SHARE
COPY LINK

FAMILY

Life under Italy’s new lockdown: What’s the difference this time around?’

On Monday, most of Italy went back into the red zone - just over one year since the country’s first lockdown began. Writer Richard Hough in Verona tells us what’s changed.

Life under Italy’s new lockdown: What’s the difference this time around?’
Cafes and restaurants are closed across Italy under new lockdown measures. Photo: Marco Bertorello/AFP

Last year, I kept a diary of daily life in Verona, as the first wave of the Covid-19 pandemic ripped through the country. This year, we find ourselves in a startlingly similar situation.

But, although we’re in a zona rossa, this lockdown is nothing like as severe as last time. On Wednesday I ventured out to the market and noticed that our neighbourhood park was busier than normal. It was the same when I passed by Parco Arsenale on Monday.

EXPLAINED: What are the new Italian lockdown rules in your region?

Our quiet residential cul-de-sac is normally used as a car park for the nearby out-patient hospital. I would say it (the car park) is currently operating at about 70% capacity at the moment.

During the lockdown last year, our street was blissfully free of parked cars and the neighbourhood kids reclaimed it as a safe space to play when the lockdown gradually eased. Imagine – playing football on the street!

People in their apartments in Rome in April 2020, during Italy’s strict first lockdown. Photo: Alberto Pizzoli/AFP

Of course, the novelty of Covid and lockdown has long since worn off. We’ve been here before. It’s frustrating to be here again, but we know we can do it. 

We just don’t particularly want to. 

Last March was wild. I cut my hair into a Mohican, we thrashed about the apartment to a soundtrack of 100 great guitar riffs, and we drank with reckless abandon. 

We’ve suffered so much during the last year, and this time around life in lockdown seems much more mundane. There’s no longer that lingering fear of the unknown, that misplaced sense of adventure, of living on the edge. 

School of Dad (or is that D.A.D.)?

The most direct impact of the current lockdown on our family is a return to homeschooling. Until Monday we’d been lucky. Our kids hadn’t missed a single day of school since September. In the circumstances, that was a quite remarkable achievement for all concerned – not least the children themselves.

Second time around, there is a markedly different approach to homeschooling. Last year it was School of Dad (patent application pending). This year it’s D.A.D (Didattica a Distanza). 

Unlike the first lockdown, when the education authorities were woefully unprepared, this time around the schools have hit the ground running. Kids were sent home on Friday with all their materials. Online platforms have been tried, tested and delivered and, with breathtaking efficiency, a timetable was even circulated over the weekend.

Teaching is now teacher-led, which suits me just fine, with between two and five hours of remote learning each day. 

My six-year-old is now coming to terms with some of those crucial lessons that we’ve all grappled with during the last 12 months – most importantly how to mute and unmute his microphone!

Two hours of remote learning is barely a substitute for a day at school with his friends though, and I can see why some of the mums (and it is predominantly mums who are dealing with the childcare) will be taking their demands for schools to be reopened to the town hall in Verona’s Piazza Bra on Saturday. 

SEE ALSO: 19 unforgettable photos from a year of lockdowns in Italy

Parents and children staged sit-in protests in the main squares of cities across Italy this week against the closure of schools under renewed lockdown restrictions. Photo: Marco Bertorello/AFP

Old habits and new ideas

This week I’ve reinstated a few of my old habits from the last lockdown. We spend as much time as possible on our balcony, especially in the morning when the sunshine is blissfully warm. I try to do an hour of exercise each day in our subterranean garage. I drag the kids into our communal garden to play with the ball. 

I’m also embracing a few new ideas. Inspired by Italian food blogger Roberto Serra, I’ve decided to make my own limoncello (lemons + alcohol + sugar, if you’re interested). I’ll let you know how that goes!

We’ve also got plenty to look forward to. My son will celebrate his seventh birthday at the end of March. It will be his second birthday in lockdown. As with last year, he approaches the big day with a broad smile (this time missing a few front teeth) and an ambitious list (we’ve had to let him down gently on the Lego Death Star). But he hasn’t once complained about the bizarre situation in which he finds himself. Nor, for that matter, has his big brother, who is at an age (12) at which I would have found it intolerable to be cooped up without my friends. 

READ ALSO: 

Finally, a note on a subject very close to my heart – wine, or, more specifically, VinItaly. This week came the sad but hardly unsurprising news that Verona’s annual wine fair would be cancelled for the second year in a row. 

It’s difficult to overstate how much of a blow this is to a city that prides itself on the quality of its local wine. For a week in early April, the city is literally awash with the stuff. Wine producers come from all over Italy and beyond to present their products to international buyers. 

Italy exports $7.3 billion of the stuff, accounting for just over 20% of global wine exports (only France exports more), and a fair share of that comes from Verona. 

Verona has been hosting its annual wine festival since 1967 and, from modest beginnings, the fair now boasts over 4000 exhibitors from 30 different countries. The cancellation of this landmark event is a major blow to the local wine industry and for the city itself. 

It is with some trepidation that we cast our eye nervously towards the summer opera season. We’ll just have to wait and see.

Richard Hough has lived in Verona since September 2011 and writes about the region’s history, football, wine and culture. His first book, Notes from Verona, a short collection of diary entries from inside locked down Italy, is available here. He is currently researching his next book about wartime Verona.

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.

MONEY

How much does it cost to raise a child in Italy?

How big is the financial commitment parents have to make in Italy to pay for their offspring’s needs and expenses until they’re grown up and independent? Here's a look at the predicted costs.

How much does it cost to raise a child in Italy?

Family is the bedrock of Italian society, but it’s also an unbalanced economic crutch, propping up children who leave home much later than most of their European counterparts.

Various factors are at play, from a declining birth rate, youth unemployment, being unable to get on the property ladder to young Italians moving abroad in search of better financial opportunities.

It probably comes as little shock, then, that parents in Italy end up forking out huge sums of cash to support their offspring through childhood and early adulthood (and beyond).

Even just up to the age of 18, raising a child in Italy can cost upwards of €320,000, according to data from Italian consumer research body ONF (Osservatorio Nazionale Federconsumatori).

The average spend of raising a child from 0-18 years is €175,642, but it rises in families with high incomes, classed as over €70,000 per year.

READ ALSO: Italian class sizes set to shrink as population falls further

Researchers noted that the cost of bringing up children has jumped up following the effects of the pandemic too: compared to 2018, child-rearing expenses increased by 1.2 percent by 2020.

The decrease in expenditure related to transport due to spending more time at home, as well as those incurred for sports and leisure activities, was not enough to mitigate the increase in costs for housing and utilities, which increased by 12 percent compared to 2018.

Photo by Suzanne Emily O’Connor on Unsplash

Food prices rose by 8 percent compared to 2018 and education and care jumped by 6 percent for the same timeframe.

In fact, Italy ranks as the third most expensive country in the world for raising children, only coming behind South Korea and China, according to data from investment bank JEF.

The pandemic has contributed to extending an already growing phenomenon: the decrease in annual income of Italian households.

Household income dropped by 2.8 percent from 2019 to 2020, the report found, citing data from national statistics agency Istat. It marks a further squeeze for families, especially low-income and single-parent families.

Depending on earnings, the amount needed to bring up a child until the age of 18 varies considerably.

READ ALSO: ‘Kids are adored here’: What being a parent in Italy is really like

A two-parent family with an annual income of €22,500 spends an average of €118,234.15 to bring up a child until the age of 18; for the same type of family but with an average income of €34,000 per year, the total expenditure to bring up a child increases to €175,642.72.

For high-income families, stated as over €70,000 annually, raising a child costs €321,617.36 on average.

The figures mark an increase of around €5,000 for low- and middle-income families, and a much sharper rise of €50,000 for high-income families, compared to ten years ago.

The money gets spent on housing, food, clothing, health, education and ‘other’ categories. The report revealed that the average spend on a child aged 16 years old is almost €11,500 annually, amounting to €955.78 per month.

Almost €2,000 per year gets spent on food, €1,615 goes on transport and communication, €782 goes on clothing and €1,600 goes on education annually, the report found.

They begin small, yet the costs are anything but. (Photo by LOIC VENANCE / AFP)

For the ONF, “these data highlight how, today more than ever, having a child is becoming a luxury reserved for the few, which fewer and fewer Italians are able to afford.”

READ ALSO:

The numbers on supporting children after their 18th birthday are a little hazier, as when children eventually fly the nest varies – but figures from Eurostat show that Italy ranks third in Europe for the average oldest age at which children move out of the parental home, at 30.2 years old.

Only young people from Croatia and Slovakia wait longer to live independently, while the EU average for flying the nest is 26.4 years old.

Even then after eventually leaving home at over 30 years old, it’s not entirely clear how many Italians are fully independent once they get their own address, or whether their parents continue to bankroll their living costs.

Italy’s president Sergio Mattarella sent a message to Italy’s Birth Foundation (Fondazione per la Natalità) in May stating, “The demographic structure of the country suffers from serious imbalances that significantly affect the development of our society.”

In response to worsening economic circumstances, the Italian government has recently pledged to do more to help people have families and reverse Italy’s continuing declining birth rate.

It has introduced the Single Universal Allowance (L’assegno unico e universale), but along with it has dropped various so-called ‘baby bonuses’ that provided lump sums to new parents.

The new allowance is a monthly means-tested benefit for those who have children, or are about to have a child. It is payable from the seventh month of pregnancy until the child reaches the age of 18 or in some cases, 21. For more information on what it is and how to claim it, see here.

SHOW COMMENTS