New Normal Random Thoughts #2

I’ve been back in Italy for almost two weeks now. Things at work are quite busy at the moment, so days are still long sequences of zoom calls, but it’s nice to be able to take a break in the garden, or chat with somebody in person between virtual connections.

I have been able to go for daily walks in the woods around here. I love the fresh air of the morning, the smell of nature waking up, the occasional encounter with the little animals of the forest.

On one of my standard routes I often walk by the cippo Corridoni, a big lump of stone loaded with fascist symbols, commissioned by Mussolini himself. It doesn’t disturb me, I find it healthy to be reminded of our history, but I often wonder how this thing is still here after all these years. I guess it’s just too far away from the main roads to be noticed.

Cippo Corridoni.

Things appear to be going relatively well in Italy with the pandemic. Number are still low and most people are still following most rules. I must admit to feel a bit of pride for how this country managed the crisis: it was hit early and hard, but after fumbling the initial response it was able to control the pandemic and bring the numbers down much better than many others.

It’s disheartening to follow what is happening in the UK, with face masks only now being required in shops, but only from the 25th, but only for clients, but nobody will enforce it, but yeah, but no, but yeah, but no… That is the country I chose to move to, and to be honest I would have expected them to be able to manage a crisis better than Italian. Guess I was wrong.

On the other hand I had just a couple of occasion to deal with the Italian bureaucracy and in both cases I just wanted to just drop everything and head back to the airport, promising to never ever try to run a business in Italy again (“never ever” on this blog should be read as “At least 5 years. Maybe 3. Definitely not less then 6 months”).

This always reminds me of a conversation I had with Dave Winer while walking around the Duomo in Milano, perhaps a dozen years ago (details might be wrong). I was complaining about how things were in Italy, he told me that things actually appeared pretty good to him, that looking around he could see a functioning society, and that everywhere you go there are problems.

Of course I thought he wasn’t getting it, that the situation in Italy was special.

Of course he was completely right and I was wrong: at the end, we are all special.

Stay safe, be kind, keep in touch.

New Normal Random Thoughts #1

Last week I got to Italy without too much trouble. There wasn’t a lot of people at the airport, all restaurants were closed, everything was happening slightly ahead of schedule. The flight was quick, everybody was wearing a mask for the entire duration of the flight “except for drinking and eating” (every time I heard the announcement I was tempted to ask “and what about smoking?”). The flight was probably around 60/70% full, the seat next to mine was empty, but I had people sitting right behind.

Sitting at 1A, I was the first one off the plane and through passport (and temperature) control. In all effects I was the very first international passenger to land in Trieste in three months. The flight was in the local news, but by the time a photographer showed up I was already at home sipping a glass of wine.

Things in Italy feel quite different from the UK. They started their lockdown ahead of all other Western countries. Shops, restaurants and other services have been open for almost a month and it looks like people are already used to the new normal.

We went to a couple of restaurants, supermarkets, various shops, even a car dealership, unlike the UK face masks are compulsory and people are just used to slip on their masks as soon as they enter (you can take off the mask once you are seated at your table in restaurants). There are sanitizer dispensers at the entrance of every establishment.

My much needed haircut was pretty straightforward: had to wear a disposable mask (except while trimming my beard), and the one tool they couldn’t use is a brush to remove hair, since those cannot be sterilised.

I decided to keep my hair long-ish (didn’t go back to my pre-covid length), apparently this has been the case for a lot of other people, some who had a chance to grow their hair longer for the first time.

According to my hairdresser, some people are also reluctant to go back to more formal fashion: they just got used to wearing tracksuits all the time and they are sticking with the comfortable option.

Buying fish on a Sunday morning.

Masks are yet another fashion item telling people something about yourself, and of course Italians are embracing it! It’s not only about what kind of masks (disposable, reusable, flat, shaped, cotton, linen, coloured, patterned, black, etc.), but also how you wear it: for example it looks like older people tend to wear it with their nose out, making them pretty much useless.

Then there’s the whole thing about where to keep your mask when you are not wearing it. Under your chin? Hanging from one ear? On your wrist? In your pocket? Everyone has a style.

That’s all for this update. Stay safe, be kind, keep in touch.

Quarantine random thoughts #24

This is the last post of this series. I’m at the airport, on my way to Italy, once I get there I cannot keep calling this “quarantine”. It’s a bit surreal, the information screens that I have spent hours checking, exploring the list of destinations are now almost empty.

I’m happy to be heading home, but at the same time I feel strangely sad about the end of this weird period. The truth is that in many ways I enjoyed it, it has been a good time for reflection. People pay to go to meditation retreats like this!

I have completely emptied my fridge, eating everything I had (except for a single red onion that I threw away). At this point I’m planning to be away for a couple of months. Then… we’ll see, this doesn’t seem to be a good years for plans, anyway I don’t have any flight booked.

Speaking of eating all food, I added some extra garlic in my pasta yesterday. Life lesson #386: if you eat extra garlic and then you happen to be wearing a face mask, everything is going to be all right until you try to talk.

Well… that’s all folks. I’ll go have my haircut tomorrow morning, and there’s a lot of barbecue in my future.

Stay safe, be nice.