Update from Piazza Bande Nere: On Sunday I wrote to the Art Detective, “Yes, it is a bit disconcerting I have to say. All my lessons have been cancelled for the entire week. The Duomo has been closed to tourists, public transport is still running but I’m not using it along with everyone else I know, and I had a ticket for the theatre for tomorrow but the programme has been cancelled. As I say, it’s a little bit worrying!” That was Sunday, on Monday I was close to dialing the 1500 number to book a “tampone” or “test”. I had to use my ashma inhaler, the first time in a long time and I also had a slight cough. ‘N,’ I said to my flatmate, ‘last week I had to use my inhaler’. ‘You don’t have it,’ she answered. Thank God for that. I don’t, but the hype and drama here are overwhelming, anxiety causing and unavoidable. The press is having a field day. Streets and supermarket shelves are empty, kids have been packed off to the coast and whole families are taking to the hills Decameron style. There’s regional mandatory decrees stating that, among other things, bars, cafes and clubs must stay shut from 18:30 to 06:00 (although from what I read on the International Women of Milan fb group, some are staying open around the Navigli area), but if you were thinking of an aperitivo – you may need to think again. As for restaurants, I believe they are open, but who is going to them?
Mind you, it’s fine dining time for the “sciacalli” which literally means “jackals” or more appropriately “fraudsters” who are knocking on peoples doors pretending to give free tests and then robbing peoples’ homes! And IF you can find a face mask on sale, be prepared to spend an unholy amount of money. As for “l’Amuchina” a disinfectant hand gel – I don’t think my great Grandmother’s diamond ring would even buy me a small bottle right now – although I could have bought the same bottle for 1 euro last Wednesday. That will give you an idea about the general state of mind right now in Milan. I’m trying not to buy into it, probably like many others, but it’s difficult. The best piece of common sense I’ve heard to date comes from the writer and journalist Andrea Scanzi on a 15 minute video he posted on his FB page. He’s speaking in Italian obviously but if you understand Italian, it’s worth listening to. Saying that, I was meant to meet J in Pagano earlier today but he whatsapped to say he couldn’t make it because he was going to bed with a sore throat and a bottle of whiskey. While I’m a bit worried about him and suggested lemon, ginger and hot water instead of whiskey, I have to admit I felt relieved I didn’t have to go out. I know, it’s ridiculous. Or is it? I don’t know.
On a lighter, brighter note, and not because of the Coronavirus, I actually went to shul (synagogue) last Saturday morning, the first time since Jan 2018. There’s a strong Middle Eastern Jewish community here in Milan, something I didn’t know until recently. I’m of the Ashkenazi brand myself but really, there’s not much difference between us. One thing I noticed however, was that during the service when the community news was read out about an upcoming marriage, a birth and a graduation, there were ululations from the women upstairs – first time I’d heard that in a synagogue! Also, there was no “Adon Alom” the prayer usually sung at the end of the service and the only prayer I remember the first few words of. Not to be, but I think I’ll learn how to ululate. After the service there was a lavish Kiddish (after service nosh-up) for the married couple to be, with traditional Persian food and lots and lots of cakes and chocolates. There may have been a bar, but I didn’t see it – too busy stuffing myself with a meat, barley and cinnamon dish called Ash.
Later that evening I went to Ittolittos for dinner and to celebrate a friend’s birthday over a good burger and beer. And the Wednesday before, I was actually at Govinda the Hari Krishna restaurant for my friend I’s birthday who’s vegan. It was surprisingly good. This week’s culinary delights won’t be so eclectic and neither will there be any aperitivos – I love going for an aperitivo – but now that I think of it, when I was leaving Govinda they offered me a free vegetarian cook book – so I may try a few new recipes while I’ve got a bit of time on my hands – if I can find a few green leaves and or an odd potatoe in the supermarket.
Yes, it feels like I’ve got time on my hands, like I’m on a retreat at home. When I wake up there’s none of the usual morning traffic and I don’t have to take the metro to work. Instead, I make a cuppa, roll out my yoga mat, do a bit of stretching, make another cuppa, catch up on translation practice, read for the sheer enjoyment of it (I picked up Breakfast at Tiffany’s last week – first time I’ve ever read it), make dinner. It’s all a bit too quiet though, a bit too surreal. Let’s see what the rest of the week brings.