We have started week three of Fase 2 of the gradual re-opening of Italy and I am a bit behind. Last week, “week two”, began coincidentally with the arrival of the hot and dusty scirocco-- winds that start in the heat and sand of the Sahara, travel across the Mediterranean sea, picking up humidity on the way, arriving here to give us a week of heavy glaringly bright white-grey skies, unseasonably hot hazy days, and too- warm nights.
As if it were summer, the early mornings were busy with women making the rounds: butcher, forno (oven), salumeria (deli), caseficio (for cheese or milk), grocery store and, now that we can, to the merceria for a needle and thread and to exchange the gossip gathered on the way. The men who have no chores out in the countryside make different rounds, walking from one end of the main piazza to the other and back again, maybe taking a caffé (standing outside) now that we can, gathering here and there in small clusters to discuss whatever matters seemed most important. As if it were any normal week, everyone disappears by 1pm. Shops are locked and shutters are dropped down across the entrance; the streets go quiet. The lockdown was this all day, but now there is again a suggestion of rhythm....
Midweek, the vegetable seller from nearby Teggiano finally returns to our narrow streets, lively napoletano folksongs and pop crackling from the loudspeaker of his small white truck as he makes his way around slowly, stopping wherever an aproned signora stood on the sidewalk outside her door, or shouted after him when the timing was off. Beneath the canopied wagon with the sides rolled up and tied are crates of fresh produce and a scale.
As if it were summer, fase 2 and the scirocco brought back our evenings. At 4;30 or 5pm here the shops are all open again. By 5;30 or so the piazzas and streets begin to fill. On my way home from the studio, as the sun is going down, I pass two teenagers walking by hand-in-hand. He carries a bouquet of roses. She is smiling behind her mask. Behind them is another couple, arms wrapped around each other tightly. Lovers and friends can go and find each other now. A group of younger boys speed whooping down a cobblestone street on bicycles. A group of girls all wearing the same white sneakers and the same blue masks roll their eyes. Older bicycles carry older people, rolling slowly through the streets or around the piazza. Everyone gets a gelato now that we can. Or something from the forno—a folded up pizza or a small calzone. The signoras have taken off their aprons and gather on benches here and there, short legs dangling.
In the small piazza in front of our apartment, every bench is taken and there is a small group on the steps of the church. The toddlers from across the way are chasing a ball, stopping only to scream “macchina!” in Romanian whenever a car goes by. Their slightly older friend plays big sister, making rules for them to follow. House martins fly swooping and dodging from their nests under the eaves and back again. The Indian couple is sitting close together, their baby girl in the stroller watching everything wide-eyed. It takes a little silliness on my part but she smiles and then laughs. The two young African men have changed out of their bright yellow roadwork overalls and are on their balcony across from the church. It is 9pm, just now dark… we go inside to cook a quick plate of pasta with artichokes collected earlier today from the garden. The noise from the street and the piazza comes through the open kitchen window as we eat, the cool white wine mixing with the slightly bitter chokes to make my tongue tingle with sweetness.
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.