Meeting two or more streets is referred to as ‘piazza‘ in Italy. Normally surrounded by attractive and architecturally superior buildings most of the Italian cities have several piazzas. Sitting in one of the cafes looking over the piazza, it is always a challenging question for me. Is it the Italian espresso that is inspiringly addictive or just watching people moving around the piazza is stimulatingly obsessive? I still do not have an answer but, I have come to the compromise conclusion that it is both.
Today piazzas look deserted. But my inner eyes tell me that, each of the Italian piazzas is still quite replete with the determination and courage, symbolized by the silent statues of the horse-riding warriors that characterize many of the Italian piazzas. Today one hears eerie and deafening silence in all those piazzas. However sitting in India, I can hear, loud and clear, an age-old saying in Italy -“andrà Tutto bene”( Meaning everything will be alright”. I heard that so many times whenever I visited Rome’s piazza Navona or Milan’s Piazza Mercanti or even a small Piazza Mazzini in the little town of Casale Monforto, not far from Lombardy region, now the epicentre of COVID19.
Italy is now ‘united in isolation’. It is ‘quarantined’ for achieving ‘freedom’ from COVID19. Italy is now distancing socially but not mentally. My Italian friends are now proud of the national movement called “iorestoacasa” (“I’m staying home”). But I am sure that in the near future Italy’s culture, creativity and character will not stay at home. Italians always have radiated the spirit of 3Cs all over the world for centuries.
Italians may be confined within their four walls but their windows of heart are wide open to exude the generous enthusiasm well expressed in the phrase, “Dum vita est, spes est” (“While there is life, there is hope”).
Like the extraordinary fusion of science and art mastered by Leonardo da Vinci, Italy’s polymath lived at the time when the uncertainty ruled the scientific understanding, Italians have blended the prudence with patience and mastered the art of hope. That hope is embedded in what Italians say – “Ha da passa a nuttata” ( “the night time shall pass” ) in dealing with COVID19. Such an Italian legacy of patience and prudence is again called for at the present time when uncertainty is going viral about nCoronaVirus19.
Many are busy listing ‘lessons’ from the way Italy has dealt with the COVID19. The world citizens should thank Italy for giving us those lessons over the last couple of months, even though they had sacrificial in nature. Within a space of one month, the delayed action on lockdown resulted in nothing short of an unprecedented tsunami of deaths and infections by nCORONA19 virus. Beyond doubt, Italy was reliving the crisis of World War II.
These lessons range from the analysis of how early lockdown and testing helps to the way Italians reacted to the crisis. Many point out at the sfortunpoint a (“bad luck” in Italian) that part of the politicians hailed their personal bias against the early action on confinements. The virus was faster than policymakers. Many consider if the political architecture that Italy has adopted is suitable to handle such type of ‘ tsunami-like crises.
Surely once the crisis would be over, the world would jot down many other lessons too.
For me, based on my brief encounter with the Italian lifestyle. however, only two lessons emerge from the Italian crisis. First, hope always wins and second, not cynicism but culture endures over chaos.
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