Over the past 13 years, I’ve written a lot about the Amalfi Coast. About beautiful beaches, about my favorite hikes through quiet villages, about food, about the people, and really most everything in between. Plot twist. So here I sit at my tiny desk inside our small house right in the historic center of Amalfi. Thankfully, I can see a few lemon trees and the bright bursts of purple as the bougainvillea in the neighbor’s garden starts to bloom. We have a little balcony off the bedroom that overlooks a narrow passageway. Normally a pretty busy little street, now we only see a handful of people passing by with shopping bags or neighbors taking their dogs on short walks. Its very narrowness likely making it not as popular a walkway as it once was. I sit here writing about something I never expected to write about: life on the Amalfi Coast during the coronavirus pandemic.
By this point the entire world knows about the horrific situation Italy is enduring and battling with COVID-19. When I left Italy in February to visit family and friends in America, coronavirus was certainly on my radar. As the days and weeks of my visit passed, the situation developed in exponential and unsettling ways. By the last week of my time there, I was seriously considering changing my ticket and watching the situation closely. Yet with things changing so quickly and in unprecedented ways, it was hard to guess what might happen.
I left the USA on March 9th and landed in Paris in the early morning hours of March 10th. While I was flying overnight, the Italian government expanded the mandatory quarantine that had previously just been the north of Italy to the entire country. There were two flights from Paris to Naples still scheduled for that morning. One to Rome that I anxiously watched board and leave the gate. Then there was my flight to Naples. The plane was packed (I know …) with people trying to get home to Naples and the surrounding area and many others just trying to get back to Italy and then continue on via a connecting flight or train. Never have I ever been so glad to land in Naples. Despite the air of relief, there was no spontaneous burst of applause as there often is in Naples when the plane touches down.
Once back home to Amalfi, I drug my suitcase through an already deserted town. Once home I stayed home for the mandatory quarantine like all Italians. Every day the restrictions tightened here to limit exercising outside, walks, etc. As the days passed, we watched the news and waited daily to hear about more cases in Campania and southern Italy. All we could do and can continue to do is to sit tight and wait. It has been an unsettling place to be in, a mix of anxiety for what may happen here, pain with what is happening across Italy, and gratitude that we and our loved ones here and around the world are well. There are so many who are suffering in unspeakable ways now and my heart aches for all of them.
As of right now it appears that the Amalfi Coast and much of southern Italy were largely ahead of the virus, as far as we know, when the quarantine was put in place. As a word of encouragement to everyone reading who might be sheltering in place or self isolating, this approach does seem to be working. Or helping at least. So far there are only a handful of cases on the Amalfi Coast. The town of Vietri sul Mare now has 7 confirmed cases and unfortunately one death. The police forces and military have been working hard to patrol the entrance points to the Amalfi Coast to limit the movement of people to only the absolutely essential situations. This has helped a lot. As has the seriousness that people have taken with the quarantine. While there are always the difficult people no matter the situation in life, from the little I’ve seen and heard people are taking this very seriously. It’s not easy, but staying at home is the best way we can all help right now.
Life has changed in many ways for so many people here and there is certainly anxiety in the air for the future. Even more for staying well. So we stay inside and we wait. In Amalfi, the grocery stores and food shops and pharmacies are open and well stocked. We’ve been going out to shop as little as possible. Even though you’d think it would feel good to be out to run these essential errands after weeks in the house, it really doesn’t. It’s just eerie standing on the main street of Amalfi and seeing only one or two shops open – each one with a very spaced out line in front. No one really talks much. In a place where so much life happens outdoors in the street like Amalfi, this is a strange experience.
One thing hasn’t changed much during this period for me personally and that’s the stack of work and writing projects on my slate. I’m grateful to be able to continue writing and sharing about the places I hold dear on the Amalfi Coast in these anxious days. While I’ll be busy at my desk, fingers tapping away at the keyboard or scribbling notes, I’ve continued to share occasional posts over on Instagram and Facebook about what’s going on mixed with some pure eye candy. Because don’t we all need an escape these days? My friend Nicki over in Positano has been posting a series of videos called The Quarantine Diaries. Follow Nicki on YouTube to get a glimpse of her daily life during these strange days.
At the time that I’m writing, we’re only in the middle of the coronavirus situation in the region of Campania. I’ll share more thoughts about the experience as it develops. According to the experts, the coming week should be the peak of the virus spreading in Campania. We hope beyond hope this is true and that we’ll start to see the number of new cases and deaths going down each day. This is what everyone is waiting for – for all of Italy and now the world.
Please keep sending your positive thoughts to Italy as there are so many people struggling in this time. But even more than that, take care of yourselves and your families and your communities. When all of this is over, I hope you’ll reschedule that trip to Italy you had planned for this spring or summer. Or perhaps plan a new trip. Just like communities around the world, there are many small businesses and family-run companies that are suffering now because of everything being grounded. Start where you’re at and then if your heart feels led to support the Amalfi Coast with your travels, it will be here ready to welcome you with its beauty and warmth.