Hello from quarantine!

Yes, I’m currently under quarantine here in Palermo, as part of the national lockdown in Italy to curb the spread of COVID-19.

It’s not really so bad, for me personally at least. I still go to work Monday to Friday, with my autocertificazione (a document declaring I’m going to work, in case the police stop me), teaching lessons online from my school. And I can still leave the apartment to go shopping (see sensibly-spaced queue above, as LIDL are only allowing a certain number of shoppers in at a time) and, for the moment, to do some solo exercise. Luckily there’s no serious panic buying going on, though naturally all of the cheapest passata and the spaghetti were gone when I arrived, though the latter was swiftly resupplied with a full pallet, before things could get really hairy.


Still, it’s very strange to walk home at night through the silent streets, which are normally so noisy and full of people. It doesn’t really feel like Palermo without excessive noise, so hopefully things will get back to normal as soon as possible.

Of course, another advantage to staying mainly indoors at the weekend is that it gives me more time to write. And what other word to write about at the moment than quarantine?

Appropriately enough, it’s a word of Italian origin. It comes very simple from the words quaranta giorni (literally 40 days), referring to the Venetian policy, dating back to the 14th century, of keeping ships arriving from plague-hit countries waiting in harbour for 40 days to ensure no-one brought the disease ashore. I don’t know about you, but I find it somehow reassuring to see how little things change in some ways over hundreds of years.

The word first began to be used in English with its modern meaning in the 16th century. Prior to that, it had been used to refer to a period of 40 days in which a widow could remain in her husband’s house, as well as to the period of 40 days in which Christ had fasted in the desert, according to the Bible.

Hopefully this quarantine won’t adhere so strictly to its etymology and won’t last 40 days. If we all stick to the recommendations from the experts at least, it shouldn’t. So please, be careful, limit your contact with people, wash your hands thoroughly, and don’t hoard things others need more than you. Remember that we’re following all these guidelines to ensure that the most vulnerable people aren’t put at risk. Take care of youreslf, but remember you’re also taking care of people you’ll never meet by minimising your risk of passing the disease on. See you on the other side!

8 thoughts on “Quarantine

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