This piece is part of our Coronavirus Diaries series, which charts people’s day-to-day lives during the pandemic.
On March 9, Italy — the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak in Europe at the time — imposed a nationwide lockdown. It was the longest, and one of the strictest, in the West: Except for trips to the grocery store or to visit other essential businesses, Italians weren’t allowed outside their homes. It wasn’t until May 4 that Italy moved to “phase two” of its lockdown. Retail stores remain closed, and travel between regions is still highly restricted, but people are allowed to exercise outside.
Caroline Chirichella, 31, lives in the small rural town of Martina Franca, Puglia. A freelance writer, Chirichella spent lockdown with her husband, Vito, a 54-year-old artist, their daughter, 18-month-old Lucia Antonia, her mother, Elvira, 67, and her mother’s friend, Diana, 77. We asked her to keep a diary for 30 days of the lockdown.
Reflecting on the experience of keeping a diary living in a multigenerational home in Italy during this time, Chirichella writes, “It was very interesting to read the diary as a whole piece of work and see how quickly everything shifted — our moods, our energy and, most of all, our patience. It was stretched thin in our desire to get out of this frightening moment.”
Today took a lot out of me. My husband and I went out for our second trip to the grocery since the lockdown began three weeks ago. We left the baby at home with my mother, Elvira, and my mother’s friend, Diana, who is also quarantining with us.
We passed a hospital on the way, the one we always pass. But it has turned into a covid-19 hospital. There were armored cars and police everywhere.
When we got to the grocery store, we were told we could only go in one at a time. I went in. Everyone was wearing masks and gloves. When I was finally done and got in the car, I broke down in tears. This has become our new life.
This morning I woke up feeling extremely tired and defeated. Yesterday was a tough day; on top of everything, Lucia Antonia, my 18-month-old daughter, had a rough night. She was tossing and turning and couldn’t seem to get into a deep sleep. At breakfast, while sipping my coffee, I started crying. I suppose I was feeling broken from everything going on.
I usually find it difficult to relax, but today I tried to give myself a break. When my daughter took her afternoon nap, I followed. And I took the night off cooking. Instead, Diana made fried meatballs in a red wine sauce with mashed potatoes: something I could definitely get on board with.
After I finally got my daughter to bed around 11 p.m., I got into an argument with my husband, Vito, after asking him to help a little more with the baby. Ultimately, he told me if I need help, I need to learn to ask.
This is the third day in a row that I’ve cried. I had a big argument with my husband about how I need more help to get my writing done, not to mention more time to just relax and breathe. He told me I should ask my mom and Diana for more help, but I tried to explain that Diana is not our family. Plus, she is 77, and I don’t feel it is right imposing on her.
My mom watches Lucia in the morning so I can get a quick shower in, but Lucia has also been going through a phase where she only wants me or my husband. Everything feels difficult.
Today was the first overall positive day in a while. No fights. No tears. And the number of coronavirus cases in Italy seems to be slowly declining, so I’m starting to feel a bit better.
We decided to celebrate with a lovely BBQ and took advantage of the nice weather on the terrace.
Lucia Antonia was in fine form. Poor thing is starting to pick up on the reality of lockdown. She is being extra fussy and is clearly getting bored. When I tried to get her to take a nap, she was fussing for 20 minutes before I finally gave up. Tough day to be a baby … and a mommy.
Vito decided to start working on our garden. He was moving around the earth, planting seeds, putting in a passageway. Now is definitely a good time to start growing our own produce. He planted herbs, peppers, eggplant, zucchini, salad, strawberries, green beans. I’m so looking forward to watching everything grow!
I started the morning at 6 a.m. when my daughter woke up screaming. I woke up with the worst headache and could barely pull myself out of bed. I got Lucia ready for breakfast before finally caving and going back to bed. I knew I wouldn’t be able to make it until her nap time.
The coronavirus numbers today were the lowest they’ve been since March 10, so I’m starting to finally feel more hopeful. I’ve had two tear-less days, so that’s a start, too.
Mom cooked today (roasted chicken, mashed potatoes and broccoli), Diana set the table and I poured the wine. We’ve all been trying to help out as much as we can.
Finally, not just a positive day — a decidedly happy one. I woke up to my mother asking if we wanted pancakes. Always a good start. I requested mine with chocolate chips.
It was beautiful, warm and sunny out, so I took Lucia Antonia for a big walk on our property. We’re very lucky, as we live in the countryside with acres of land to run around on. I can’t imagine what it must be like to be in a big city, stuck in an apartment without even the option for some air on the terrace.
The number of cases were announced like always at 6 p.m. here in Italy. Another good day with lower numbers. I’m finally starting to feel like there’s a light at the end of the tunnel.
Honestly, today could not go by fast enough. I found myself looking at the clock every few minutes. I don’t know why.
I had no energy. I think being on lockdown for an entire month has caught up. It was also announced that the lockdown here in Italy would continue until at least May 3. I’m missing family, air and freedom. I moved to Italy in search of “La Dolce Vita,” to immerse myself in cooking and writing. Now, I have plenty of time to do both. But I didn’t imagine it like this.
I’ve been making a point to talk to my dad, who is in our hometown, New York City, every day. I also talk to my brother every few days. I miss them both so much. I feel defeated and helpless. You know when you tell yourself everything is going to be okay? I just can’t bring myself to do that, because I don’t know if it will be.
My mom told me of a friend’s mother passing away. Diana told us a close friend of hers is in the hospital in a coma and is not expected to survive. She broke down crying in the kitchen, so I gave her a hug. I felt terrible. None of these were related to covid-19, but it’s still so upsetting.
Lucia has not been sleeping in the afternoon. I’ve barely been getting a break. More and more, I’m getting frustrated with my husband, who I feel just isn’t helping enough, especially given the circumstances. I also got my period and my allergies are really acting up.
To keep myself calm, I cook. Isn’t that we’re all doing right now? My mom and I tackled a task we’ve been wanting to do for ages: homemade bagels. Being from New York, we know bagels. They came out very well for the first try, but I still want to get them down perfectly. You can take the girl out of New York, but not New York out of the girl.
I’m running out of ways to entertain Lucia Antonia. I’m practically running out of ways to entertain myself. My days are 90 percent spent with Lucia, including when I’m trying to work, and I’m really feeling trapped. I got annoyed at my husband, too. I can work from home during this period, but that doesn’t mean I don’t need time by myself to write. I don’t think that’s asking too much.
Ugh, when is this damn lockdown going to be over?
I finally decided to tell my husband I need a break. It’s not fair that I only find time to write once I get the baby down for a nap. Besides needing time to write, I need time to just relax and be.
This afternoon, over a bowl of homemade tortellini soup, my mom and Diana watched a British murder mystery. I tried to watch with them as well — one can only watch so much “Peppa Pig” — but Lucia wasn’t having it. She thinks she owns the TV.
The days are really starting to blur together. I spent all of yesterday thinking it was Tuesday. (It was Wednesday.)
I will be honest: It has been a bit awkward sharing our space. For one thing, we had just moved into this house, so we haven’t even had a chance to enjoy it for ourselves.
So tonight, I really cherished being able to relax with dinner by myself. I watched “Gossip Girl” while my husband watched the baby.
I’d been staying inside for the past couple of days because of my allergies, but today I finally got out, and the air, sunlight and exercise have made all the difference. I can’t believe how much progress my husband has made on the grounds — it’s really starting to look like a new house. Plus, my daughter loves running around on the grass and it makes entertaining her easier.
The numbers continue to be better every day, but I am really starting to feel like we’ll never get out of this.
When my daughter finally got down for bed, my husband and I cuddled up on the sofa with a cup of hot chocolate and a crappy comedy. At the end of the day, it’s nice for the two of us to finally have some time alone, which isn’t so easy in a house with a screaming toddler, your mother and your mother’s friend.
The numbers here in the south of Italy are going down, but the real problem is in the north. I feel so conflicted because as much as I would love the lockdown to be lifted and get back to normal life, I know even then life won’t look “normal.” I keep daydreaming about what our family will do once this is really all over. Something that’s been helping us is talking about future plans — trips to museums, the zoo, exploring Florence, visiting family and friends.
It wasn’t a good day for me mentally or physically. My allergies are still bothering me, and my stomach has been a disaster. I know it’s the stress of this whole situation. I don’t like feeling helpless, and I know I’m not alone in that. I broke down crying to my husband and mother in front of my daughter. It’s just too much.
I also told my mom I couldn’t talk to my dad today because I knew seeing him would make me cry — I miss him and my brother so much. I haven’t been telling him how upset I am that we’re not all together, because I haven’t wanted to worry him. He still works in New York City and was planning on officially coming over to Italy at the end of the year. I really hope the virus won’t get in the way of his doing that.
Every day, the news is getting more and more positive. You would think that would be enough to put me in better spirits, but it’s very hard. My daughter is clearly having a tough time. I can’t tell her everything that’s going on. All she knows is we’re stuck at home.
On our call today with my dad, Lucia and I went outside to show him all the work that Vito has done with the house. He was so happy to see Lucia playing in the grass. The last time my dad saw her was over Christmas, and she wasn’t walking. Now, she’s running everywhere. She actually started walking right over the lockdown. It’s amazing to see how much progress she’s made during this period.
We went grocery shopping today, the first time in almost three weeks. I never would have thought that something I once found so enjoyable would fill me with so much dread and fear. Every time we come home and remove our masks and gloves, wash our hands and use hand sanitizer, I still walk through the doors of our home with fear that I’ve brought the virus home with me.
For dinner, I treated everyone to Pasta al Forno — baked pasta with tomato sauce, sausage, eggplant, ricotta and mozzarella. You know, a light dinner. Since the lockdown, my diet has gone out of the window. I normally follow a diet with lean protein, vegetables and grains … now, not so much. But at least I’m taking walks pretty much every day, so there’s some balance.
It was rainy and gray, but I still felt happy. The truth is, there is so much to be grateful for right now.
And we’re so lucky to have my mom with us. I don’t know how I would get through this without her. She is my rock. She helps me stay positive, especially when I can’t.
Today, my husband and I took some time for ourselves while my mom watched the baby. It was so nice to be able to sit down and talk, just the two of us.
It was sunny and warm today. We took advantage of it. My daughter and I were outside most of the day, playing in the grass and running around.
My husband cooked dinner tonight (bless him, but it’s better he leave the cooking to me), and I’m just really looking forward to a good night’s sleep. I really need it.
Diana wasn’t feeling well, so she ate on her own in her room. We were able to enjoy dinner alone as a family. I don’t know the last time that happened.
We will officially enter “phase two” of our lockdown on May 4. Phase two is supposed to be a slow reopening. Restaurants can offer takeout service; stores can open but must allow limited customers in at a time; and, finally, we’re allowed to go to the park for a walk. Apparently, we’ll also be allowed to go visit family members, which my husband was quick to jump on. He wants to visit his 83-year-old mother, who has been in contact with others during the lockdown. Because of her age, she is high risk. I told him no, that we’re a unit and I don’t want anything changing that. I admitted I’m still scared, and I will need more time to return to normal.
Although the numbers have been going down, they’re nowhere near where they should be. Today, there were a reported 260 deaths compared with 415 the day before. There were also 2,324 new cases, compared with 2,357 from the day earlier.
I had an overall good day only for it to be ruined in the evening by a fight with my husband. He wants to go visit his mom, but I told him for at least a few weeks, I’m still not comfortable with that. I want to wait to see the results of phase two. He agreed, but told me I should thank him for agreeing to make this “sacrifice.”
I told him, “Thank you for putting the safety of our 18-month old daughter first,” sarcastically of course. I just lost it.
Vito and I were originally planning on having dinner on our own, but because of our fight, I told my mom and Diana to join us as buffers.
Another tough day. My husband was still annoyed about our argument yesterday. I told him I just wanted some space. Being in lockdown is making it very hard to have a fight with your spouse — there’s no place to escape! He at least has space outside, but because my office space for now is in the dining room, I’m not getting that privacy. At least Lucia Antonia was in good spirits today after having a restless night. I can’t wait for all of this insanity to be over.
Today we found out that some restaurants in our area will be offering delivery service. I’ve been cooking nearly every day for almost two months, so I will definitely be taking advantage of this. It’ll also bring a bit of normalcy into our lives.
Diana is also planning to return home on Monday, so Vito and I helped her fill out her permission slip. In Italy, when you go out, you must carry a government-issued slip with you. We want to make sure she is safe on her drive back.
We celebrated Easter today by making my late Grandma Nettie’s traditional Easter pie. Yes, we’re a little late. But we finally had the ingredients after the grocery store restocked. For us, it’s not Easter unless we do this. My mother made it for us all, and it was a beautiful evening, with my mother sharing stories of them making it together when she was little.
In three days, Italy will be entering phase two. Diana is set to return home. What was meant to be a two week stay turned into two months. I think we’ll turn the extra bedroom into a playroom and officehen Lucia is awake, it’s her room to go nuts and when she sleeps, it’s my space to write. I have found it difficult to find a peaceful place to write, so hopefully it will help.
How phase two is handled really depends on people doing their part — continuing to wear masks and gloves, keeping their distance.
I’m apprehensive to return to even the slightest bit of normalcy, given the risks. At the same time, I can’t wait.