we should be able to provide protection from deer relatively easily by putting some form of netting over the top.
We took delivery of 100 chestnut posts on the first morning of full lockdown, which has meant that we have been able to forge ahead with the project of shoring up the terraces beneath the house.
Having borrowed the petrol-powered winch from (and which we co-own with) Franco, we spent a full day working on Tuesday felling around six more trees in the mushroom-land area. The winch was necessary because these were particularly large and particularly difficult trees - ones that were leaning the wrong way and required the winch to pull them in a different direction from that in which they would naturally want to fall. I can tell you that there's nothing quite like sitting to operate a winch directly beneath a tree that's being felled to get the adrenaline pumping...
By the end of the day we had amassed an enormous stack of logs.
We spent the next few days continuing to log trees, strip bark from the logs, and tidy up the mess the tree felling had created in mushroom land.
Finally, we decided we had amassed enough materials in the preparation phase to actually have a go at starting the project.
|Before work began.
While it can feel slightly frustrating not being at liberty to go out for a change of scene, we are mindful that there is good reason for it and we know that there are many, many worse places in which one could spend in an enforced lockdown. We are thankful every day for our beautiful, beautiful surroundings.