An Italian Sunday Lunch Served In COVID's Second Wave

For a Milanese writer, this is how his family lunch looks right now.

Primo piatto and second wave
Primo piatto and second wave
Alessio Perrone

Last Sunday, I sat on an ample, white-tiled balcony in Milan with ten relatives for a family lunch.

In normal times, such family gatherings occur whenever we have a reason to celebrate — which is, often. The Italian lockdown between March and May interrupted the tradition, but it resumed quickly and naturally, like animals coming out of hibernation when the winter is over.

This latest Sunday lunch, however, was organized in the face of what looks like COVID-19's next winter. In Italy, rather than a strict around-the-clock lockdown, the government "strongly recommends' that people do not let more than six people into their homes at a time. My relatives decided double that would be OK if we wore masks, stayed outdoors, and six feet apart.

Perhaps we just have to accept that.

It wasn't the only way in which they groaned at Italy's new set of rules, which includes curfews for bars and restaurant-goers and bans on leisure sports and indoor and outdoor parties.

"The situation is not that critical," a cousin said, noting how the death rate was much lower than in March. "It's unfair to pick on professional categories and ruin their livelihoods like that."

Someone else added that a certain number of deaths are unavoidable in the face of this kind of pandemic: "Perhaps we just have to accept that."

Even my mother chimed in on the "anti-maskers' who are getting more and more attention on Italian TV: "I don't like them, but I start to understand where they come from."

My family does not believe in conspiracy theories and nobody thinks COVID-19 is a hoax. We were all as scared as anyone back in March when our home region became the global epicenter of the pandemic. My mother was among those who took to supermarkets in the panic that followed Italy's first death: she stashed masks, hand sanitizer, pasta. She was not only terrified, but also furious at anyone who didn't respect the rules.

Cycling (with a mask) in Milan — Photo: Mikita Yo

Now, with mixed recommendations taking the place of last spring's hard-and-fast rules, it's not easy to know exactly what to do. By the middle of this week, Milan was leading Italy into its second wave, and prominent doctors said the city faced a "critical situation" and infections were "out of control," and needed new rules with no wiggle room.

Between the perfect horror movie plot and an Italian postcard of civic solidarity.

On Thursday, regional authorities finally introduced stricter rules: an 11 p.m. curfew. Every other day it seems, somewhere in Italy is adding new restrictions, though there is still far more freedom than the first wave.

Back in March, this mysterious pandemic's arrival seemed to oscillate between the perfect horror movie plot (public hysteria, politicians in over their heads, an entire city sent into lockdown isolation) and an Italian postcard of civic solidarity (the singing from balconies, flags on the windows, crowdfunders for hospitals).

As we queue up the sequel, there is no singing, no crowdfunders, no flags. Infections are sky-rocketing, and the death toll creeping up, though thankfully still much lower than the spring. Even one week later, looking back at that family gathering, the white balcony and gray skies, individuals largely left with their own fears and doubts about what's right and wrong; an age-old family tradition trying to reaffirm itself. More than a horror movie plot, I have a creeping sense that this is what we we'll be calling life for awhile.

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A Mother In Spain Denied Child Custody Because She Lives In Rural Area

A court in Spain usurps custody of the one-year-old boy living with his mother in the "deep" part of the Galicia region, forced to instead live with his father in the southern city of Marbella, which the judge says is "cosmopolitan" with good schools and medical care. Women's rights groups have taken up the mother's case.

A child in Galician countryside

Laure Gautherin

A Spanish court has ordered the withdrawal of a mother's custody of her one-year-old boy because she is living in the countryside in northwestern Spain, where the judge says the child won't have "opportunities for the proper development of his personality."

The case, reported Monday in La Voz de Galicia, has sparked outrage from a women's rights association but has also set off reactions from politicians of different stripes across the province of Galicia, defending the values of rural life.

Judge María Belén Ureña Carazo, of the family court of Marbella, a city on the southern coast of 141,000 people, has ordered the toddler to stay with father who lives in the city rather than with his mother because she was living in "deep Galicia" where the child would lack opportunities to "grow up in a happy environment."

Front page of La Voz de Galicia - October 25, 2021

Front page of La Voz de Galicia - Monday 25 October, 2021

La Voz de Galicia

Better in a "cosmopolitan" city?

The judge said Marbella, where the father lives, was a "cosmopolitan city" with "a good hospital" as well as "all kinds of schools" and thus provided a better environment for the child to thrive.

The mother has submitted a formal complaint to the General Council of the Judiciary that the family court magistrate had acted with "absolute contempt," her lawyer told La Voz de Galicia.

The mother quickly accumulated support from local politicians and civic organizations. The Clara Campoamor association described the judge's arguments as offensive, intolerable and typical of "an ignorant person who has not traveled much."

The Xunta de Galicia, the regional government, has addressed the case, saying that any place in Galicia meets the conditions to educate a minor. The Socialist party politician Pablo Arangüena tweeted that "it would not hurt part of the judiciary to spend a summer in Galicia."

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