Sharp Monica

An honest voice in Italian paradise.

Update from Italy: Here We Go

The sun really rolled out for my last walk. Gold painted the Arno this evening. Grazie, sole. Photo credit (c) Monica Sharp 2020

Tomorrow the region of Tuscany joins many other Italian regions, entering a code red in a lockdown attempt to manage the upward spiral of Covid positive cases. Hospitals are again strained. Ambulances and emergency vehicles wail through the streets day and night. The faces of Florentines are etched with stress.

What’s different this time, compared to last spring? Well, we’re old hands, have done this before. On a very positive note, the region is prioritizing keeping the schools open for children 12 and under who are not as technologically independent and who struggle with online classes. I have a lot more I could say about usability and online classes; I wish I could point the kids’ schoolteachers to best practices in online pedagogy, and cut their contact time down significantly to three 20-minute sessions or so, with time away from the computer to do an assignment. The memories of a teary, bleary third-grade Vic struggling with online classes are still very fresh for the other three people in the household who was in lockdown with him last spring. It is no exaggeration to say he was enraged, and as a parent and a tech-savvy person in general, I judged him to be most justifiably annoyed.

I felt the familiar panic goblin creeping over my shoulder. Yesterday I stress-cleaned, and overloaded our washing machine, thus breaking it and causing a flurry of palazzo apologies and assistance. The final load duly drained, Jason called Zoppas and the repairman has been scheduled for a Thursday morning house call. Fortunately it was the last load.

I have already begun stress baking, but more mindful now of what seems to be my increasing intolerance for glutinous grain. I may have to start baking gluten-free. I have a recipe in mind already for coconut orange carrot squares.

Knowing that this day would soon be upon us, I have been taking very long walks each day, up and down the Arno, crossing each bridge multiple times, typically in the morning before I went to the office. Watching the egrets gracefully fish, oblivious to the currents. The morning smells, the deserted streets and piazze, the bored baristi, all arranged themselves into a visual poem that I read as I walked. Tonight I took my last long walk for some weeks or months to come, and it did not disappoint. I was concerned by the number of people out, but 98% of them were carefully masked. I was clearly not alone in my wish to briefly access urban freedom before we get down to it here at home again. On my way back to our house, the sun overflowed with golden light spilling over the surface of the Arno, and a double rainbow appeared to the east, spanning the distance from San Miniato to Le Cure. I was not the only one to stop and take a picture of it.

Rainbow over Piazza Beccaria, arching toward Porta Croce Rossa. Can you spot it?

I’ll be going into the law office as I can, to work in the mornings. The kids will still be going to school. I’ve got stacks of books to read, and a book I am writing. The ogre who previously lived in the ground-floor apartment of our palazzo decamped at the end of May, so I’ll get my watercolors (acquarelle) out here shortly and plan on spending some time in the garden. Watch my Instagram feed for art output.

We’re just moving into this as prepared as we can be. I’ll be writing here more, so check back, and follow me. Parting note: I never thought I’d be a routine apron wearer at home. Is this Italianness? Is it practicality? I eschewed it before because I thought, I don’t need to protect my clothes. But now I think, it’s a kitchen towel with strings for hand wiping. Such is the practicality with which I am moving into the third phase of our pandemic experience. My 98-year-old Finnish muumuu would be proud.

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