I’ve just realised it’s Friday. Who knew? Days have taken on an amorphous form, with an entirely unequal distribution of hours. Which, were it not for the underlying and palpable general anxiety, would not be unpleasant. I quite like the sensation of no particular time constraints, I just don’t want it to last forever. Of course, as I write this we in Rome are no longer in an anomalous situation: many of you are probably doing the same thing. Although unless in Italy, Spain, or France there’s a certain freedom around your self-isolation––not the possibility of police checking the reason for leaving the house (food/pharmacy shopping, key workers, and for medical and health reasons)––we are nevertheless more and more finding ourselves in the same boat. My main piece of advice is: don’t follow the news all day, you’ll go barmy, and it won’t change anything.

Bubbles on the Pincio. 9 March 2020.

In any case, and speaking of time, on Monday of last week (which might equally have been ten years ago, or a hundred, or perhaps it was in a parallel universe) just before the evening announcement in which Italy’s shutdown was announced, I went for a walk in the Borghese Gardens. 

The Casino Valadier restaurant, Borghese Gardens. 9 March 2020

Forlorn closed umbrellas fluttered in the garden of the elegant and deserted restaurant Casina Valadier, where a loudspeaker segued from Alanis Morisette to aging Roman crooner par excellence, Antonello Venditti. Isn’t it ironic, don’t you think, she sang. And I thought, yes it is; it’s ironic that people have yearned to see Rome free of people since (probably) time immemorial (by the way in English law that’s 6th July 1189, the accession to the throne of Richard I. Just one of the many useful pub quiz facts I‘ve learned from my dad). And now here it is, splendidly deserted, but of course that means there’s no one at all to enjoy it. 

Pompey and his unfortunate moobs jostle with (below) Fascist era air ace Fausto Cecconi

I wandered up to the lake, past the statues of heroes (and not) of Italian history, and contemplated the eighteenth century faux temple of Aesculapius, god of health and medicine. Do your thing, I thought, do your thing. I mean it can’t hurt, can it? 

The ersatz Temple of Aesculapius, a folly in the Villa Borghese. 9 March 2020.