Local Report: Italy

One reader sends in a first-hand account about what life is like in Italy post-pandemic

I’m traveling today and tomorrow attending a funeral of my beloved amazing grandma (96 years old, 27 grandchildren, 79 great grandchildren and 3 great-great grandchildren).

Here’s an email I received from a reader about the current state of the pandemic in Italy:

I wanted to provide you with a firsthand report of what life is like in the city of Bari, the regional capital of Puglia in Southern Italy with respect to the pandemic.
The pandemic is effectively over here, except for remnants that already appear anachronistic. In the morning, crowds of all ages line up with mere inches between each person at the famous focaccia bakeries. In the evening, the streets are filled with old people and college students strolling the streets. Restaurants and bars are full. Men play cards on plastic tables in the street. Most of all, people speak (I have enough Italian to have basic conversations) of all of the things in life beside the fifth of the endemic coronaviruses. There is no neurotic cataloging of vaccine brands or case counts (which are not front page news in the major dailies, except when they plunge). I have not heard the name Roberto Speranza (Italy’s health minister) uttered even once. Kids play tag in the piazza and are seen walking to and from school with their arms around each other, no masks in sight.

Life is normal, but it’s not 2019. Masks are required indoors, and while this requirement is largely obeyed, people have not deputized themselves to be the public health police. The old man behind the coffee bar and the young woman who processed my rental car paper work yesterday morning (I’m currently on a farm in Puglia) were both maskless, and nobody mentioned it. There are stringent vaccine passports, but I’ve been asked to show mine less than one in every four times it was required. At worst, these are absurd inconveniences. At best, they are anachronisms on their last legs.

I’ve found that the experience of the pandemic is very localized. At my local grocery store in San Diego about 90% of people mask up (even though it’s not required). About 5 miles inland that drops to like 50% of less and at the beach - nobody masks anywhere. And then I talk to my relatives who are here for the funeral from Utah and they tell me of the paradise that is a maskless world.

What’s it like where you are?