I’ve been chronicling for the past month how some of my cousins and friends in Italy have been managing their lives during the nationwide lockdown. Last week they were given the news that the quarantine will stay in place for another three weeks, through May 3. “Let’s hope we don’t go crazy at home for another month,” Cousin Elena wrote me on the day that news was delivered.
And now they had to pass Easter Sunday under quarantine. This is a day when they gather with family, go to mass and then enjoy a big lunch or dinner together. There are traditional dishes, like the roasted meats and the Neopolitan “Casatiello,” a savory Easter bread. And the sweets, like the colomba cake and those gargantuan chocolate eggs. I asked them to send photos of how they celebrated Easter Sunday 2020, in lockdown. Below are their photos and their sentiments.
Elena held a video meeting with the whole family, as everyone has been doing. Then she checked in with their neighbor, an 85-year-old man who lives alone, if he would like to share their Easter lunch with them. She brought him a tray with the meats, artichokes, zucchini and strawberries. Of course, they couldn’t eat together but he seemed pleased. I lauded her for her generosity and kindness in doing such an act. But she brushed it off. “This is normal,” she said, adding that all the residents in their building look out for the older neighbors who are alone. I still applaud her.
“For the rest of us, we have to resign ourselves to wait for May 3. But it’s very hard, trying to create something for ourselves to pass the days. It doesn’t seem like the situation in Milan is getting much better.”
Elena and her husband Umberto live on a street that is next to a main artery – Corso Sempione – where there are four hospitals. The “soundtrack” of their days are the numerous ambulance sirens. Now warm weather has arrived and a touch of spring. “And with the windows opened, you hear the sirens even louder. We will not easily forget this spring,” she said.
My friend Rachael, also in Milan, made lamb chops with lemon for the first time. And also enjoyed an appetizer with Italian Spritz, as usual.
This isn’t how she would be celebrating Easter. In the past, she’d be on the beach in Liguria with her boyfriend and other friends. “I’m trying to stay positive, knowing I’m not alone. Everyone is in the same situation. Thankfully I have my boyfriend here and I’m happy that in 2020, we have technology to stay connected to family and friends!”
My friend Paola would usually be surrounded by friends at her Easter table. “Also missing are the spring plants that I put on the balcony this season. The silence and the warm sun illuminate the deserted streets. It’s an abnormal, sad Easter, full of unanswered questions.”
They’re in two more weeks of “house arrest” as she called it, and there doesn’t seem to be much confidence that something can happen to squash Covid-19. “You have to resist, respect the rules and invent things to do at home.”
She and her mother Maria dressed up and acted like two ladies who lunch and discuss their jobs. She pulled out from the freezer tortellini in broth that she made over the winter and they made zuppa inglese. Then came the quiet of the afternoon. “No escaping and it’s hard to see the sun outside. So I looked for good book for company,” Paola said. She didn’t turn on the TV, to hear more tragic news that overlaps with the good news. “I don’t want to think about trying to figure out which are real and which are false. I need to be at peace.”
My friend and Italian teacher Elettra said it pretty simply: we are lucky because we are able to be happy regardless. She sent this video of the view from her balcony, showing a beautiful sunny day with some church bells in the distance.
As usual, my friend Antonio regaled me with photos of his sumptuous Easter lunch. He said afterward the day went fine. He called it unique and hopes it’s one in a million. “We’re hoping to not do Christmas under lockdown,” he wrote, with a laughing emoji. I do too!
In Grotte, the town where my mother was born, my cousin Claudia and two others were permitted to sing at the Easter mass. There were two priests, a server, a reader, four singers, a musician, the mayor and city officials. The church doors were closed but the mass was streamed online.
Back at home, what a feast! Roasted lamb with potatoes, spinach and ricotta cannelloni and then a mouthwatering selection of typical Easter sweets from Sicily.