I took the bins out today. My first foray to street level in six days. I’ve started dreaming of long walks in Rome’s abundant and excellent parks. What Martial called, when speaking of the house of Sparsus (not without envy), rus in urbe. Literally the “country in the city” (for more about the plausible location of Sparsus’ house see this fab blog post by my pal and Martial expert Gideon Nisbet).
Because the thing is that Rome is really very green indeed. At first glance it can often seem bewilderingly urban: in the tangle of narrow cobbled streets, churches, piazzas, and the occasional ancient ruin that make up the centro storico it can be tough to find a tree. A valiant few grow from unlikely and dusty corners. In the torrid heat of summer (which – like going outside, taking coffee at the bar, riding my scooter in traffic, or talking to anybody in real life other than my husband and terrace neighbours – feels somehow unimaginable now but, gosh, it was hot), a yearning for verdant respite from dutiful tramping through dusty ruins and over tarmac tacky in the heat is strong.
In this fourth week of our total lockdown I’ve already started making my list of what I’ll do when we’re released from this curious state of house arrest. I don’t follow the numbers of deaths and new contagions daily; not because I don’t care but because (other than sitting tight) I’m entirely powerless to change them, and I don’t feel that heightening my anxiety is useful to anyone. Nevertheless even I have seen that in Italy, finally and as forecast, new contagions are beginning to come down significantly. Deaths remain high, unfortunately a delay echoing the vast numbers of people falling ill in the last couple of weeks. In the last twenty-four hours 837 people died in Italy: a constellation of individual tragedies; of families that won’t be able to hold funerals. But there is a glimmer of light beginning to appear in the distance, and for the first time since this began a gradual relaxation of the lockdown seems a tangible possibility, plausibly in another three weeks, just after Easter.
Presumably there will be a slow reopening of the city. We will all stagger bewildered into high spring. It will be a long time, I suppose, before I (or indeed any of my clients) will be able to travel. I expect we’ll also be a while from bars, restaurants, and shops reopening as normal. That’s ok, I’ll wait. I’d just be pretty happy with being able to go for a long solo walk. And I can’t wait to tell you about it when I do.