Photo taken on April 11, 2020 shows an empty street in Rome, Italy. The coronavirus pandemic has claimed 19,468 lives in locked-down Italy, bringing the total number of infections, fatalities and recoveries so far to 152,271, according to the latest data released by the country's Civil Protection Department on Saturday. (Xinhua/Cheng Tingting)
Photo taken on April 11, 2020 shows an empty street in Rome, Italy. The coronavirus pandemic has claimed 19,468 lives in locked-down Italy, bringing the total number of infections, fatalities and recoveries so far to 152,271, according to the latest data released by the country's Civil Protection Department on Saturday. (Xinhua/Cheng Tingting)

Editor’s note: The Italian government’s decree putting the country under lockdown has been in place since March 10, in a bid to contain the spreading coronavirus.

On Monday, Italy began to emerge from the world’s longest nationwide lockdown. Below is a first-person account from Grandesso Federico, an Italian national residing in Padova, northern Italy, on the first day of the partial lift of the lockdown.

by Grandesso Federico

Today we can start breathing again, after this long confinement the feelings are a contrast of two emotions: one positive and the other, I would say, realistic.

From today for sure we can start a new life with more social contacts — we can finally meet husbands, wives, boyfriends, girlfriends and relatives in general. But for friends, we will have still to wait. These kinds of contacts are very important here, and today with the partial lift of the lockdown we will feel less isolated from the dear ones.

In construction sites and factories alone, more than four million Italians are getting back to work, in good news for our devastated economy. The biggest positive vibe I saw is a sense of freedom that was lost and forgotten for several weeks. Today is a perfect sunny day with a lot of people biking, jogging, and sitting on the grass — a scene that was missing for weeks but ever so much valued now.

One of the most important signal is the reopening of parks, with kids and parents finally free to enjoy a long-awaited moment, all this was in full respect of the distancing measures and the use of masks because nobody forgot that the “monster” is still there. The kiosks selling drinks at the city center park are again operating in take-away mode but drinking again your coffee on the bench can give you the sensation that life can slowly be enjoyed again.

I know, these are only little things but for the moment we feel restored after so much isolation. In contrast with the pleasures of biking again under the sun, there is also an underground fear that the contagion could restart again erasing all our legitimate hopes. It is a bittersweet sensation confirmed by the fact that there are still a lot of people in the house blocked by scare and stress.

To have a more clear picture of all this, I take my bike to meet Antonio Guadagnino, a Padova-based entrepreneur.

He told me: “We are seriously reopening and there was a big pressure to restart, at the moment people understood the gravity of the situation and now they use masks following all the necessary security measure. This morning on the streets there was more traffic than what I was expecting, this made me worried about the speed of this restarting.”

“At the beginning, there were few masks and we were not used to wearing them, but after a while people understood the importance and started using them. About offices and production sites, many controls started, all entrepreneurs feel responsible for maintaining the working place completely safe. To go out from this situation we have to continue keeping in mind the three Ts: testing, tracing, and treating,” Guadagnino said.

My second stop is the main train station in order to detect if there was also a growth on the normally packed local trains. In an almost empty station, the saleswoman of the bookshop sadly told me that there was no difference with last week in passenger traffic, maybe also because the number of trains is still limited. It is clear that for the moment cars and bikes are still the first choice to travel to work.

Leaving for a moment the uncertainties related to our working future, the place that could restore me is still the park, probably only in that open place you can forget for a moment all the anxieties. After a regenerative moment in the “green,” I plunge myself in the busy historical city center where people are slowly getting back strolling among the few open shops.

I stopped for one second talking to Ivana De Simone, owner of a pizza takeaway shop. With optimism, she told me: “Today I saw more people on the streets all with masks and distancing. They seemed to be more positive and joyful, people want to enjoy the summer and come out with light clothes.”

From these inspiring words, and also from what I saw today, despite the difficulties — past and future, the message from Padova is that people just want to come back to normal, following the rules, because after this it’s necessary to come back to live again. Enditem

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