Italy is re-opening

  • 17 May 2020
  • Prue Scott

Good news – my espresso, cornetto vuoto (croissants without filling) and gelato levels are rising.

I know; I was as concerned as you were. There is much to be thankful for.

Saturdays we have the small but lovely market up by the Serchio River with its great local produce. I was quite happy walking up there – about 25 minutes at a brisk trot – but the acquisition of the bike makes the trip much more interesting.

Buy a jar of goats’ milk yoghurt and bring back the empty one for a discount. Great handfuls of broad beans go into a paper bag and I’m envisaging broad beans with every meal for a week. However, you forget that once they’re shelled and then the outer layer removed, you’re left with a handful of bright green discs. The fresh peas are divine and deliver more for the effort required to shell them. When you’ve had enough of both as a side dish, you throw them into a friend’s ragu and serve it with mashed potatoes. I call it fusion cooking.

The first peonies are out. It’s almost as if they heralded our return to freedom. Just as the shutdown in March, changes are coming thick and fast. In the last two days we’ve gone from freedom within Lucca to freedom within Europe, and Emirates is now flying as far as Australia (I’m staying put for the time being).

Cafes, bars, restaurants, gyms, swimming pools, beaches – all these things were but a fairly distant dream. No, Italy wouldn’t act as a corridor for summer travellers. No one in, no one out. Almost overnight we’ve changed direction.

This was the headline: Italy to allow free movement across its regions and unrestricted travel to and from EU countries.

International travel without quarantine. Many people are surprised, a few are alarmed and some view it as lunacy. The president describes the relaxation as a "calculated risk". Italy can’t wait for a vaccine and needs to relaunch its economy, particularly the devastated tourism sector.

By the end of June we will have eaten dinner out, separated by a metre of course, and had our hair cut, separated by a metre and having washed our own hair at home. Broken and chipped nails will be repaired. I will have bought walking sandals and shoes. Might have been to IKEA outside Pisa just because we can, and had at least a couple of days in Florence. We’ll have looked up what’s on at the movies and in theatres. Church services will have resumed.

Of course, this may change in the blink of an eye, but it suggests a degree of confidence. If this doesn’t go well, President Conte warns restrictions will return. We will still need to wear masks/gloves in confined spaces: respect the distance.

What isn’t clear is how many people are allowed in a car. If it’s the one-metre thing, that’s the driver and one other in the back seat diagonally opposite. We may need a convoy for Pisa. And what of the trains? Will everyone crowd onto the regionale to Florence just because they can? In the midst of some highly detailed restrictions, we also have vagueness.

Jim, who manages one of our Facebook groups, diligently puts it all announcements through Google translate. Some of the results are more interesting than their content.

“After an arm wrestling during this night that made the agreement between the Government and the regions shaky on the reopenings scheduled for tomorrow, Monday 18, a new agreement was reached between the regions and the executive, the Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte. The meeting had started uphill, with the governors threatening to "blow up the bank."

“Bars, restaurants, patisseries, ice cream parlors will be able to open the business and will have to guarantee the distance between customers by one meter. Managers will not have to pay the tax for the occupation of public land, a decision taken to favor the arrangement of the outdoor tables which will still have to be positioned ensuring the distance also to allow the passage of the waiters who will have to wear gloves and a mask. Customers should instead have the mask only when they are not at the table. There cannot be a greater number of customers than the number of seats inside the bars too.”

On the subject of drinking, you never use Lucca’s tap water to make coffee. It’s chlorinated; it will ruin a coffee machine; it will ruin your coffee. Instead, you use bottled water (hideously cheap) or you fill bottles at the public fountains for free. The water in the fountains is mountain-fed, pure and unadulterated. Ah, but not all fountains are the same. Of course they’re not. Some dispense tap water, others the mountain version. The trick is knowing which is which. Happily, there’s a correct fountain near Momus café, so off I peddled for caffeine and water. I have to say that biking home with six 1.5-litre plastic bottles full of water takes some skill. I do not have such skill. I nearly flattened a nonna. I lurched around a corner, narrowly missing a Fiat Uno whose driver was on the phone, so it doesn’t really count. The water bottles shifted, the front wheel went left and I almost made an unplanned entrance into the macelleria (butcher).

I’ve said before that Lucca tends to do two colours very well – blue (sky) and green. Spring has produced wonderful vistas and shaded alleys on the walls; enough to provide a bit of respite from 25C+ temperatures.

Last weekend I ran into Diana again. How fortunate. She was walking to Vorno, about 11km away, along the path beside the aquedotto. I decided to join her in the blissful countryside for a few kms. Quite a few other people seemed to have run into their friends, too. She sets a cracking pace, so some of the images below are on the fly, as it were.

While the aquedotto dates from the 1800s rather than Roman times, it’s still very impressive as it stretches across the countryside for about 3km. It’s interrupted by the autostrada where a section has been removed, but other than that it’s intact.

With nothing mown or tidied for two months, we had long grasses peppered with wild yellow irises rather than red poppies, frog choruses (mating?), the usual feisty terriers and, of course, cyclists and runners. Diana marched on and I turned back; the old sports shoes are on the point of collapse and make my feet ache.

I’ve finally achieved my goal of walking the wall every day for exercise and I tend to do a circuit or two on the bike at night if I’ve had gelato. I know; I’d need to cycle to Rome to work off all sugar, but it’s a start.


Share this post


  • David Venables
  • 17 May 2020
  • 12:47 pm

Lovely description and pics. Feels like I'm there.

  • Robyn Reid
  • 17 May 2020
  • 1:11 pm

Oh Prue, once again, how I loved your photos and stories! Your colourful details fill the picture of life in Italy. Best wishes with those shoes!

  • Sally G
  • 17 May 2020
  • 2:08 pm

Great to hear life and activity levels are on the up.Winter has yet to arrive here and we too are opening up again but (probably) with less risk.Stay safe.

  • Rina
  • 17 May 2020
  • 4:42 pm

Kia Kaha! So enjoy reading about your experiences... albeit in incredibly challenging times.

  • Ewon
  • 17 May 2020
  • 4:54 pm

Wonderful read Prue. So pleased everything is going well for you. Must get my bike out again.

  • mingo innes
  • 18 May 2020
  • 2:17 pm

I love your letters Prue. I was in Lucca with my family 15 years ago and I have sent your letters to them all. We all enjoy the reminders of beautiful Lucca plus learning a lot more. Need to go back!

  • Monique Webster
  • 18 May 2020
  • 8:03 pm

Hi Prue Thanks for the update. The photos look great and the walking and bike rides sound fun. M

  • Robyn Duckett
  • 26 May 2020
  • 11:45 am


  • Shirley
  • 27 May 2020
  • 12:13 am

Thanks for your great update on life in your part of Italy

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