What’s it like to live in Milan, Italy, the epicentre of the deadly coronavirus epidemic? Read about the trials and tribulations of living in a once bustling city under lockdown. This magnificent historic, medieval/modern fashion hub and its citizens are sadly in a sort of purgatory, shut down for months. This is coming to the UK and elsewhere as well.

 

It’s true. The Coronavirus has been with us in Italy for a few weeks already. It has to be said: the virus wasn’t exactly an unexpected guest. If anything we are guilty of not having prepared an adequate welcome, but it’s now here in my city Milan, to stay for a while, getting cosy among the rising number of victims (over a thousand already).

As all respectable homeowners, the Italian people have decided to welcome this guest in the best way possible by copying the Chinese quarantine model. That’s right – for once we are the ones doing the copying.

This is the current situation in Milan: people have to stay at home as much as possible, avoid all direct contact with people and keep a distance of at least one metre with anyone outside of the home unit.

Going out is only allowed for unavoidable reasons, all unnecessary commercial and economic activities have been closed, and workers are encouraged to take holidays (at home) or do home office.

milan

What this means is that we are actually still working. Companies rejoice, while accountants – their pupils shaped like dollar signs – toast from a safe distance. That’s right; they can now avoid paying all office management expenses.

Not so happy are those employees with a flair for gossiping: you would at least want to see a person’s shoulders if you are to talk behind their back.

There are plenty of profiles to focus on during this crisis, but perhaps one of the most interesting is food delivery riders.

Going against the stereotype that all Italians are simply divine at cooking, there are those who currently make the most out of this valuable service on a daily basis.

Street front view of Milano Centrale railway station in a foggy
Street front view of Milano Centrale railway station

These brave food couriers on wheels, which back in the day used to risk their lives in traffic, are not quite sure whether they should be happier for the sudden increase in workload or rather for the lack of cars in the street. But to be fair, they do have a secret weapon: if you want to make sure they don’t cough and spit on your pizza you best leave them a generous tip. On the floor, from an appropriate distance, preferably 10 euros or more.

Biscuit Soup

Day after day our alienation grows. The lucky ones get more lonely, whereas for the rest it’s worse: they are forced to share vital space with people they generally run away from. It’s a bit like being in prison, the only difference is that we practically don’t get our hour of open air each day.

Shopping in Milan, Vittrio Emanuele II gallery, Italy
Vittrio Emanuele II gallery, Milan Italy

There are those of course who’ve been mastering the recluse lifestyle for many years: Hikikomoris, asocials, sociopaths, NEET, elderly people forgotten by their families.

After decades of social stigma, their time has come! They sneer, knowing full well that everyone is hanging from their lips. The question is simple: how do you manage to live in such a way? Tell us, please! And they would even be happy to answer, become leaders, influencers and thought gurus.

One of the disadvantages of living a secluded life is that you just find it too hard to interact with others. Words simply fail to come out, leaving room to improvised “how to” articles published by lifestyle magazines.

Middle Ages courtyard with pool in surreal fog

On a different note, cats hardly seem to have noticed any changes – even though their owners are spending so much time with them. They simply get on with their sleeping doing fuck all all day long. As always, they couldn’t care less. And that’s perfectly fine.

Panem et circenses

It is ultimately boredom, as well as the virus and a certain air of death that seems to linger over everything and everyone, that has become the true enemy these days. How do you spend all this free time without being able to move?

The answer is the good old TV, with streaming options such Netflix and Amazon Prime. These platforms challenge each other to see who’ll be the first to get our eyes to explode from so much watching.

But there is one certainty that we can hang on to: it’s easier to die of Coronavirus than finding a decent film amid the ocean of teen TV series about teenagers with supernatural powers who have sex, argue and take drugs (sometimes all at once).

beautiful woman in red dress with book on roof

Speaking of sex, those who live with their partner can do a lot of it whether it’s out of boredom or anger (the divorce rate in China is rapidly increasing). Those who don’t have a plus one simply have to remedy in a more self-sufficient manner. True, once we’ve explored all the different categories and tags, even those you never thought you’d venture in, it may all merge into one big moaning, frantic orgasm. After that, the only thing that’s left to do is to let our minds wander into the most remote areas of our subconscious to conjure up perverse thoughts and bizarre fantasies. A quick online search will confirm your suspicions: you will find the relevant video for whatever you are thinking, and it’s even more sordid than what you imagined.

Timeo Danaos et dona ferentes

All things considered, Italy is reacting well to this pandemic. Perhaps it’s because we were inspired by two specific stories. The first one is Giovanni Boccaccio’s Decameron, a collection of novels written halfway through the 14th century and set in Florence during the Plague. Ten guys decide to find refuge in the countryside and spend their time telling each other stories, often quite saucy.

The other one is La Grande Abbuffata, a cult film directed by Marco Ferreri where four tired men bored of life decide to say goodbye in style. They shut themselves in a house with the aim of eating all sorts of delicacies, and they don’t stop until they reach a disgusting, hedonistic death filled with miasma, vomit and diabetes. In a country where the main preoccupation at the best of times is having enough food, this could after all be the fate for many Italians.

 

Written by Alessio Cappuccio (linkedin.com/in/alessiocappuccio1984)

Translated by Niccolò Montanari (instagram.com/niccolomontanari)