A coronavirus diary by an American in Rome – John Coates
John Coates is an American citizen who’s a frequent guest @ From Home to Rome: a resident of Washington, DC, he spends a few months every year in the Eternal City to work on his Italian. When the lockdown measures to contain Coronavirus from spreading were implemented in all of Italy, he had been in the city for just a few days.
As he holds his tiny fort in Trastevere, we asked John to write about his experience in the past few weeks. We’re very grateful for his contribution, which hopefully can be of help to more people around the world wanting to learn about the consequences of the government’s decisions regarding Covid-19/Coronavirus on ordinary folks!
Life in Rome at a special time
I consider Rome a second home. After all, I spend about the same amount of time here as I do in Washington, DC where I live the other half of the year.
The coronavirus crisis in Italy was just ramping up when I was about to leave for Italy, and I was not entirely sure if my airline would be flying in early March. Fortunately, it did fly, and I had very comfortable several hours relaxing on the uncrowded plane, with my three seats to stretch out on. The arrival was almost an hour ahead of schedule, and the trip into Rome was smooth, since the traffic was strangely light.
In Trastevere, in a time of crisis
The first day or so felt normal, but – it seemed to happen all at once – the restrictions tightened, and we were all told that under new rules we would have to remain home. That meant no museums, cafes, restaurants, and no visits to or from friends.
For a week my teacher held out, and we had in-person lessons at my apartment, but we both got wiser and decided that being out in the city was not a good idea. Like a lot of people, we now meet face-to-face via the computer, not the best substitute, but certainly better than just a voice on the telephone.
My only visitors – in person, that is – have been the cleaning crew. I use that opportunity to talk as much as I can, and I have an idea that the women (they have both been women, one from Peru, the other Italian) enjoy that bit of contact too.
This has been a good time for me to concentrate on my Italian learning, by which I mean, lessons, my writing, my translation, TV (very important!) and anything else that might give me exposure to the language, such as trips to the supermarket – allowed under the rules. The problem with the supermarket idea is that I don’t usually need anything, but when I go just to get out of the house, I discover that the market has all sorts of good things that I can take home to enjoy.
By the way, I am writing “A Diary of Rome in a Time of Crisis”, in Italian, so that I can remember the details of this special time. Most of us have never experienced anything like this in our lifetime unless we were brought up in a war zone.
Looking for a stable routine
I try very hard to establish and keep a schedule that makes sense. I get out of bed at 7 AM, do a set of exercises first thing, do the bathroom routine (brushing teeth, shaving, showering), make a cup of very strong Italian coffee diluted with a bit of hot water, then I am ready for the day.
The best days are when I have an Italian lesson using FaceTime or Skype, then afterwards I watch some very good Rai TV, write a bit, talk with my partner in Washington via FaceTime, nap a while, then finish out the day with more reading and writing.
That usually takes me to 8 PM, just 45 minutes before Un posto al sole, a soap opera that is outrageous, but also outrageously entertaining. I might write a bit more before I go to bed. I always have a full day, one that seems to slip by without my noticing it.
But – I will be overjoyed when this crisis is over. I miss my friends, and I miss being able to move around freely in Rome. Being isolated like this is not preferable. It makes me realize what a social animal we human being are.