Rome Enters a New Coronavirus Lockdown: Spring 2021 Edition

A year ago, all of Italy was under a national lockdown. I was 8 months pregnant and wrote a letter to friends and family that we were fine – but that the whole world might soon be in lockdown.

And here we are, in March of 2021, with 48 million Italians under lockdown restrictions. It all feels very much the same but also very different. One thing I can say is that we are all worn down. There will be no singing from balconies or painted rainbow signs declaring “everything will be ok.”

In 2020, everything closed. Every single restaurant, coffee bar, office building, shut. We were only allowed outside for essentials like food and medicine and considered ourselves lucky that we didn’t have any toilet paper shortages (thank you, bidets!)

In 2020, we stayed inside for 68 days. There was a sense of getting through it together. 

And after a rather scary spring and a slow reopening, we had a fairly normal summer. Even if we could not see our friends and family outside of Italy.

As the reality of a second wave was upon us, Italy introduced a universal mask mandate in October, and Italians adopted this without complaint. Restaurants and bars were forced to close at 6 pm, and we all went along with it – wondering why dinner was more dangerous than lunch. 

Italy also introduced a color-coded system of tiered regulations which increased in severity as you moved from Yellow to Orange, to Red. These colors were determined by several factors including replication rate and ICU capacity. Oh, and we were also given a national curfew of 10 pm. 

Lazio, the region where Rome is located, has been classed as yellow for most of the time. We did have a brief stint in orange, and a Christmas lockdown across the country that was aimed at limiting family gatherings. But our schools have been open since September (at least for the youngest kids, older kids may have reduced in-person classes), and we have been allowed the simple joy of coffee at the bar.

However, with the potential for a third wave looking likely and vaccines slow to arrive, the rules for Red Zones have changed again. Now, any region which has more than 250 cases per 100,000 residents is automatically placed in a red zone. So as of today, all of Italy turned red or orange – with the exception of Sardinia which has turned a mythical white. This new white zone means that everything can be open so long as masks and distancing rules are respected.

This time, our red zone will last until Easter. Easter and Easter Monday are both public holidays in Italy which usually revolve around seeing family and friends for long lunches. None of that will be possible this year (though two people can visit another two people once per day for the holiday, so pick your couple wisely.)

The rules this time feel made up. Bookstores are essential businesses but clothing stores are not. Coffee can be taken away, but only until 6 pm. Schools are closed but playgrounds are open.

The move into a red zone was announced Friday but didn’t go into effect until this morning. That means most Romans and other Italians spent the weekend visiting friends and socializing outside… the opposite of what would be recommended in a pandemic.

Italy has suffered the tragedy of over 100,000 deaths and that is an irreplaceable loss. I know the value of functional hospital services first hand, and so we are more than willing to sacrifice to protect the vulnerable and save lives.

Yet, after a year of uncertainty, this new three-week lockdown feels like a nuisance rather than something to be done for the common good. The rules feel particularly arbitrary now. And the risk that they may not work towards lowering the curve, causing us to be placed in another extended lockdown, is both a very real possibility and one we can’t bear to consider.



12 thoughts on “Rome Enters a New Coronavirus Lockdown: Spring 2021 Edition

  1. Brian Stanton says:

    Natalie; I live in Orchard Park , NY. (Home of the Buffalo Bills). My wife and I were in Italy early in November, 2016 along with 50 other people from our church. We toured Florence, Sorrento, Amalfi Coast, Pompeii and Rome. We loved the country. The people, the wine, the coffee, the churches, the history and the architecture are the best in the world. But what’s happening now Covid-wise looks like “ deja vu all over again”. Last year, here in Buffalo NY, St. Paddy’s Day was cancelled, Spring Break in Florida looked dicey and Italy was starting to lock down. Tell me, from where you sit, do you think is it all starting again?😮

    • Natalie says:

      Yes, it feels like we are back in the same place. Vaccine roll outs have been so slow here that I am losing my optimism for a normal end of year.

  2. Alexandra says:

    My husband and I are going to relocate to Rome starting in May. We wanted to come sooner, but this whole circuit breaker lockdown has discouraged us from coming until the last possible minute. I appreciate your perspective. We also care about containing the virus, but artificial laws are also insulting.

  3. Giuseppe Luigi Paolo Picogna says:

    Grazie gentile signora Sono rattristato dal messaggio ma speranzoso per il futuro. La nostra amata Italia deve soffrire ancora una volta. Ciao

  4. Kathleen GRONEFELD says:

    Thank you for the update. My sisters and I are hoping to come in September and celebrate my sisters 85th birthday. Italy is the only travel wish she has!! Stay safe and looking forward to your updates.

  5. Sharon says:

    Hi Natalie
    Just discovered your blog while doing a search for Michealangelo‘s Moses. Read your recent update of Rome under lockdown restrictions . So many of us here are feeling equally anxious about how long these restrictions will last . UK is opening up at last and vaccine roll out has been brilliant. Hope you guys get your freedom back pronto . Happy Easter 🌻🌻

  6. Norberto Gaspari says:

    I have more family in Pescara that I can count. I would like to visit again during December if open. Also Does Pescara have wonderful Christmas displays.
    Thank you from Delaware,
    Norberto Gaspari,

    • Natalie says:

      Things are slowly opening (with masks at all times and other restrictions) but we are currently in a “yellow zone” in Rome. Things may open mid May (TBC)

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