Who would have ever predicted the situation we have all found ourselves faced with in 2020. I remember seeing the initial news reports of a Coronavirus coming out of China whilst on holiday in Orlando and not really paying too much attention, assuming it was over the other side of the world and of no consequence to us. How wrong I was!
Dean went into Mogliano on several occasions with a mask on in February making the locals laugh at the mad Englishman, always joking around and weeks later we found ourselves locked down at home. How rapidly the situation changed. Whilst initially a problem in the northern regions of Italy, the virus quickly spread throughout the peninsula making Italy the epicentre of the pandemic in Europe and on 9 March the Italian government announced a countrywide lockdown from the following day.
For the next 69 days we would be confined to our homes, only being allowed to leave to get essential food or medical supplies in Mogliano wearing masks and gloves. School was suspended and the life we had previously known had temporarily disappeared.
March is a busy period in the gardens for us so initially the impact of the situation didn’t hit home – working each day in the gardens felt quite normal albeit the lack of human contact was strange. Dean popped up to local supermarkets, getting up early to avoid queuing too long. The general feeling amongst fellow shoppers was of quiet contemplation and fear and Dean’s extrovert and jokey nature was quickly forced into submission.
The strict measures were being policed with vigour, motorists being stopped and questioned about their reasons for being out, and heavy fines imposed for those breaking the rules. Mogliano quickly turned into a ghost town as the right to exercise outside was also withdrawn. The countryside was silent, not even the noise of children playing in their gardens in the distance could be heard.
Surprisingly schooling online via Skype and Zoom was organised efficiently and Grace’s bedroom became her classroom (and even the garden on nice days!). The extra hour and a half in bed has definitely been a positive side to home schooling and Grace’s teachers have been amazingly supportive. As the weeks passed we saw a change in Grace – heightened emotions and sadness. She started to miss the contact with her school pals and became angry at being locked down at home.
On the second day of lockdown, messing around after lunch we had a family challenge to see who could launch a loaf of bread onto a small balcony to our second floor bathroom. Dean’s success, caught on camera became the idea to our daily Facebook “keep smiling” lockdown videos. Thinking of fun challenges became a challenge in itself and even caused some family fall outs, but on the whole it provided us and hopefully our Facebook followers with a couple of light-hearted minutes as we made utter fools of ourselves. As the weeks passed by the videos became less, not always finding the strength to bring a smile to our own faces not alone anyone else’s. My favourite has to be the TikTok dance with Dean going freestyle in the background – I’ve watched it so many times and it never fails to make me smile.
Our social lives changed dramatically into “cyber social” meetings – the highlight of the weeks became a Zoom Saturday family quiz night with plenty of wine and fun stories. One of my favourites still has to be my brother-in-law’s story of returning from the local shop, on foot, on a Thursday evening as everybody came out their homes to do the “Clap for the NHS”. His account of being congratulated on his shopping achievements as he walked briskly, head held high back home was just hilarious.
Online aperitivo evenings became something to look forward to, sharing a glass of Prosecco with friends here in Italy and the UK. Making an effort to dress up a little, popping some make up on and even some perfume which only yourself would smell was a mental necessity to create the illusion of a pocket of normality.
My daily walks with Marley into the gorgeous countryside straight from our house have been a god send – time on my own, time to reflect, to cry, to listen to music and time to use up the excess calories from eating and drinking too much!
On May 4th we received some exciting news – we were finally allowed to take a walk in Mogliano. A step one might consider insignificant proved to be a huge leap, especially for Grace who could now enjoy meeting a friend for a walk and a natter. Mogliano quickly became reincarnated into a town full of life with walkers, cyclists and folk out jogging. Forgetting the more physical pursuits I just enjoyed seeing people, waving to friends hanging out their apartment windows as we passed by and shouting ciao across the street.
Finally on May 18th the Italian government agreed to free movement within regions. I was desperate to feel the sea breeze on my face, so armed with a picnic of homemade sandwiches we headed off to Civitanova for an evening walk along the beach. As we passed by the Mogliano town sign for the first time in over 2 months an overwhelming sense of happiness, relief and freedom flooded the car.
From 3 June there will be free movement within the whole of Italy and borders will be open for foreign travellers.
As a family we haven’t suffered any personal tragedies from this terrible virus so we are thankful. We will never forget our time in lockdown, and fighting to suppress the many painful memories will be those of family fun, games afternoons, trying out some delicious new recipes, taking more time to chat to family and friends albeit virtually, countryside walks and appreciating what a beautiful place we live in.
What about Caserma Carina? Well, we continue to work hard ensuring that our apartments and grounds are as beautiful as ever and ready to welcome you all back. 2020 is going to be a challenging year for us as with many people/businesses. Sleepless nights have become the norm in the McMorran household but we can see a light at the end of this dark tunnel. Travel restrictions are lifting and we hope to be welcoming some guests during the summer.
Social distancing will be here for the foreseeable future but eventually it won’t be necessary and when that time comes, I shall look forward to the thing I’ve missed and needed the most – the famous Italian kisses and hugs from all our friends.
What a cruel virus this is to create such havoc and sadness in the world, whilst removing one essential coping mechanism humanity needs– a simple hug!