Thoughts from Amalfi during Coronavirus

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.

Amalfi Coast Road in the town of Atrani

I Got My Driver’s License on the Amalfi Coast

I know what you’re probably thinking. Worst idea ever, right? The Amalfi Coast Road might be one of the world’s most beautiful drives, but it is certainly not one of its easiest – from the driver’s seat. Full of twists and turns, barely wide enough for two cars to pass let alone big buses, blind curves galore, and 9 billion scooters (that’s the official count) zipping in and out of traffic make the Amalfi Coast a challenging place to drive. Let’s not even get started on parking …

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Italy Roundtable: The Rush of the Strange and Unfamiliar

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This month’s Italy Roundtable topic “foreign” brought in a host of interesting topics from the group – all thoughtful, reflective and informative. Be sure to check them all out at the links below! While I am a foreigner living in Italy, there’s another aspect of the word “foreign” that has been rattling around in the back of my mind this week. The secondary meaning of the word is listed as “strange and unfamiliar.” Dictionary example: “I suppose this all feels pretty foreign to you.” Now that sounds about right! It got me thinking. When was the last time you experienced something foreign? There’s a thrill that comes from the strange and unfamiliar. It means stepping out of your comfort zone, whatever the experience might be.

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I don’t know about you, but I thrive in the strange and unfamiliar. Not that I go in search of it. I’m certainly not an adventure seeking sort of person. Perhaps more of the sort that enjoys finding the adventure in everyday life. Whatever it is, I find that I am the happiest when I have quite literally no idea what I’m doing. It probably started with when I fell in love with studying ancient Greek in college. That was remarkable. Then there was that time I was a data analyst for Fannie Mae. (Seriously.) Or when I decided to study art history in graduate school and called up my mom to ask, “Hey, Mom, so I have to include a research paper with my application. What’s a research paper?” Then there was the time 10 years ago when I moved to Italy without speaking any Italian. Or when I started freelance writing and editing. The land of “strange and unfamiliar” is my home.

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So why the wisteria? Well it’s pretty. Besides that, it represents a moment I had recently that reminded me how important those strange and the unfamiliar moments are in our lives. Sure a trip to a new country around the world is exciting, but how can you get out of your comfort zone right now, right where you’re at? When I went to Positano earlier this month to see the wisteria, I decided to make some video clips so I could start learning how to use iMovie. It may have taken me a few weeks to finish that video, but when I uploaded it to YouTube yesterday, I had a rush. There it was. Something strange and unfamiliar. I have quite literally no idea how to make movies, and yet there I go putting one out to the world to see. It’s nothing special. I have a lot to learn. But what is special is that incredible experience of doing something strange and unfamiliar!

Go out and try something foreign this week – a new restaurant, a new drink at your local coffee shop, a new way to drive to work, a new genre that you usually don’t read, a new craft, a new recipe, a different type of creative endeavor. Don’t worry if it doesn’t work out. Let me know how it felt to experience something foreign!

 

Italy Blogging Roundtable

Italy Roundtable
This blog post is part of a series called The Italy Blogging Roundtable. Every month our group of Italy based writers takes on a new theme, and you can read the contributions for this month’s topic – Foreign – at the links below. We’d love to hear your thoughts and comments. Please share the stores if you’ve enjoyed them!

ArtTravRefugees in Tuscany: New Book Questions Preconceptions

At Home in TuscanyForeigners in Tuscany

Italy ExplainedThe 5 Letters of the Alphabet Banned by Mussolini

Girl in Florence50 Shades of “Foreign” in Florence, Italy

ItalofileFrom Foreign Language to Lingua Franca: Italian Immersion Programs in Italy

 

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Is This Your Cat?

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From the moment I met our cat Toulouse, it has been an adventure. This furry little guy arrived one Monday morning three and a half years ago, when someone buzzed at our gate and asked, “Is this your cat?” When I looked at the orange and white fuzzball with impossibly big ears, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. It wasn’t very many hours before the adventure began, when this little kitten was attacked in front of our eyes by another cat and left for dead. We rushed him to the vet and I helped nurse him back to life. You can read all about that adventurous Monday here.

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It took some time for Toulouse to get his name. But to give you an idea of his playful nature, his first nickname was “Bitey McBite.” While it took awhile for just the right name to arrive, it took no time at all for him to work his way into our hearts. This little nutcase has been non stop craziness and fun since he could get around again. He is my constant companion and writing buddy. He makes me laugh so many times every time. He brought a smile to my face during some very tough times over the last few years. How could you not laugh at a kitten hiding inside fruit bag?

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Toulouse recovered well in all areas, except one of his front legs. He had suffered too much nerve damage to that leg and couldn’t move it much. So after having him for about 6 months, we made the big decision to have that leg amputated. And boy was he brave! I shared about that story here. Although in retrospect, I think the whole adventure was more traumatizing for us than for him. He never looked back … and has been rocking three legs ever since!

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We’ve had more adventures along the way with Toulouse (look up “twitchy cat syndrome” sometime if you’re truly bored), but I couldn’t image our life without this cat. And even though he sometimes gets annoyed with Toulouse, I suspect his big brother Puffy feels the same way.

Puffy and Toulouse

So now, after three and a half years and many adventures, I can answer with certainty, “Yes, that is my cat!”

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Animals definitely have a way of coming into our lives in unexpected ways. How have pets changed your life? I’d love to hear your stories!

 

 

 

Italy Blogging Roundtable

italy-blogging-roundtable
This blog post is part of a series called The Italy Blogging Roundtable. Every month our group of Italy based writers takes on a new theme, and you can read the contributions for this month’s topic – Pets – at the links below. We’d love to hear your thoughts and comments. Please share the stores if you’ve enjoyed them!

BrigolanteOf Dogs and Death

Italy ExplainedCaesar’s Cats

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Happy New Year from Amalfi!

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Happy New Year! I hope your holiday weekend was full of excitement and a good dose of relaxation, too. The new year always starts off with a bang in Amalfi thanks to the incredible fireworks display over the harbor. I thought you would all enjoy watching this beautiful video of the show this year by Amalfi based photographer Andrea Lucibello. It’s a bit slow to start, but it’s fun to watch the whole town light up in different colors when the big fireworks start going off. You won’t want want to miss the grand finale!

My holiday weekend was spent close to home since one of our cats is very sick. But how many places in the world would you find a vet who would make a special visit to his studio on New Year’s Eve and also New Year’s Day? We’re grateful to know one such vet on the Amalfi Coast! Even though I’ve been home a lot, there was festivity in the air with church bells ringing, fireworks and, of course, the local Capodanno bands. (Capodanno means New Year’s.) These bands make A LOT of noise. So much noise that you can hear them from the next town over sometimes!

These bands are a local tradition that spills over the mountains from Naples. They are a ton of fun to watch, especially when you take a close look at all the homemade instruments. In the video below of the Capodanno band in Amalfi, you can see all the instruments as they pass by. So much fun!

Wishing you a fun start to 2017!