Life in Lockdown: A report from Milan

One Scottish citizen currently living in Milan tells us what life is like living in lockdown and urges you to do your bit and stay at home

Feature by Raymond Gordon | 23 Mar 2020
  • Milan

Almost two weeks into lockdown, life in Italy is very surreal right now. In a country where there have now been more deaths attributed to coronavirus than China, staying at home is the new normal.

I remember hearing about the first cases reaching the Lombardy region, in the areas surrounding Milan. Those areas were classed as 'red-zone' and were in 100% lockdown with no-one allowed to enter or leave. It still felt very distant, and everyone in the city continued about their daily lives, myself included. 

In Milan, the first measures to be implemented were already more drastic than the social-distancing measures the UK is starting to see – gyms closed, cinemas closed, bars and restaurants couldn’t open after 6pm etc. Other than some frustration at not being able to go to these places, nothing else seemed to change. People seemed resistant, and we started to see things like #milanononsiferma (Milan is not closed) trending on social media, with what felt like every Italian posting images/videos about how everything should continue as normal, and that this virus was nothing to be concerned about. Bars and shops were still packed. Supermarket shelves were decimated.

The first I heard about this region going into full lockdown was on the news. It was announced on a Sunday, before the politicians had even finalised the details! We saw crowds of people rushing to the train stations to leave the region and move south before they got trapped in the new expanded 'red-zone'.

The changes happened very quickly the next day, with everything closing down with the exception of supermarkets and pharmacies. We were instructed to only leave home to visit one of these two places, unavoidable work, or in the case we had pets or children that needed to take a short walk outside. 

Any visit outdoors, we now have to fill in a document to carry with us explaining the reason for going out, incase of a spot check by the police. A visit to the supermarket involves queuing one metre apart outside waiting to get in – my local one allowing only three-to-four people to enter at one time. Once inside, the shelves are full, and there’s nothing I’ve struggled to find.

So now I leave home two or three times a week, with the rest of the time spent working from home. The weather outside is amazing – clear blue skies every day – but we all have to resist the temptation to go out. Anyone caught outside without a valid reason risks fine, or even imprisonment.

It’s amazing to see how the whole country is responding to being stuck indoors. People seem surprisingly positive, singing, dancing and coming together to support each other. Gyms and trainers have made a shift to home-workout videos, famous singers live-streaming. In place of #milanonosiferma, we have #andràtuttobene (everything will be ok) and #restaacasa (stay at home).

Checking the coronavirus stats/updates is a daily ritual, and it can be scary to see the numbers here increasing so much each day. Being in full lockdown does give a sense of hope that we will eventually reach the other side of the peak and see a return to normality, whatever that will look like.

The biggest impact of the whole situation for me comes from seeing the difference in how Italy and the UK are dealing with the situation. Italians were resistant initially, but jumped in line very quickly as soon as there were clear guidelines that they couldn’t make a choice to ignore. Here feels very organised, with the whole country united. Looking from the outside, the UK feels a little chaotic, and lacking direction. My family can’t find basics like toilet roll, pasta, milk, but here I’ve had no issues.

It’s definitely a different way of life right now, but staying at home isn’t the most difficult thing to be asked to do, and something more people in the world should be doing where they can.

I’m really looking forward to all this being over to get back to Scotland again though!