Where this all began…
The last week of February, Frank and I traveled back to our fortress in Fivizzano, Italy. I was there to start shooting my new cookbook, La Fortezza Cookbook (Rizzoli, NY), when the virus started to take hold in Milan and the surrounding area. I thought I was safe from the virus’s reach since the fortress is in such a remote area of Italy. However, shortly after I arrived, the local hospital shut down because 2 patients tested positive for COVID-19 and the entire staff was quarantined. After speaking with my family (Frank had left a couple of days earlier), I made the difficult decision to travel back to the United States, putting my cookbook shoot on hold.
Coming back to the United States was a surreal experience. I departed Italy on March 7th, just three days before President Trump closed all travel between the United States and Italy. I had a mask and plenty of Clorox wipes and hand sanitizer. The surgical mask was mainly so I would not touch my face. It also gave me a vague sense of comfort. And, we now know now that was a very good decision on my part. On the bus to the plane, a man was standing next to me in a full hazmat suit carrying a briefcase. I was the only other person wearing a mask; me and the hazmat suit guy. I was nervous and filled with a sense of dread.
I wiped down the seat, tucked into my book, and we took off. In Rome, I headed to the Alitalia lounge near my gate. Usually, my husband and I look forward to spending time in this lounge as the food is amazing, and they have a pizza oven. However, this time I was full of anxiety. I had an espresso and washed my hands about a million times until it was time to board.
At the gate, we all filled out a form and had our temperatures taken before we were allowed to board. The flight was long, and I could hardly wait to land. Once we got to customs, I was asked where I had been, a standard question. I replied, “Italy”. The customs agent stamped my passport and said welcome home. That’s it. No temperature taken, no special line, nothing. I was concerned since so many people, most likely some infected just walked through into Atlanta or other destinations. It makes sense how this virus spread so easily in the months before. But I was so dismayed that this was not being taken seriously at the Atlanta International customs terminal entry to the US. What the heck?
I arrived and immediately was on a two-week self-imposed quarantine, as was Frank (his company suggested it since he arrived from Italy, one of the most infected countries at the time. Now England has surpassed Italy’s numbers, sadly). We watched the grave news from Italy, talking to friends in Italy every day—thank God for the internet and WhatsApp! I left on a Saturday, and by Sunday the Italian Prime Minister put Italy into lockdown. They were completely locked down for 2 months.
Back in the US…
After our 2 week self-quarantine, Frank and I remained locked down at home upon our return. His practice shut down, except emergencies. I was worried every time he had to go take care of patients, but that is all part of being a doctor’s wife. He’s careful. I had plenty of time to work on writing my book, La Fortezza Cookbook, and test recipes with Frank as my taste tester. We watched endless reports and lots of old movies. Read books and took long walks every day since our street is beautiful and deserted. Of course, we cleaned the house since our housekeeper was not coming anymore. We walked the dogs, who were endlessly grateful that we were home 24/7. Since I am very organized, I did minimal reorganizing.
Our daughter just moved into a new house, and she was homebound working. She’s a lawyer and luckily was able to work from home, but since her house was empty, she started to look around and realized she needed to get a few things for their home. Lucky for her, so many things were on sale, and she was able to support the economy by taking advantage of great sales. We managed to decorate using emails and Facetime to place things. She’s got a great eye, and she has been doing a great job. Our son, who lives in Austin, is a Data Scientist, so he too was able to work from home. He also just moved into his place, so I did help him as well with placing furniture via Facetime.
La Fortezza Chef Philp and I have been doing Instagram Live La Fortezza Cooking Classes every other week; we have had hundreds of people join us which is so much fun. Look out for more cooking classes coming in the next weeks!
Every Saturday I have cocktail hour (aperitivo) with my Italian and US friends via Zoom.
We talk about our families and still gossip and laugh. It’s been a highlight of the week since we can’t go out. We have ordered in from local restaurants at least once a week. I fear for the restaurants during this time. But somehow we will survive.
Things will be different, but I am an optimist so I always hope for the best. This week I will attempt to cut Frank’s hair; I have been watching loads of tutorials I think I can do this. I have been coloring my own hair which I am fairly good at since I did this for years in Italy until I found a hairdresser I trusted there. I have been writing marketing copy for my book, Italy is My Boyfriend, that releases in a couple of weeks. It should be interesting seeing how book talks and signings pan out. Stay tuned….
Back to Italy…
Many of you wonder when you can travel, and I am right there with you! I hope to return to Italy as soon as it is allowed. Italy is now in phase 2 of opening the country. I am optimistic that I can return to my beloved Italy in a few months to work on La Fortezza Cookbook, and welcome people to La Fortezza in September. That is the goal and the hope. I will continue to keep you updated about La Fortezza workshops. Right now we are a go for late August and September workshops. Of course, we will be very aware that we all want to be safe, so we will make decisions based on safety as we go it will become clear what best steps are.
More quarantine stories…
Please enjoy the quarantine stories from the La Fortezza team this month. Nicole, my web manager, and I thought it would be a fun idea for everyone from the La Fortezza team to tell us how they have been coping in these days of stay at home orders. As the country opens, we hope everyone takes their time and proceeds safely, so we can get back to normal, however that might look… Look for all the quarantine stories this month, and thank you to our incredible team and the folks we work with in Italy for the support in the uncertain time. We love you.
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