Ciao from Pistoia.
Guest post: from Michela Ricciarelli – a professional tour leader who, in addition to working for some of the leading food tours operators in Tuscany, can be hired to help you plan your own holiday or to lead gourmet, art or fashion tours of the area.
An authentic medieval town located in the heart of Tuscany, thirty kilometres far from Florence, immersed in the green of innumerable nurseries plants, surrounded by the Apennine mountains filled with chestnut tree – it is right here, in Pistoia this idyllic lovely and quiet place, where Covid19 has killed so many people from the end of February 2020 onward.,
Pistoia has been one of the most affected cities of Tuscany and, since March 9th, we were in lockdown along with the whole of Italy. I will never forget the night when our Prime Minister, Giuseppe Conte, announced to the Nation, on TV, the restrictions we had to respect and, furthermore, the impossibility to move from one region to another, and even from one city to another of the same region and of course cannot leave Italy.
This was such a shock to me, as you can imagine. Another unbelievable restriction was to bring with us a self-certification to be filled with detailed information to specify where and why we were outside by car or on foot
It made me feel controlled as if I were a prisoner in my homeplace; such a feeling of oppression I have never had before in all my life.
Streets were empty, no cars at all, no people around or in the parks, no kids playing in the public garden with their games, no bikes around, only some people with dogs were allowed to walk but just 200 meters far from home and police cars were everywhere to stop people and check for self-certification. We faced a big fine if we got it wrong!
Another horrible thing that I found hard to hear and see in Pistoia were cars with a megaphone, in every street broadcasting the recorded voice of our major with the following warning:
”Stay at home! Don’t go out! Only to the supermarket but one person only per family or just go to work or to hospital for emergencies.”
There was nothing else we could do during those days:- just wait inside our homes and pray, hope, eat of course, and cook and listen to the news on tv or on mobile. After a while, I decided to suppress the excess of bad news stopping watching tv. The number of deaths updated every hour meant I couldn’t listen anymore.
All this made me remember my grandmother’s memories of the Second World War and I felt as the Third World War had just begun.
Even the empty shelves in the supermarket told the same story: no more flour, no more baking powder (as everyone tried to be a master chef just for one or more days!) no more chocolate, no more alcohol for disinfection, though alcoholic drinks as wine were fortunately available all the time, I lacked a real wish to drink with nothing to celebrate. That’s still missing at the present when I am writing! – finally, curiously, there were no more paper towels!
It has been a very tough period for me but now this is over, finally, and I wish to spread the world my refound freedom as the woman I have been since I was born and have been for all my life until last March.
What an immense joy to be free to go out without a reason, just with the only simply wish of walking and enjoying the smell of the spring in the air, all the blossoms of all the beautiful roses I missed in the quarantine, the blue sky over my head, the sunrays on my hair as a blessing.
Although we are still wearing a mask we’ve tried to invent coloured covers to have fun and feeling to be in fashion even wearing them.
However, it is not so easy to go back to normality in a short time:- two months of imprisonment can’t be forgotten in a single day!
I understood that my mind has changed so much in this period of self-isolation.
I remembered a tale I read some time ago. There was an elephant in a circus linked to a big chained to a tree, obliged to walk around it all day long before performing in the show every night. It was impossible for the elephant to move from there or change its path. Every day it was dreaming about a free life in the jungle before the circus.
When after some years the circus closed the elephant was finally free but instead of running away, it carried on the same itinerary he did until that day. Maybe the virus had the same effect on me? And probably not only on me?
For this reason, I’ve started to force myself to do again the same things I did in Pistoia before the lockdown and try to have my breakfast at the bar, eat in a restaurant, meet people in the street and chatting.
I want to think of this post-lockdown as a new Renaissance: we had the phase nr.2 when we had fewer restrictions such as going out by bike just from one place to another with no stopping in the middle and I wondered what would have happened if we had stopped? We could speak with others but groups of people were not allowed.
We didn’t have the chance to see our relatives until the 6th phase but, for me, as an only child it didn’t help much to see my very few relatives (we could just meet them and greet them with no kisses, no hugs of course and no chance to eat together! )
As you can easily understand being Italians we eat together – it’s a part of our lifestyle; as the Greek philosopher Plutarco wrote in about 110 AD, ”Mediterranean people don’t just enjoy eating but eating TOGETHER”
As Italians, we need to sit together and share food because for us it is the best way we know to celebrate special events, right now meeting without eating together…it is something we can’t be happy with
I know that just as after September 11th nothing will be the same ever again, but I have to do my best to find again a bit of sociality that I missed so much during the lockdown.
The first day, just three weeks ago, we had permission to go outside and visit our friends – not just relatives! – so I drove to see a friend of mine who lives in the countryside of Pistoia and we had a walk into the forest always keeping a safe distance and wearing masks but TOGETHER!
Walking free in nature, finding all this green around me, have the feeling of being free again just a few kilometres far from the city, enjoying the company of my beloved friends was fantastic, a real refounded joy, if I were a child.
I think that we all need to share our life with others, self isolation made me understand how sad life was without friends, how important our relationships are with others. We could live without tv or radio but not without them.
I have learned from this self-isolation that each day is a real gift, everything I am doing now after the lockdown is like I have been doing it for the first time, so, for this reason, I am appreciating it much more than before, having an ice cream walking is one of the greatest pleasure.
I have learned that each day is a unique chance you have, everything could change in one night and it lasts only what really counts: yourself.
I have learned that I can wear the same clothes for days but not the same thoughts: these changed and my fantasy really helped my mind to carry on thinking about new projects and dreaming about the day to come, day by day as a march I have to live within the moment.
Last morning a little bird flew into my kitchen and stopped for a while on my table, and after a second it flew away.
I saw in it as a good omen: Life had come back to me again and with it, my freedom.
One of the best news from here is that for a few days now I have been able to fly not only with my mind and fantasy only, as I did during the quarantine, but now even by plane. Yes – Florence airport is working again and this a wonderful reality I wish to share.
My message for you is this one
Yes, we can: we can hope all the sorrow and the pain of these last weeks will be replaced with a special, unknown peace of mind and great happiness because since now on every step we take will be a brand new one, full of positive energy, as a new re-birth as in the Renaissance, that was born just born here, in Florence, in Tuscany.
So from Pistoia, a small town rich in arts and history comes a voice after the lockdown, my voice, to tell you: never give up, trust me, you will see the light at the end of the tunnel and it will be simply fantastic and since then on you will appreciate every single, simple thing in life feeling so fortunate to be a survivor.
Miky has pointed out to us that Pistoia would be an excellent base for a break in Tuscany. Why? Well apart from the city’s own charms, rail transport is good in Italy and Pistoia links directly to Florence, and is close to Lucca, Pisa and the Coast (by train). You can even go skiing, up in the mountains at Abetone, easily reached by car. And, of course, it’s considerably cheaper than staying in Florence.
And, of course, you can contact Miky and get her help to make your trip work like clockwork!