Sunday morning I woke to the news that all of Lombardia and most of northern Italy was on lockdown. The “red zone” which was previously limited to 11 towns where the outbreak was concentrated, was expanded to include Lombardia and other provinces here in the north. As of yesterday morning, the ENTIRE country has been placed on lockdown. The number of cases has risen to 9,172 and sadly the number of deaths has risen to 463.

What does that mean for us who live in Italy? It means we are not allowed (unless authorized) to leave Lombardia or Italy. Saturday and Sunday morning as the news spread of the lockdown many people made a mad dash to the train stations and highways fleeing before they could get stopped. It also means we are strongly encouraged to stay at home unless we have to go to work, buy groceries, go to the doctor or have to perform a necessary task. Any gatherings, both public and private are prohibited. Schools, churches, museums, gyms, cinemas and the like are all closed. We are required to stay one meter away from each other in public. The elderly are advised not to go out at all. Violation of the new ordinance is punishable by three months prison time and/or a fat fee.

People leaving Milan by train
An empty Piazza Duomo.

It is surreal to say the least. I have to admit that for a country known for its disorganization, Italy’s response and actions taken to contain this virus has been impressive. From the moment there was evidence of community spread, they have taken swift and drastic action. There is an appeal to civic duty to obey these restrictions for the good of those who are the most vulnerable. In general, Italians seem compliant. Sadly, as the numbers show, the drastic measures taken by the government have not stopped the virus but it has bought the health system time to treat those who are affected most and hopefully slow the spread. I find myself thinking about those who are pregnant, about to give birth, and those who, in the middle of this chaos, have a serious health emergency such as a heart attack or stroke. This virus will have ripple effects that will be felt by many.

Yesterday I went to the Posta (post office) to pay a bill. They only allowed one person at a time into the office and those of us who had to wait outside had to stand one meter apart. Judging distance is a little difficult but I did my best. The thought crossed my mind that maybe I need to carry a measuring tape with me! I also went to the grocery store to pick up a few things. There were much less people shopping than usual and many were wearing gloves and masks and again, people tried to stay away from each other. Driving home there were few cars on the road, less people walking and biking. Today, the first thing I noticed is the lack of noise. Mornings are full of sounds of a bustling neighborhood, cars and buses driving by and my neighbors leaving their homes and heading off to work and school. Now, there is an eerie silence in the air.

I’m praying this virus will meet its end soon and I pray those who are sick and suffering will recover quickly.


Sunday morning our world changed in the Milan metro area in ways that we would have never anticipated. Cases of the Coronavirus were diagnosed in towns outside of Milan and those towns were put on lock down, no one in and no one out. As I digested the news, more news arrived. The governor of Lombardy issued an ordinance for the whole region: no university classes, no school, no sporting events, no performances, no cinema, no religious meetings and no public or private meetings of any kind. Then it snowballed into museums, libraries, public offices, etc., all closed.

As you can imagine, such drastic measures by the government caused wide-spread panic. By Sunday night people had ransacked grocery stores and pharmacies, stockpiling what they deemed as necessary survival supplies. Monday morning I realized I was out of toilet paper and coffee and headed to the store where there was chaos and empty shelves.

On Monday the city of Milan, Italy’s economic power house, came to a stand still. The normally bustling streets of the city were eerily quiet. Piazza Duomo, the city’s heart, usually full of locals and tourists, was a ghost town. Major events such as Carnevale were cancelled and Design Week was postponed to June. The Coronavirus brought the city and its economy to its knees.

Panicked folks on the metro.

The number of cases and deaths continue to climb but there seems to be less panic and fear. Thankfully, today (Thursday, February 28th) the local authorities are discussing the re-opening of the Duomo and other public places. As of Monday, March 2nd, the Duomo ticket office will not be open but rather entry into the cathedral will only be allowed to those who bought their tickets online. Apparently, they will allow small groups of people to enter at a time. There is also talk of museums reopening. Schools, sporting events, cinema and music performances, religious gatherings, and all other public meetings are cancelled until March 1st.

I’m hopeful that normalcy will return soon.