(A series of personal observations recorded as Italy takes action against the spread of Covid-19)
A couple days ago, we got the newest set of even more strident directives issued by the prime minister in regards to further closures and restrictions nationwide, and, in sharp contrast to any and all previous communication issued by the Italian government on any topic, there is what could cautiously be referred to as a small degree of clarity.
One point in particular emerges: certain professionals (including architects), who have private studios, may in fact go to work.
“See?? Now that makes sense.”
G. had been stopped in the street a week ago by the carabinieri, who, in their zeal to interpret and implement a series of imprecise directives, had instructed him to work from home or face a ticket and/or jail the next time they say him.
We’ve been having the same conversation every day since about whether or not it’s reckless to go outside, potentially infecting people or getting infected. Or how likely/unlikely it is that he or I will be caught and fined. I explain that I believe it’s important to have discernment in situations like these. I outline the fact that we’re not parading around the piazza kissing people, but going alone to the studio or, for me, up in the woods where the likelihood of coming within 2 meters of anyone, accidentally or on purpose, is slim to none.
You’re really an individualist, he ‘s said. As if this is a defect of character.
Maybe, I’ve said, as if this wasn’t a defect of character, particularly in times of pandemic. I prefer to frame it as the capacity to think for myself and disregard things that make no sense.
We don’t have the conversation today. Today he is visibly relieved. The rules are clear. He’s within the law.
“It doesn’t say anything about artists though… “
“It says independent professional though, right? How else would you describe me?”
“But really, your studio doesn’t technically exist,” he says looking over the document again, “They could get you.”
But he knows I don’t care.
I don’t care.” I say anyway.
“And the fine is now 4000 euros instead of 400 if they find you on the street without a reason.”
There is a mutual exchange of patience being practiced here and both of us refrain from continuing the conversation. He knows I'm impossible sometimes and I know he's showing me he cares.
Later, he wanders up to my studio from his studio below, carrying a piece of paper.
“You can feed the cat,” he says, handing the paper to me.
Caught in the midst of my work, I have no idea what he’s talking about. Did our missing cat finally come back?? Is there someone else’s cat that needs feeding? Has he found a cat?
“You can feed the cat,” he says again, pointing to the paper.
He looks at me, eyebrows raised, willing me to read his mind and say what must be said. I’m still not following.
“Look-- It’s one of the reasons you can go out. To take care of an animal.”
“But—“ I start. Then I stop.
A small and slightly absurd miracle has just occurred.
One might expect, given certain stereotypes about Italians (particularly southerners) that this man would be perfectly at ease finding loopholes, evading regulations, cracking but not necessarily breaking the law; or just impassively disregarding the law completely if it was really that inconvenient. He isn’t at ease though. He’s the black sheep, the possibly switched-at-birth sibling who would probably feel more at home in a place like, say, Switzerland or Germany where people know how form a line or follow instructions and laws carry with them the expectation of respect.
I can see he’s not entirely comfortable with the information he’s just shared with me; with the document he’s printed out for me to sign which clearly states that I must travel between my home address and this studio address daily to feed an animal. He might be more at ease if the cat comes back. Or if the cat were a pig instead, or a pair of goats, as was more likely intended by the ambiguous wording of the rule.
He is, however, plainly satisfied to have found a way to protect me and keep me safe. I am no longer a renegade.
I added this blog as a way to share some thoughts and experiences around the impact of Covid-19 on my life here in Southern Italy. These posts have been a near-daily practice during this time and are largely unedited, most having been first posted on Facebook. They are of course in order with the most recent entry on the first page. I invite you to explore previous posts or even start from the beginning.