Greetings from Mondovì: A Safe Distance

Our house

Our house


31 March 2020

When a social welfare state doesn’t seem like such a bad idea: when the Protezione Civile delivers a washable, protective face mask to your post box—gratis.

When you live in a country that prioritizes quality of life: a) when a nearby wine cooperative is making home deliveries.  My husband ordered two demijohns of table wine—one each of Dolcetto and Barbera—to bottle in our cantina.  b) When the mercato contadino goes online to make locally grown fruit and vegetables available by home delivery; we got our first order today.


1 April

Online news this morning includes a Bloomberg report of promising statistics: Italy’s rate of new virus patients seems to be slowing after three full weeks of a country-wide order to stay at home; they’re calling it a plateau.  The Jakarta Post, on the other hand, quotes an Italian epidemiologist who worries the whole strategy of isolating at home, sometimes in multi-generational households, is contributing to the spread of new cases.  The numbers see-saw: down, then up again; it’s hard to know what to think, what to feel–hope, despair, resignation.  Clearly the virus is not yet finished with us.

The Italian government plans to distribute direct financial aid to address growing frustration among unemployed workers in Palermo and other parts of the south, and extends the policy of self-isolation through Easter and possibly early May.  An Italian political scientist on Euronews Tonight believes the true number of infected may be close to two million, not the 110, 574 estimated by the Protezione Civile.

A rise in new infections in parts of Asia that seemed to have the contagion under control is being met with tighter travel restrictions and quarantine rules, as well as electronic monitoring of individuals’ movements and contacts.  A friend in Israel writes that his phone can tell him when he’s been in contact with someone who’s been diagnosed with the virus, but also can report him to authorities should he move more than 100 meters from home.  This is chilling information.


2 April

Our quarantine period ends tonight.  Tomorrow morning I plan to make a trip to Ipercoop, the big hyper-market in the shopping mall.  There I can buy everything from food, cleaning products, and toiletries to printer paper to an electric razor so we might trim my husband’s ever-shaggier hair.  There’s no hope for mine until my favorite salon re-opens.

I don’t mind saying I’m a bit nervous about leaving the house after two weeks of confinement, but I will go masked and gloved, armed with hand sanitizer and wipes.  I’ll go early with a detailed list, divided by product category so I can get through the aisles and out again quickly.  In the checkout line I will observe the distanza di sicurezza—the safe distance of two meters between persons.  I’ll buy some extra groceries—pasta, rice, oil, canned tuna—to contribute to one of the informal food banks springing up all over Italy, points where one may deposit a few items for anyone who might need a bit of help right now to feed themselves and their families.

Early spring weather is another up-and-down affair—two days of warm temperatures, sun and clear skies; four of chilly damp, heavy overcast, intermittent rain.  We bound outdoors on the fair days, stay close to our fireside on the foul ones.  Yesterday after lunch the sun came out; we bundled up against the north-easterly wind, jumped the little watercourse at the bottom of the meadow and walked into the woods.  We climbed an old road bed, saw our house from a new vantage point.  I picked a small bunch of the wild violets pushing up everywhere through a thick mat of fallen chestnut leaves.  Back on our terrace, facing west and sheltered from the wind, we drank tea until the light faded.  In these moments we hold the sad news, the staggering numbers, the whole frightened world at a safe distance.