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Last days in Italy before the Lockdown...by Allison Hayne

We flew into Rome on Saturday, March 7th. We rented a car and drove to Impruneta where we had rented a house - Impruneta is right outside of Florence. At the time people were hopeful that all would continue to be fine....there was no sense of panic. On Sunday we drove through Chianti making our way to San Gimignano. We stopped in Panzano where they had a Sunday market going on. There were lots of people at the market, all locals. They were selling fruits and veggies, clothing and there was a food truck selling chicken. At 1pm is when Dario the Butcher's lunch party began. They were putting out all sorts of food to nibble on and passing out Chianti to drink. It was a very festive atmosphere. Frankly, I was a little surprised. In San Gimignano, There were very few people visiting although there were still some tourists, it was not packed wall to wall like it normally would be. Shops were open. Restaurants were open and anything you bought was truly appreciated. We ate a very late lunch in San Gimignano along with several other patrons in the restaurant. Since we had rented a house and didnt feel like cooking we had dinner that night in this very small trattoria in Ferrone which was right down the road from our house. The owners were super excited to have us, that evening there were 3-4 other tables having dinner. We spent either Monday or Tuesday in Florence, sorry my days have blurred together. By then the mayor had shut down the museums and churches. Businesses and restaurants were open. Our tour guide said that there were a lot of young people still being irresponsible and gathering at night in large groups. But you could see people were getting nervous. Our guide had to call every place we went to to make sure we could still get in...the streets of Florence were empty. Not sure the magnitude of it all had sunk in yet and then that night is when the rest of the country went on lockdown. We changed our flights. Restaurants were open for lunch but not dinner. We had our last meal at the little Trattoria in Ferrone - the owners were beside themselves - really everyone at this point was in shock - how will everyone survive? Tourism is their livelihood and effects every aspect of their lives. My heart breaks for Italy - really for the world. So, our days turned into trips to the COOP grocery store (which was like a mini CM) to get wine and food for dinner. We left Impruneta Thursday for Rome and made a leisurely drive through through the countryside with a stop in Montepulciano which was totally and completely empty. We had one store owner come out and apologize to us profusely that he couldn't sell us anything. You just wanted to hug everyone and cry.
And that is the end of our story. We had no problems changing our flight and we had a really easy flight out of Rome. No wait in Newark when we got back.....we missed that total meltdown that happened several days later when everyone fled Europe and got stuck for hours in customs.
The owners of the places we rented could not have been nicer or more accommodating. They were constantly in contact with us to let us know what was happening. We will be back and I can't wait.

Allison Hayne