A Personal Reflection on Life in Rome During 2020’s Covid Crisis
2020 for many of us, was the strangest year of our lives. This blog aims to share with you all, what life has been like in the Eternal City during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Now Rome’s history has included plagues and pandemics before; survived flood, fire, and famine; and endured through times of war and peace. This time, however, it’s us that are living in this historic moment rather than studying about it – and let me tell you, for a bunch of tour guides and history buffs, it’s quite a change of pace.
About the Author
For a little bit of context I’m a 20-something (almost 30-something) Australian female, who has been living in Italy for a little over 3 years – 2 of which I’ve spent in Rome. I work in both the hospitality and tourism sectors which up until 2020 were thriving in the city. I was lucky enough to spend all of the lockdowns (of which there have been several) with my partner and it saved me from going mad.
So here is a little bit about how I have experienced the last 12 months living in Rome under the Covid-19 pandemic.
I realise that everyone has had a different experience and there are many people seriously struggling to keep their heads above the proverbial waterline. To everyone that is in a difficult position, PLEASE reach out to those around you, you are not alone in this.
The Long Lockdown
(March 2020 – May 2020)
Here in Rome the Covid-19 situation seemed so far removed for us, we were trading as normal, there were many tourists flooding into the city for the beginning of spring and the Italian team was to be hosting Scotland in the Six Nations Rugby a few weeks later. Covid was a problem in the north of the country but here in Rome all was relatively under control – or so it seemed. With hind-sight we may have had some cases here but at that time testing was infrequent and limited, so whether or not we were blissfully unaware of the situation, or it really was as controlled as it seemed is left to be seen.
Italy was revered for acting swiftly and strongly by locking down the ENTIRE country with very strict restrictions only a matter of days after imposing lockdowns in the heavily affected areas. Initially we were told that the quarantine would only be in place for 3 weeks at which point I started looking for flights to Australia – if I can’t go to work here and I have 3 weeks holiday, I may as well use the time to visit my family, right?! – but the prices had sky-rocketed and the Aussie government had imposed a travel ban on anyone arriving from Italy.
With that idea down the drain, and as weeks turned into more weeks, which turned into months; I (like everyone else) jumped on the quarantine rollercoaster. First I cooked; everything: cake, macaroons, biscuits, bread, pizza, slow roasts, I even tried to cook a lamb’s head (an accidental purchase the boyfriend made – *spew*) but around the halfway point I noticed my jeans getting tighter and decided to spend less time in the kitchen.
I tried the whole “home fitness” thing to some small degree of success, and watched Tiger King and Love is Blind with the rest of the world; reacquainted myself with reading, and played an abnormal amount of Candy Crush. Regardless, I was still getting cabin fever within the four walls of the home. We were not permitted to be more than 200m from our house and ONLY for the purposes of grocery shopping, going to a pharmacy, essential work, or emergency. Somehow my twice weekly trip to the supermarket wasn’t really fulfilling my desire for fresh air.
Finally, in the third week of May we were told that bars, restaurants, shops, and tourist sites would reopen. YAY! So back to work we went, except that for many of us, we didn’t. Slowly, slowly, in the summer some people returned to the city but it was an eerie and sad sight to see the streets of downtown Rome almost empty in July.
Restrictions were in place and we adjusted to “the new normal” with our masks, social distancing, limited capacity in venues and so on. Lazio (the region in which Rome is the capital), was lucky enough to be classified “yellow” the least restricted of the colour classification scheme devised by the government so for that I was grateful. At the very least, you could sit down and eat a meal with friends at a restaurant, or have a pint in a pub. However, the streets remained relatively deserted, and the city silenced.
A Covid Christmas
This endured all the way to Christmas. Cases in Italy spiking again, it was decided that a holiday period lockdown was inevitable and unavoidable. In other words: Have yourself a Merry Covid Christmas! The holidays are for family and friends, both were robbed of the opportunity to come together in a time where so many have so little. I had planned to spend the holidays with my partner’s family who live in a different region of Italy and so in a matter of “so close and yet, so far”, we, like countless others made do with video calls and gifts in the post (which arrived a week late thanks to PosteItaliane).
I can’t imagine those that spent this period alone, and I considered myself very lucky to have one person to pass those days with. Nonetheless, I can’t say it was the holliest, jolliest Christmas, we’ve ever had.
New Year, Renewed Hope
Coming into the new year, Lazio was released back into a classification of yellow and everything opened again, new rules were confirmed that would allow museums and archeological parks (after many months) to reopen, and everything felt hopeful…for a week or so…before we were reclassified as orange. Orange means that no bars, restaurants, museums, archeological sites, gyms, wellness centers, and others may be open. It was a huge blow to the hospitality and tourism industries (among others).
So what now? At the time of writing, we remain orange, but hopeful that we will return to yellow in the near future. Rome, for over 2700 years has endured times of prosperity and times of hardship, and so have her citizens. The city remains Eternal because of its people, and Rome’s people are strong enough to survive eternally.