Moving to Italy in the midst of a pandemic is not an eventuality anyone prepares for.
Mulling over whether I needed two different types of leather jacket was a futile decision when, in reality, I arrived to an abundance of hurdles that I could not have anticipated in the slightest. A short-lived experience of some shopping and freedom before we plunged into zona rossa came as quite a shock to me, as I reminisced over Italian Easters with my nonni: freedom to travel, shop and see family became a distant memory. Alongside the rest of Italy, I prepared for a different type of Easter celebration this year, reminding myself to be grateful for what I did have, which was 28 degrees weather, good coffee and good health.
Affected by the melancholy tone throughout the city, I even pondered whether to buy a colomba, calculating if the biggest one would be too much to divide between the few people I could see. I decided no, of course I would finish it, and got a second for good measure. It’s easy to feel despondent about the current lockdown situation, not allowing yourself the simple sugary pleasure of a colomba, but I really tried my best to shake this feeling and get on with it. This internal battle felt reflected in almost everyone I spoke to or passed on the street. A sense of what’s the point?, we’re not really in the mood to celebrate. It’s fair to say that Italy is suffering the most difficult of times, the faint light we keep seeing at the end of the tunnel resembling a dodgy bulb that’s about to blow, flickering on and off with false hope. We are reminded that the level of devastation Italians have been through and continue to suffer is insurmountable. With trattorie closed, hostile iron gates pulled down over artisan shops and an inexistent level of tourism, we are running out of ways to keep spirits high. Easter came as a well-deserved break from these monotonous thoughts.
Despite the muted festive tone in Florence, it seemed as if the Easter period really did bring a renewed sense of life, echoed in the blossoming of wisteria and daffodils throughout the city. Sun shining, flowers blooming and markets busy on Saturday, it was encouraging to see that nothing stops Italians cooking a torta pasqualina, sipping wine and spending time with their loved ones (albeit in a limited number). The importance of family and community remains a force to be reckoned with. Stopping by Sant’Ambrogio market, we waited in a bustling line for our turn to grab the Easter essentials for the next few days. It was a moment in which life appeared to have returned vaguely to normal. Hearing shouts of Auguri! and children weaving through legs on an Easter sugar high brought smiles to the macellai, who handed out little Easter eggs. I was thrust out of this daydream when another thermometer gun was pointed at my head: nothing will get me used to this feeling.
Sweating through my linen dress, strolling down the Pescaia di San Niccolò on Sunday afternoon, everyone was conforming in small groups, enjoying the sun, dogs galore. One thing lockdown has taught us is the value of company: that friend you see for a socially distant walk or aperitivo in a piazza, restrictions permitting. It’s a strange and unique reality that we are all living, or surviving, through the exact same reality.
Now that Easter’s over, I feel excitement at the summer months ahead, as we turn orange, the caseload falls and the prospect of sitting in a restaurant becomes a possibility again.