A SLAPP in the mountains

South Tyrol, an autonomous region in Northeastern Italy where German and Italian languages co-exist, is best known for its spectacular mountain peaks and lush vineyards. Tourists flock to it in increasingly record numbers for its ski and hiking trails, its bike paths and thermal baths, and its food offer that ranges from gourmet pizzas to traditional Knödel. 

The diversity of this offer never translated into the media landscape, long dominated by the mighty Athesia publishing house. Still, a variety of voices existed until, little by little, Athesia morphed into a regional monopoly so powerful that, its critics say, is threatening the very essence of democracy: pluralism and freedom of the press. Many in this idyllic region now fear that Athesia’s recent legal action against the small independent news portal Salto.bz is a sign that its intolerance versus any kind of criticisms has reached dangerous levels.

Athesia currently controls about 80% of all regional media and advertising business in Italian and German, both official languages in South Tyrol. It publishes the most important newspapers, operates news portals, radio stations, as well as bookstores in all major towns.

It is joined at the hip with the Südtiroler Volkspartei (SVP, the people’s party), which has ruled South Tyrol since 1945. Athesia’s CEO Michl Ebner (70) has been an SVP politician for most of his life, sitting in the Italian and European Parliaments for a combined 30+ years. He has been president of the local Chamber of Commerce for the past 15 years (and currently running for a fourth term). His brother Toni has been the publisher of the largest-circulation  Athesia newspaper, the ubiquitous Dolomiten, since 1995.

Only a handful of non-Athesia media (in whatever form or language) have survived Athesia’s insatiable appetite. One of them is the news portal Salto, which was founded ten years ago by the independent Demos 2.0 cooperative. With its online and bilingual format (journalists and columnists publish in their own language, without translation), Salto clearly caters to an audience that has come to value pluralism not only in terms of languages but also of political, cultural and social views; this readership is open to criticizing a political system which seems impervious to change even as the climate crisis (to name just one topic) questions a local economy largely based on intensive agriculture and over tourism. 

The success of the portal, with around 30,000 regular users and subscribers, and the lively conversations in its community and commentary sections, are a testament to its importance as a much-needed space for healthy discussion and open exchange of ideas.

Compared to Athesia’s media empire, its readership remains relatively small. But through unmatched investigative journalism and newsworthy scoops, Salto has also acquired a reputation of fierce independence, as it takes its job as watchdog of the local mighty and powerful seriously. Inevitably, they include the dominant political party and publisher but, for Athesia, this seems to be an intolerable affront. 

So much so that it has taken the unprecedented step of accusing Salto of “media stalking:” on February 9, 2023, Salto’s publishers were sued by Athesia for alleged defamation. In the claim, which has raised alarm bells throughout the region and has been reported in national and international media, Athesia’s lawyers list 58 articles published on Salto.bz between 2018 and 2022, which, they write, are proof of a “continuous and pressing smear campaign” against the Athesia Group and the Ebner family. 

The stories, some of which are opinion pieces, report political and economic events surrounding Athesia, the Chamber of Commerce (chaired by Michl Ebner), and the media monopoly in the Trentino-South Tyrol region. They include interviews with local politicians, journalists or consumer advocates, who look critically at the activities of the Athesia publishing house.

The indictment lists only the titles and publication dates, without any detailed reasons for the alleged misconduct, or any indication of false allegations, misstating of facts etc. The authors of the stories are accused of “media stalking” and the crime of “slanderous insinuations of collusion with political parties and public administration.”

For this alleged “persistent and urgent defamation campaign” Athesia’s lawyers ask for a fine of 150,000 euros, which the publisher intends to donate to charity.

Salto publisher Max Benedikter and editor Fabio Gobbato believe that “the claim for damages is an attempt to prevent the publication of critical news and investigative research.” They also see clear signs of a classic SLAPP lawsuit (strategic lawsuit against public participation) “by which an overbearing media company wants to eliminate an inconvenient competitor. It involves silencing a critical media outlet.”

They vow to “not give up on continuing to carry out, promote and enable independent and critical journalism – the founding principles of Salto.bz.”

While Athesia’s journalists and media outlets continue to offer a deafening silence on the issue, the lawsuit has struck a chord in local civil society, in what seems to be the straw that broke the camel’s back. 

An appeal penned by a local historian has now been signed by over 1.200 people, representing concerned citizens, politicians, teachers, students, union representatives, and activists, many of whom believe – or at least hope – that the media giant’s latest action will backfire. As the German newspaper FAZ noted,  the fight against the young David did not end well for the giant Goliath.

My Empty City

I went downtown yesterday, for the first time in six weeks. A few more shops have opened, and I needed a replacement for SodaStream (the one thing I missed during isolation!) So I was allowed to venture outside the 400m-limit currently imposed in my town for simple walks (a doubling from the initial 200m!)

Click here to share my walk… Enjoy!

It was a beautiful, melancholic walk through Bolzano’s quiet streets. It’s hot – as is normal now, we moved straight from winter into summer. Normally it would be difficult to move around in the city’s most narrow streets, as it would be the peak tourism season, before the crowds choose the mountains’ cool weather over our sizzling summer. Looking at all the empty outdoor tables I wondered if we will be able to welcome back visitors in a different way. Safer, for sure – this is what everybody is talking about. Tourism is too important for us and for Italy not to take this very seriously. But we cannot think only about how to limit its infection rates when we think about reopening tourism – we could also use this tragedy to think about how to limit overcrowding, exploiting nature to the point of no return, emptying the souls of our wonderful towns..

The pictures of my walk … here you can share it

A Date to Pinpoint on the Moral Arc of the Universe

🇮🇹 at https://www.salto.bz/it/article/06062020/lo-stesso-film-di-52-anni-fa

In early March I found myself, like so many fellow Italians, playing the role of Cassandra. My open letters to American friends describing what was happening with the arrival of the Coronavirus – the rapidity with which the health situation had worsened, the dismay about the lockdown, immediately followed by the awareness of its inevitability – were also an early warning system: get ready, what happens here is only the prelude to what will happen to you shortly.

I never thought that the disbelief with which my messages were received in the U.S. would have turned quickly into my own disbelief , with friends, former neighbors and colleagues now sending pictures of familiar places in Washington, D.C., now locked by gates and fences, of looted shops, of the most symbolic places of American democracy surrounded by military personnel.

The tragic reality is that, however shocking and painful, all of this was perfectly predictable – probably much more so than the pandemic. After all, we’ve known it since that November morning of almost four years ago, when we woke up with a new president, enveloped in sadness, filled with the awareness that nothing good would come from this, and that no, leaders are not just all alike: even in our tired and hollowed democracies, the moral compass counts. These certainties were confirmed by every single act, proclaim, tweet, interview, photo-op., ever since. This disaster, now for all to see, was only a matter of time and circumstances.

Today marks the anniversary of the death of Robert F. Kennedy, assassinated in 1968 after winning the primary in California, on the way to obtaining the nomination of the Democratic party and, perhaps, the presidency.

Just two months earlier, Kennedy had found himself in front of a mostly African-Americans in Indianapolis. Martin Luther King had been murdered that afternoon, and it was Kennedy who broke the news. He had been advised against keeping that election event and addressing the crowd, but Kennedy showed courage and moral standing, telling local police officers that if they crowd would bother them, “you’re the one with the problem.” RFK had the credibility to speak honestly about King, and how personal that loss was, evoking (for the first time in public) his brother who was murdered five years earlier.

In the somewhat grainy video of the time, you can clearly hear the gasps of disbelief and pain with which the news was received. RFK spoke only for about five minutes. Quoting Aeschylus and the Greeks, he said, among other things: “What we need in the United States is not division; what we need in the United States is not hatred; what we need in the United States is not violence or lawlessness; but love and wisdom, and compassion toward one another, and a feeling of justice toward those who still suffer within our country, whether they be white or they be black.”

John R. Fulton, Jr./Associated Press

The mostly improvised words he delivered that April 4, 1968, are dramatically current as America relives scenes from the same movie 52 years later – the riots in the cities, the police brutality towards African Americans, the economic crisis that aggravates the already dramatic social inequalities.

Nobody can say how the same crowd would react today, in the same situation, to RFK’s words. Words of compassion, love, understanding can sound hollow 50 years later: the injustice perpetrated runs just too deep, the original sin of slavery is too persistent, the inequalities and the missed promises and, above all, the infinite deaths for police brutality. They are no longer enough.

But it is also true that without leaders like these, without these words and without these acts, America remains an empty box that not only is not, but cannot even aspire to be what the world still needs it to be.

A new president will not eliminate the injustices of American society, just as eight years of Obama’s presidency did not erase institutional racism. But it has become a categorical imperative to remove the moral and intellectual misery of somebody who brandishes the bible like a weapon without having the moral qualities to represent any ethical, religious or human principle.

While hundreds of American cities burned on the night of April 4, 1968, there were no riots in Indianapolis.

The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice, said King. And on a specific point in that arc, Americans must now pin the date of November 3, 2020.

Italy Reconnects

A wonderful hike in spectacular weather offered a much-needed sense of optimism about the future. The landscape unveiled by the Great Reopening ain’t pretty. But last Sunday, the focus was only the beauty and the clear air we were breathing – for the first time in weeks our lungs did not seem afraid of whatever was coming in. 

The bus and the cablecar rides were strage, as they are these days. But once up up on the mountain, where there are no tourists not yen even many hikers, it does not take long to reconnect with your happier self.

And I have reconnected with many other things, habits, and people since the lockdown ended.

The best: a visit (or three!) to the hairdresser (which, for the next pandemic, should be deemed essential business); a cup of coffee and a lovely conversation in the sun-drenched town square, where all bars are back in business and the rows of empty chairs you saw in earlier pictures are now welcoming a few customers; and, very basically and very simply, ice cream (yes, I know, it’s now called gelato).

Significantly, the city’s Saturday morning market is back, and with it Bolzano’s quintessential weekend ritual of strolling through produce stands to get your week’s worth of bread, fruit and vegetables from local producers, usually followed by a long aperitivo with friends.

I had the last in-person aperitivo with friends on the Saturday before the lockdown, when we knew what was inevitably coming but we didn’t know what was coming. So it seemed only fit to celebrate in the same place – there is enough space in the open-air cafés to do so safely…. But no, it does not feel the same, with masks + distance, but the memory of what this Saturday morning ritual means is too strong to keep away. That, and a good Hugo, of course….

On top of this, local indicators continue to show great improvements – only a handful of new infections over the past week; no new hospitalizations; Rt at 0.45; ICUs in the low single digits for the past two weeks or so…. Three weeks after the end of the lockdown, it looks like we are managing to keep infections down! Of course, caution is the word, but a little anxious optimism is warranted, and we should rightly be proud and enjoy the things we missed dearly during the Great Lockdown. At least until we open up our borders, welcome tourists back, and increase the contagion curve all over again! (But let’s hope not!)

We are, for sure, enjoying our well-earned #Fase2. But, as I said, it ain’t pretty. The economic and social losses are growing, and will only increase with the looming disaster of the summer tourism season, whose impact on Italy is hard to quantify.

The hardest part for me are the significant changes to our social life – the constant physical distance, no hugs, no handshakes. It’s hard for extroverts! You can’t embrace friends you haven’t seen in months because of the pandemic, yet this is precisely why you want a bearhug when you finally meet again!

And yes, we must wear the masks, but just how annoying and depressing it is to hide so much of who you are, and not “seeing” the others, including all the clues that help you navigate any social situation better than a thousand words?

So I shudder when I hear catchphrases like “this is our new normal“- there’s nothing normal about it! This cohabitation with SARS-CoV-2 feels like a forced marriage which will impose profound changes to our way of life. For how long? Who knows. During the lockdown we had one clear, collective goal: flatten the curve, protect the healthcare system and its ICUs, learn as much as possible about the virus so as to eradicate it as soon as possible.

I miss that clarity. I miss the hope we had that things would magically change for the better (Andrà tutto bene!) The awareness that this was only wishful thinking and we should have known better is depressing. 

I therefore expect that much more ice cream and many more hikes will be needed to endure this arranged marriage with the virus. I will indulge in both!

But will need more to survive the time between now and the divorce from SARS-CoV2 (because divorcing this thing we will!) We need to think a bit harder about how to do things differently. Change does not magically happens – not even during a pandemic – and the hard work is just beginning. But first, will try a few new flavors!

May The 4th Be With Italy

And so, today, we switched back on. Not every shop or every profession, but several million Italians are back in business and at their desks. 

Our cities have been slowly coming back to life for the he past couple of weeks, and today they eventually lost that unique, almost sacred look of meaningful emptiness that we will miss while also celebrating its demise. 

I was a bit emotional when I greeted the owners of the kebab shop and the pizzeria around the corner who reopened today, albeit for takeaway only. It was like seeing a long-lost friend, somebody you thought you might never meet again, a collateral damage of the pandemic, who will hopefully weather the storm of the new economic and social normal. Which looks much scarier than the lockdown now!

Gone are statements like Everything will change! Everything is the same – but uglier, with masks, gloves, queues in front of every shop and supermarket, long lines to get on a bus, no place to enjoy live culture or art, dreadful financial prospects for many family and businesses, and, still, very much unreal.

And yet, every key indicator (contagion, ICUs occupancy, deaths) shows that we hammered that freakin’ curve, that the lockdown did reach its goal. We did it. We managed what looked so difficult. And so we must now with some confidence wade into a new uncertainty – en masse, with byzantine rules about whom we are allowed to visit, and very much unsure about what will happen when cases will rise again, or if a second wave hits, and with no sense of the herculean task ahead of changing a whole educational system in just a matter of months…

So, for now, the known unknowns – the real contagion rate and the number of asymptomatic cases – mandate a very cautious approach. 

And the lack of a systematic and well-communicated tracing, testing, and treatment protocol suggests that isolation and social distancing is, for those who can afford it, still the most sensible and responsible way forward  – especially if I want to keep visiting my parents (they are still ok!).

Plus, with schools closed and telework still mandatory, we can keep on with our very limited but comfortable schedule – Alex is whizzing through his online exams and Anna through her online classes, as if that’s what they have been doing for their education all along.

On the plus side, we do get to enjoy walks and bike rides. We are having a stunningly beautiful spring weather.  And as we all know, hope springs eternal!


The sign of my neighborhood kebab joint, owned by a Kurdish refugee family. Was glad to see them reopen today, and am looking forward to their fabulous kebabs.

Phase 2, Strategy 0

The lifting of restrictions will start on May 4th, with millions returning to work on that day and most shops reopening two weeks later. Bars, restaurants, hairdressers will only open on June 1 – not sure how most of these will survive another five weeks of zero activity. No religious services, and no soccer games yet but athletes can resume practice – and I bet Serie A will restart the season. But: no schools until September.

In Bolzano we have regained freedom of movement within city limits already, and as of tomorrow we can even bike anywhere! People are out and about, enjoying the wonderful spring weather while dutifully donning their masks. The numbers of new infections and the numbers of deaths have gone down dramatically (here and in the whole country), and there is a palpable sense of relief in the air. We flattened the curve. Intensive care beds are available again. I continue to limit my social visits to my parents only, and the kids stay away from friends, with a few exceptions. Might try to see friends for a stroll soon, even though the masks and the distance will really take some pleasure out of it.

The date for the end of the lockdown had been in the news for days now, so we expected to hear about strategy from the prime minister’s press conference tonight – after all, we have been hearing for months that we will need to “dance” with the virus for a long time… Alas, in a very disappointing statement he made clear is that Italy will walk into ‘Phase 2’ as unprepared as when it sleepwalked into the pandemic. We can forgive the first mistake (but we should not forget). But not this. Opening up the country after two months of lockdown without a strategy for ramping up testing, tracing and isolating, and without a plan to shelter the most vulnerable borders on criminal incompetence. Doing it without a shred of a plan on strengthening the health system for the inevitable second wave is simply irresponsible.

PM Conte didn’t say a single word to the millions of parents who will go back to work in a week while the schools will remain closed. He didn’t say a single word to the students who will miss out on months of education and socialization, and to the thousands who are not able to follow online classes.

I think the lockdown was necessary and it has saved lives. I thought the point was also to gain time to put a strategy in place for living with the virus for a long time. “Andrà tutto bene” needs more preparation to go from aspiration to reality.

We are not ready for the dance floor.

All perfectly clear, right? The Italian government’s criteria for the monitoring of health risks during the reopening Phase – Fase 2

Fase 2, strategia 0

Non si tratta della lentezza nella riapertura, ma della mancanza di una comunicazione efficace e di un per convivere e “ballare” con il virus

Nessuno si aspettava la soluzione alla crisi sanitaria ed economica. Nessuno si aspettava una grande riapertura. Nessuno si aspettava di poter organizzare cene e feste in allegra compagnia. Nessuno si aspettava il Libera Tutti.

Lo sanno anche i sassi ormai che la vita non tornerà alla normalità finché non ci sarà il vaccino (o una cura miracolosa). Il messaggio è stato recepito dagli italiani. Siamo stati in casa salutandoci dai balconi, abbiamo lavorato al tavolo di cucina, fatto la fila in farmacia, imparato a usare Zoom per fare lezione e fatto i compiti con i nostri figli, ci siamo laureati via Skype, fatto la fila al supermercato, costruito mascherine di stoffa, imparato a salutare i nonni e gli amici via Skype, e fatto un’altra fila. E questa è stata la parte facile per la maggior parte dei cittadini. 

Molti altri hanno rischiato la vita negli ospedali. Moltissimi hanno lasciato la loro vita negli ospedali, da soli, e moltissimi vivranno per sempre con il ricordo di una persona amata morta da sola. E tantissimi altri stanno vedendo il sogno di una vita scivolare via – un lavoro indipendente che non esiste più, un negozio chiuso, progetti saltati, risparmi svaniti. 

Il virus nuovo, i cinesi, l’OMS, le protezioni che non c’erano, la crescita esponenziale del contagio, terapie intensive al collasso… Il lockdown dunque, per appiattire la curva, salvare vite umane, e preparasi a convivere a lungo con questa pandemia: la martellata che serve per preparaci alla lunga danza con il virus, secondo una formula molto citata.

Il lockdown è stata una misura dolorosa ma necessaria per l’Italia di inizio marzo (possiamo parlare degli errori fatti, dei ritardi, della comunicazione disastrosa); non credo che stiamo scivolando in uno stato di polizia, e trovo tutti gli allarmi in proposito fuori misura (e un insulto a tutti coloro che vivono il vero terrore di uno stato totalitario); scaricherò una app per tracciare i contagi, senza timore per la privacy (ma solo se mi fa apparire in carne ed ossa la Santa Trinità – vedi sotto).

Ma il 26 aprile 2020, nel discorso che doveva sancire la ripartenza del Paese dopo quasi due mesi di chiusura, l’Italia che aveva appena finito di cantare Bella Ciao sui balconi, con il tricolore ancora appeso, aveva il diritto si sentire parole serie, preoccupate sulla base dei dati (ancora molti i contagi) ma speranzose sulla base degli stessi dati (diminuzione dei contagi, dei malati in terapia intensiva). Essere rassicurata sulla validità della martellata – che tanta sofferenza ha causato – e illuminata sul piano di passaggio alla Fase 2 – sulla base di quale strategia e questa visione per convivere con il virus. 

Ma se una martellata può essere impartita a furore di decreti, la danza deve essere preparata con cura, preparando i passi necessari, modulando la musica, aggiustando il ritmo alle forze e alla resilienza dei ballerini impegnati, cambiandolo passo quando si arriva a un certo livello… Ci vuole una visione, una squadra, un direttore d’orchestra che spiega e convince.

Conte ci ha fatto tragicamente capire che non abbiamo nulla di tutto questo: siamo arrivati alla vigilia della danza impreparati, così come siamo entrati nella pandemia – impreparati con 26mila morti in più e il 10% di PIL in meno.

Credo che questo fosse il discorso più importante di Conte dall’inizio dell’epidemia, e forse della sua inconsueta carriera politica. In molti abbiamo compreso i tentennamenti iniziali, le difficoltà di attuazione, il caos dei primi giorni. (Ma attenzione: comprendere non vuole dire dimenticare o azzerare le responsabilità. Vuol dire sapere che all’inizio di una novità assoluta si tentano strade nuove, ci si inceppa, si riparte.)

Per questo il discorso era importante – per segnalare di aver capito gli errori e di poter adesso indicare come accompagnare una nazione attonita mentre muoviamo i nostri primi passi di coronadance.

Invece, oltre a ribadire divieti, ricordarci l’uso della mascherina, e farci correre a vedere chi (secondo lo Zingaretti? O il codice civile?) è considerato un congiunto, ha detto poco, pochissimo. Anzi, nulla.

Una gravissima mancanza su tutte – la scuola, neppure nominata, discussa solo in risposta a una domanda. Lo sapevamo già, che non riaprono, e ce siamo fatti una ragione (i danesi avranno anticorpi diversi dai nostri e un corpo insegnante più giovane). Ma neanche nominarla, neanche un segnale che qualcuno si sta occupando, come priorità assoluta, di tre urgenze: come aiutare gli studenti da qui a giugno (soprattutto quelli lasciati indietro dalle lezioni online); di come recuperare, possibilmente in estate, mesi perduti di educazione e socialità; e di come ripartire a settembre (possibilmente prima?) Anche solo un invito, alle diverse regioni, di pensare a idee innovative, fatte su misura per le diverse situazioni locali (scuole grandi, piccole, rurali, cittadine, con le mense, senza le mense, omogenee, non omogenee) sottolineando che, in una fase di emergenza assoluta, nessuna idea che mette i ragazzi al centro verrà scartata, nessuna opzione lasciata cadere – un whatever it takes per le nostre future generazioni – anche per prepararsi alla possibilità si una seconda ondata.

Neanche una parola su come i genitori che torneranno a lavorare tra il 4 e il 18 maggio possono farlo senza che i figli vadano a scuola. “Stiamo cercando di mettere a unto ulteriori misure” vuol dire non avere nulla di concreto a una settimana dal ritorno fuori casa di milioni di lavoratori.

Non una parola sul futuro prossimo venturo della sanità – affermando ad esempio anche l’ovvio, che occorrerà sostenerla e rafforzarla per la fase due, per il monitoraggio del virus sul territorio, per dare a tutti i medici di base i dispositivi di protezione per se stessi e i dispositivi per salvare vite umane (saturimetri, ossigeno, telemedicina), come pianificare la creazione di ospedali COVID, in quali zone. 

E silenzio assoluto su test, tracciamento, isolamento – la Santa Trinità che i virologi ed epidemiologici di tutto il mondo ci dicono – da mesi – che deve assolutamente essere attiva durante la fase due (è anche uno dei cinque punti del nostro ministero della sanità per ripartire in sicurezza – di questi le uniche parole sono sul distanziamento sociale). Dobbiamo continuare a crederci ciecamente in questa Santa Trinità e ad invocarla, o prima o poi si farà carne ed ossa con un tampone in mano, un’app-arizione sui nostri cellulari, e un luogo dedicato per un vero isolamento?

È risaputo che i tamponi, i reagenti, i test sierologici sono scarsi. Tutti fanno fatica a procurarsene. Ma non parlarne significa far finta che il problema non ci sia, e, in modo ancora più preoccupante, che non si ha un piano per ovviare a questa mancanza (dobbiamo avviare la produzione noi? Ci sta pensando l’Europa? Continueremo ad affidarci alla produzione cinese e a tutti i problemi che comporta?) Come possiamo usare al meglio i test che sono già a disposizione fino a quando ci saranno tutti quell che ci servono per “testare tempestivamente tutti i casi sospetti,” un passo necessario per passare alla Fase 2 secondo come l’allegato 10 del decreto del 26 aprile.

Evidentemente chi ha preparato questo allegato crede che esistano dei vaccini non sicuri (e non sa come si scrive efficace) Lo stesso allegato dovrebbe mostrare “i principi per decidere un aggravamento del rischio sanitario e, in caso, nuove chiusure.” Attendiamo i criteri del ministero della Sanità, che ha cinque giorni di tempo per emanarli.

Ammonire per decine di volte che non si tratta di un “Libera Tutti” serve solo a irritare 60 milioni di cittadini che non lo chiedevano e non lo aspettavano, soprattutto senza indicazioni su come proteggere i più vulnerabili – gli anziani, i malati, il personale sanitario.

Inoltre, non riconoscere le differenze tra regioni significare fare finta che non ci siano diversi gradi di contagio e dunque realtà che hanno bisogno di approcci diversi – sotto lo stesso ombrello della sicurezza e del distanziamento sociale ci possono essere molti modi di operare.

Ci saranno ancora medici e infermieri eroici, insegnanti che andranno bel al di là delle loro capacità per tenere alunni impegnati e interessati, genitori che faranno salti mortali per aiutare i figli, vicini che faranno la spesa per gli anziani, volontari che doneranno tempo e denaro.

Sapremo cosa fare come individui, ma non sapremo come, o se, il paese terrà il passo in questa danza inevitabile con il virus. Non lo sappiamo perché, nel momento in cui ce lo aspettavamo, ci è stata fatta una lista di divieti invece di comunicare con onestà, chiarezza, e dati alla mano.

Non è andato tutto bene, e non sappiamo come andrà avanti.

So how is the lockdown working for you?

#ItalyLockDown #WorldLockDown April 3, 2020

Today was originally planned to be the day when restrictions imposed on March 9 would be lifted.

Back then, we looked at the calendar and wondered, how on earth can we survive a lockdown until April 3 – as individuals, as families cramped in our apartments, as a society?

Well, most of you are now in the exact same boat, with restrictions lasting even longer. How do we all do it? I think we complain a little, then watch the news and count our blessings. 

The tragedy on our doorsteps is in fact immense. I personally know so many people who have been deeply affected – losing a loved one without saying goodbye, or getting very sick, or suffering in so many other ways. The list grows exponentially, just like this damn virus. And we are barely starting with the economic pain.

Our health care system didn’t get close to collapse like Lombardy’s because we had a little time to prepare; the slowdown helped. Also, 11 people were airlifted from the region to ICUs in Austria and Germany, freeing precious beds and respirators. (Europe is helping, don’t believe who says otherwise ). The curve seems to be flattening now, like the one in Italy.

But the extension of the contagion in our town and in our region is simply breathtaking. And the effective death toll is very likely much higher than the official 128 — like in Bergamo, many of our towns saw an increase of deaths over the same period in previous years – and this will be true everywhere as well. Similar statistics in your locations will be appearing very soon.

How will we be able to live with this pandemic before we have a vaccine is the question that is on everybody’s mind now. The worry about if, and how, we can live a decent life with COVID19 is slowly overtaking the worry about our everyday’s life, which has basically become routine.

To no-one’s surprised, we are now supposed to shelter in place until at least Easter Monday, or Pasquetta as we call it, traditionally a day for family and friends gatherings and outings. Prepare for an influx of news stories about how Italians are reinventing the tradition during the lockdown (picnic on our balconies?), and then re-read them with Americans and the Fourth of July as the subjects.

The days seem to go by faster than one would think…   Anna and her schoolmates seem to be still pretty diligent about online classes and homework. For how long? Alex is finishing his quarantine (and looking at the UK situation with very different eyes now).

I resumed groceries shopping (no scarcity, long but very civil lines at the entrance) and turned to “quarantining” all the boxes for 72 hours on the balcony, and washing what needs to go into the fridge right away. Yeah. Maybe not needed – but why risk it?

I was also able to visits to my parents to bring medications and food. I walked around their apartment like I was on a crime scene, careful to touch the least possible amount of surfaces, wearing gloves and a mask (which makes conversations with my hard-of-hearing dad quite colorful), and staying several feet away from each one of them. This is most painful for my mom – holding her hand and looking her in the eye was the best way of communication in her advanced Alzheimer’s stage. 

And then we have the happy moments, like our neighbors’ daughter who discussed the thesis for her BA in early education from home via Skype.

We celebrated her from our legendary balconies. With the promise that we will soon have a proper party when this is over. We promised each other so many parties to last a century. But it ain’t happening anytime soon.

Stay safe and stay inside. And Washington, D.C.: it seems you have a little time advantage in terms of slowing the contagion. I hope that’s true.  Don’t waste it!

Our neighbor Chiara proudly showing her thesis that she discussed online.
We celebrated her BA clapping from our balconies.

God Bless Italia

God Bless America. Negli Stati Uniti più che una benedizione è un sottofondo costante e confortante al quale non si fa quasi più caso. Accompagna la fine di quasi ogni dichiarazione ufficiale, lo dicono i Presidenti in chiusura di discorsi e comizi, ma anche i giornalisti, gli attori, i cantanti. È una richiesta a un dio laico per una benedizione che attraversa tutte le religioni e protegge tutti i cittadini. 

Il valore che gli viene assegnato è direttamente proporzionale alla persona che lo pronuncia, così come l’attenzione che ottiene da chi ascolta. Posso pensare a pura ipocrisia quando lo pronuncia un presidente che non ha fatto nulla per tutelare gli americani dallo tsunami del virus, e posso commuovermi e capire la profondità di questa invocazione quando lo pronuncia un governatore che si sta facendo un quattro per aiutare la sua città e il suo stato. God bless New York.

Nel nostro Paese, dove un politico può appropriarsi senza vergogna del rosario o di una preghiera, quello sì come uno slogan che non trasmette nulla e non rappresentare alcun valore, non dico cristiano, ma neanche di comunità o di solidarietà, mi piacerebbe avessimo una frase equivalente, un semplice Dio benedica l’Italia che potessimo usare tutti in questo periodo di buia incertezza, per invocare un comune denominatore cui tutti, credenti in qualsiasi dio e non credenti, potessimo affidarci per invocare uno stesso desiderio – di guarigione, di rinascita, di un fine ultimo che tutti vogliamo. 

E allora God bless Italia: un augurio a tutti noi di lavorare insieme, di aiutarci, e di imparare dagli errori commessi prima e durante questo flagello, e di uscirne migliori. Non dovremmo lasciare questo compito solo a un uomo solitario in una piazza bagnata dalla pioggia…