Welcome to my monthly column from Tuscany.
The Virus and The Italian People
There is no getting away from it, here in beautiful Tuscany, we are quite rightly isolated in our own homes, like the rest of the country, until early April. We are allowed to go out one at a time, to buy groceries or visit the farmacia (chemist).I have chosen to avoid going to the supermarket, instead supporting our local alimentare, grocery store, in Fiano. The family who run La Dispensa are absolute stars. They have had to close the coffee bar, so no coffee or pastries, but everything else can be bought there. However, there is no joy in visiting the village any more. Everyone waits to be invited into the shop, whilst standing at least a meter apart from each other outside. Conversation is subdued, a smile will get one returned, but it quickly fades.
The Italians are a wonderful mix of people, but whatever their background they are naturally sociable. So this is proving really hard for the elderly who normally sit snuggled up around coffee bar tables or on benches watching the world go by. I heard said that one person’s nonna, aged ninety-two, believes she is destined to die alone! So, there is a lot of sadness around.
On the other hand, the Italians love to sing and make music. Organised mini-concerts with instruments or pots and pans, are happening on people’s balconies. Yesterday, at around 6pm, music and song filled the air. And, of course, they love to eat, so the families will continue to enjoy their pranzo and cena. For many, eating at home has always been the norm.
The sacrifices we are making to save lives, are well worth it. From my point of view these are no restaurants, caffe bars, hairdressers or beauty parlors. Yes, a lot of stuff can be ordered on-line and deliveries are still being made for most things. The government is now reopening some of the factories that provide for the supply chain to grocery stores and supermarkets. It’s a question of lock- down the country, then gradually and as safely as possible, bring back those work places and factories that are absolutely essential to feed and provide medication to the people.
Meanwhile, on a much lighter note, the Tuscan countryside is bursting with Spring. So instead of going to the caffe bar in the early morning, we take a stroll around our country garden, breathe in the wonderful smells of cut grasses and blossoms and soak up the view. By some stroke of luck I bought a proper espresso machine a few months ago, so we can still enjoy a morning coffee.
My man and I are able to work remotely. We have a business in London, but 95% of our business can be transacted without face to face meetings. I am also a writer, so no problems for me. Friends and family have reported some difficulties like having to share the dining table with one’s partner to work and finding that intrusive. Another is having difficulty caging her teenage daughter! But it’s amazing how one adapts. In our area, everyone is sticking to the rules and there seems to be an acceptance to what was an inevitable situation. Let’s hope a cure can be found soon!
Well, we are continuing the preparations for our garden Rock Concert on 19 June. This gives us something to really look forward to. Whilst we must take each day as it comes, some future planning is not a bad thing. We have many friends who are dependent on the tourist industry, so they are being very hard hit. But I have a gut feeling that come June, things will take a turn for the better.
Yes, I would have loved to have sent you a column full of lovely places to visit and events happening in our area. But for now, I must ask you to watch this space. Enjoy good music, food and wine. We are!
Salute June x