The last time I wrote this was almost two years ago after coming back from the UK when the world was still as we knew it. Two years later and we’ve lived through a global pandemic.

The first place to be affected in Europe was the northern region of Lombardy in Italy where I live. A man in the town of Codogno just south of Milan was diagnosed with coronavirus late at night on Thursday 20 February. By Saturday afternoon, about fifty cases had been identified. On Sunday morning Giorgio Armani announced he would show without guests. It was Milan Fashion Week and the city was brimming with the fashion world. At lunchtime news began to come through that the regional government of Lombardy was planning to close the schools. By Sunday evening I was looking at emptying shelves in my local supermarket.

On Monday 24 February, the kids didn’t go back to school. Our lives changed, all our lives changed as the coronavirus spread its way through our worlds. On Saturday 7 March Lombardy and 14 other Italian provinces went into lockdown. Two days later Italian prime minister Giuseppe Conte announced that the whole of Italy would go into lockdown. Days merged into one as the numbers of the dead rose, each number a world of grief and pain. Two weeks later we watched images of army trucks taking the dead out of the city of Bergamo. On the evening of Friday 27 March a lone Pope Francis conducted mass in Saint Peter’s Square, a symbol of national and personal grief that many of us are still trying to process. There are towns and cities which have lost generations, families who are grieving several family members. For some it is still not over.

Then on 3 June Italy opened its regional and national borders once more. Lockdown is over and we’re all now learning how to move forward in the era of social distancing. When we went into lockdown, I’d just finished a book about fashion in Milan. It should have been published this year but like many things got postponed, and will be published next spring.

In the meantime I’ll be writing here again, so check back soon for more travel, food and culture and various other bits about this beautiful country I call home.

Photo: Venice in the rain, Rachael Martin

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