How We, Italians, Are ‘Celebrating’ Easter While Social Distancing

Amid COVID-19, Italian journalist Francesca Marino looks back at Easters past, as Easter 2020 stands cancelled.

Updated12 Apr 2020, 05:52 AM IST
Blogs
5 min read

Easter is here, and the (second) worst thing is the weather (apart from the coronavirus pandemic). A precocious spring has filled every corner of my house with light and warmth. The light of Rome at sunset, that unique shade of light, when the sky becomes red like a hot flames, and then pink with hints of purple, then drowns all the ancient buildings in a deep hue of gold-yellow before leaving the sky empty. That light, if you have been lucky enough to see it even once, has always deeply moved me, and will always do. It is like a ray of hope, the promise of tomorrow. It heals your wounds and brings more happiness.

Easter 2020 Is ‘Cancelled’. Only Memories Remain

I now look at the sky from my little garden, and think of that spring, my first spring in Rome as a college student. That spring when I used to go to study, sitting on a bench at Pincio, or in a cafè with a huge ice cream cup in front of me. There was a song playing everywhere in 1983, ‘Vacanze Romane’ (Roman holidays).

I was wearing a blue Valentino suit and a white and blue polka dotted blouse, and ‘Duilio’ hill shoes, walking through Via del Corso, as though walking the ramp. In my provincial hometown, Cosenza, in Calabria (Southern Italy), we used to wear new clothes for Easter: blue and white and red and pastel hues, light fabrics and light shoes. You were supposed to wear new clothes for the Easter Sunday mass, officially stating spring had come. Even if it was raining cats and dogs.

A photo of the author in the Valentino blue suit in the ‘80s.
A photo of the author in the Valentino blue suit in the ‘80s.
(Photo: Francesca Marino)

I keep thinking of that silk Miu Miu dress I had recently seen, silk and lace and a flowery print, and that which I was dying to buy. And a pair of Prada black platforms to go with it. Buy it, and go out for a walk, a spring in my step, a smile on my lips. Having drinks at La Buvette, my favourite place, sitting outdoors, watching passers by and bitching about their outfits.

Image of La Buvette, the author’s favourite restaurant.
Image of La Buvette, the author’s favourite restaurant.
(Photo: Rome Luxury Suites / Facebook)

No Family This Easter

All my family is scattered around the world. My brother, the one who lives in Vietnam, had thankfully spent a month with me in December 2019. He hasn’t come to Italy in four years; this year will be no different. My other brother is in Berlin, my nephew is in London. My mother still lives in my hometown with a caretaker; she suffers from dementia, and taking her out of her familiar place will further destabilise her.

It’s Easter, a strange Easter under lockdown, with no family gatherings, no celebrations, and no traditional outdoor / public rituals.

Everything is now via video streaming – even the Pope’s Good Friday Via Crucis at St Peter’s Basilica.

A view of the empty St. Peter’s Square during the Via Crucis – or Way of the Cross – ceremony, following Italy’s ban on gatherings to contain coronavirus contagion, April 10, 2020. 
A view of the empty St. Peter’s Square during the Via Crucis – or Way of the Cross – ceremony, following Italy’s ban on gatherings to contain coronavirus contagion, April 10, 2020. 
(Claudio Peri/Pool Photo via AP)
To prevent people from moving around to have Easter lunch together or to go to holiday houses, 5,000 additional policeman have been deployed in Rome.

They're checking each car and each person, with the aim to prevent get-togethers. They're even using drones, to check smoke from barbecues held between neighbours. No picnics on Easter Monday this year. But the weather is lovely, and it is time to start working in the garden again, to look after the roses already wearing their new, tender leaves, and the clematis ready to bloom. Time to start using outdoor chairs and tables, to clean the barbecue, hoping to use it soon – surrounded by friends and laughter, and a huge, almost shameful, number of bottles of wine to discard after the party.

Roses from the author’s garden, from last year.
Roses from the author’s garden, from last year.
(Photo: Francesca Marino)
Flowers blooming in the author’s garden.
Flowers blooming in the author’s garden.
(Photo: Francesca Marino)

Who is Feeding Italy’s Stray Cats Amid Quarantine?

The park in front of my house is locked, and I suddenly remembered there's a feline colony inside. For those who do not know, Rome is famous for feline colonies: we have these ‘cat orphanages’ all around town. Cats are sheltered, treated if needed, sterilised and fed. We love cats so much, that we have plenty of what we call ‘gattara’ – mainly old ‘cat ladies’, going round feeding stray cats. Rumour has it that even Pope Benedict XVI was doing the same before becoming Pope; carrying a plastic bag full of pet food and feeding stray cats on the streets. But my local feline colony is inside the park; the park is locked, and the lady who is usually in charge of the colony, is quite old. Who's feeding them, I wonder.

Pope Francis presides over the Via Crucis – or Way of the Cross – ceremony in an empty St. Peter’s Square, April 10, 2020. 
Pope Francis presides over the Via Crucis – or Way of the Cross – ceremony in an empty St. Peter’s Square, April 10, 2020. 
(Vatican News via AP)
Casatiello, made by the author this Easter.
Casatiello, made by the author this Easter.
(Photo: Francesca Marino)

An Ode to Rome, An Ode to Days Past & Days to Come

It's Easter, and the worst thing is the weather. I want to go out in the garden tonight and start singing ‘Vacanze Romane’, an ode to Rome, an ode to life in this wonderful, beautiful city.

Pastiera, made by the author this Easter.
Pastiera, made by the author this Easter.
(Photo: Francesca Marino)
A tribute to spring and Easter days: the lost ones, the forgotten ones, and the ones yet to come. Remembering that ‘tutto andrà bene’ – everything is going to be alright, and we’ll again be together, out in the streets.

Shouting at each other during traffic jams, for parking in the middle of the road, for making noise, for feeding cats, for leaving dog's poo on pavements, for letting children drive cycles in the park. 'Tutto andrà bene' – and we'll be back to normal, soon enough.

(Francesca Marino is a journalist and a South Asia expert who has written ‘Apocalypse Pakistan’ with B Natale. She tweets at @francescam63. This is a personal blog, and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for them.)

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Published: 11 Apr 2020, 02:24 PM IST
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