Annalisa Ferrari lives in the future. At least, that might be the case if Australia goes into lockdown. She’s been in social isolation with her two kids in their apartment in downtown Florence, Italy, since the start of March. It’s a potential many Australians are preparing for – some with trepidation, others wishing it would come sooner. For many parents, the prospect of juggling working from home with kids to entertain and educate is enough to fill them with dread.
If lockdown is in our future, many of us are wondering: what will that look like? What do we need? (No, not more toilet paper – but a yoga mat is a winner). Between daily dance parties, Skype aperitivo, home schooling and origami, Annalisa was kind enough to share an insight into life in lockdown with us. We asked her what she would have done differently, what her daily routine looks like, and what the mood in Italy is like.
Above all, Annalisa is grateful. “I am so lucky not to be suffering from war and famine as they are in Syria for example, I am so lucky to have two children to play with who want to play with me, I am so lucky they will dance with me daily. We plan dinner parties, we have computers to write on and play on, books to read, Netflix to watch and a shower with hot water to keep clean.”
Hot tip: her freezer is broken, but her spirit is far from it.
Follow Annalisa at @aferrarikitchen
How long have you been staying inside with your kids now?
My kids have been out of school since Thursday the 5th of March and inside with me in our apartment since Sunday the 8th of March.
What was your initial reaction when Coronavirus first became an issue - did you do any stockpiling or did you feel it was an overreaction?
In Italy in general there was a bit of panic concerning schools closing and the elderly, so most of us shopped for basics to make sure anyone who is alone and could not go out to shops regularly had what they needed. I had only moved into my small downtown Florence apartment on January 5th, so I did not have many regular pantry items that you may already have in a home usually. I had almost nothing, and a very small fridge and a broken freezer. So I had a friend drive me to a larger supermarket out of town (I don’t have a car as I don’t need one in downtown Florence) and I got a bit of flour, yeast, beans, rice, pasta, tomatoes, olive oil, soap for the dish washer, and wine. It’s a shop I would have done normally anyway.
Was there a moment when you realised how serious this situation was going to be?
When they closed the schools I figured things were worse then we had actually thought. It happened very quickly, the kids went to school on a Thursday morning and they announced closure of all schools that afternoon. It took a couple of days for people to get their heads around it. Then on Sunday the 8th of March Conte (the prime minister) announced the closure of all stores except for supermarkets and pharmacies and asked all of us to please only go out if totally necessary. It was all very serious. Then all public parks were closed to prevent people from meeting outside.
What do your days look like at the moment?
On weekdays we get up at 8am and the children have school online from 8:30am. My daughter is 12 and she has some live classes where the teachers come into a chat room, give a live lesson, and give the kids work to do for the day. Most days she does work on and off until 3pm. My son is 9, he also gets up and his school gives homework for him and he finishes it all by 10:30am. No live chats for him, only videos. I then give him reading and journal writing to do with a bit of fighting in between….he gets bored so it’s not easy! While they are busy I have Coaching and Counseling Skype and Facetime calls from my clients (usually between 10am and 1pm in my bedroom daily). When I am not on calls I help the kids with school stuff.
At 3pm we end the school day, I make the kids come with me to toss the rubbish down the road and then we go back home. The kids do exercises online on gonoodle.com and I do Body Attack on YouTube for 45 minutes, then we all have a go on the skipping rope. We shower, they help me do the laundry, clean the house and then we prep diner. They help me cook every night and make the menu for the next day and they make a huge mess! We have had a Mexican night, a Thai night, a pizza night, various pastas, Vietnamese rolls, and curries.
If we need food I leave them in the house and run down to the small local fruit shop or supermarket as you can only have 1 family member go to the shop at a time. I stand in line a meter away from the people in front of and behind me, some have masks and almost all of us have silicone gloves on to shop. It’s almost impossible to find masks at this point, so many have home made ones, I don’t. If the kids are anxious about being home alone I have them come with me, and they stand on the corner while I go in the shop then we go home.
In the late afternoon we try and practice breathing using the Wim Hoff breathing method, and then we hang out, have aperitivo, they watch some television, we listen to music, have a dance off and a really nice candlelit dinner. We all talk to family and friends on our phones then we go to bed always way too late!
You live in an apartment so your walk to take the rubbish out or to visit the supermarket is your only outdoor time. How are the kids coping with that?
It’s not easy, their friends mostly live in the countryside so they can go outside and run around regularly. Here in town they are allowed out, but only when necessary. We don’t have a balcony or a window onto the road – all face a dark indoor courtyard. So we minimize our outings as we are trying to fight this virus, but I do try and take the kids for a 20 minute walk every other day. I think it’s vital although I feel guilty each time I leave my home for something that is not vital…in the end we all just want this corona thing to end so home is best!
Have you tried to follow a schedule for the day or let it unfold naturally?
Yes we try to follow a schedule during the week: work/school from 8:30am to 3pm then fun, cooking, tv watching, exercising in the afternoon, aperitivo and dinner in the evening. Weekends we sleep and I always hope they sleep in! I have no restrictions on devices and there are lots of dance parties in the bedroom and talking to friends and long periods of fighting and staring into nothing in the living room.
What are you missing the most?
Running outside, having my food tours on, watching my son play rugby, hugging and kissing my friends, looking at the hot Italian men and knowing I can travel to see my mom in the USA when needed, and knowing my kids can go visit their dad and his fiancée in Los Angeles when they like.
How are you staying in touch with friends and family?
Well there is no shortage of contact with the phone and computer and social media these days. Some evenings we even have an aperitivo on Skype and it’s fun, but generally I have decided to turn both my phone and computer off for 4 to 6 hours every day. I am trying to connect with my children and myself and not fuel any extra stress with my own anxiety and dramas to others via text and phone.
What's the mood like in Italy at the moment?
Italians have a great sense of humor so for a few days funny videos were going around and we talked non stop to everyone and made light of the stress. Now I feel like most of us are actually trying to get on with it and get done what we can. I call my fabulous elderly aunts, and send love messages to my cousins who are both doctors and living this time in the front line while I sit on my couch!
Generally I feel everyone is staying quiet and really wants this all to end soon so we can get on with life as soon as possible. We are all worried and dealing, let’s fight this thing and get on with it kind of thing!
If you had your time over, is there anything you'd do differently to prepare?
If I had had an option to stay in the country I would have, but I did not have enough time to organize this. Besides this, a yoga mat would have been great, a roller to help to stretch, and a rolling pin for dough the kitchen (thank goodness for wine bottles!) A printer and paper also would have been great for work (I had to order one online and it will come soon). I would have also had a trip to the library to stock up on books and had I had the chance I would have fixed my freezer, but hey, who cares!
You recently dressed up in a sparkly dress for a day inside, just for some fun. Any other little tips to bring some fun into confinement?
Yes, I think about how lucky I am!
I am so lucky not to be suffering from war and famine as they are in Syria for example, I am so lucky to have two children to play with who want to play with me, I am so lucky they will dance with me daily. We plan dinner parties, we have computers to write on and play on, books to read, Netflix to watch and a shower with hot water to keep clean. Sometimes the tip is it’s not fun at all, but who are we to complain, that’s life anyway so I put some music on and find a way to bring tonight into the next day…we will all be okay. Baci!