Italy struggles with a new pace after two months of foreclosure

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Dario Triscar and Nertila Goga opened their new bistro in Milan on March 5, to close a few days later as the coronavirus pandemic invaded Italy. In a short time, they found themselves investing 1200 Canadian dollars (800 euros) in plexiglass and spending a large part of their time quarantining the cutting and sticking barriers to line and surround their tables when the time would have come to reopen. –

More than two months later, Triscari proudly overlooks the outdoor patio of the bistro, where people dine al fresco.

“We have entered a new reality and we have to adopt,” he said. “When the restaurants in Wuhan reopened, we went online to see what they were doing, and that was where the idea for Plexiglas came from. “

People stroll under Milan’s famous Galleria Vittorio Emanuele with their bikes. Some people say now is the time to make the city a visionary leader by changing its transportation flow and encouraging cycling. (Prospero Bozzo / CBC)

Italy, the first western country ravaged by coronavirus, has further relaxed its two-month lock, allowing everything from museums and libraries to sit-down restaurants and hairdressers to reopen. With strict new security rules in place, businesses are facing radical changes in their operations in a city with completely new paces, with staggered government-mandated hours of operation and many people working remotely from their home.

Some in Milan have taken this opportunity to make strategic and avant-garde changes to the city’s transport modes and flows. But others are struggling to adapt to the new measures they need to implement because of COVID-19.

Together, but apart

What is gone for now, said Triscari, is what Italians call socialità daily meetings with friends and strangers flipping a morning espresso squeezed against a coffee counter or squeezing around a table with bright orange Aperol spritzes after work.

Entrepreneur Francesco Vigorita, 28, delves into a squid and potato antipasto through a plexiglass shield from his father, Pino.

“What more can you do?” Francesco said shrugging. “It’s not the same and I’m sorry I don’t see any friends in a group, but right now it’s like that. “

Restaurateur Sandra Zini, on the right, says she will wait to reopen her family’s bistro because her five-person staff cannot handle all of the new security measures in place.

For some, however, the transition to the new standard is nothing short of defeat.

Sandra Zini, who with her mother and brother runs Il Tronco, a restaurant that has been in their family since 1933, has not yet reopened. They say the regulation after the foreclosure is too complicated.

“Normally, we welcome 50 customers. Now with a social distance of 16, “she said, pointing to the widely spaced tables, which by law must ensure that unrelated guests are seated at least three feet from each other. other.

Embracing change while respecting tradition

For Zini, this means taking the temperature of staff members and customers, recording the name and phone number of each restaurant to allow tracking in the event of contagion, disinfecting the toilet each time someone uses it and monitor the social distance between clients.

It’s just too much for its staff of five to handle.

“It’s a nightmare,” she said.

The tension between embracing change and maintaining tradition is palpable on the streets of Milan.

Ten years ago, when the city decided to reduce smog, the backbone of its sustainability plan increased the use of public transportation. Now, with a 30% ceiling on transit capacity due to the demands of social distancing, the city is stimulating other alternatives to private cars: bikes, electric scooters, mopeds and car sharing.

WATCH | Coun. Marco Granelli bikes in one of Milan’s new cycle paths

Milan city councilor Marco Granelli is traveling a 35 km / h section of new cycle paths in Milan to help reduce the pressure on public transport. (Credit Megan Williams) 0:15

Like Milan Coun. Marco Granelli shows a traffic lane freshly converted into a cycle track, a pedestrian bridge, parking for mopeds and spaces for vehicles to unload goods, taxi drivers across the street lean against their cars and reflections, gesturing and shouting the strange muffled curse.

“It created a little debate in the city,” chuckled Granelli.

He said vehicle sharing has increased by 65%, in part thanks to a government incentive that reimburses 60% of the cost of a new electric bike or scooter and the use of sharing systems. The bicycle, as a percentage of the means transport, rose to 10% after locking, against 10% before locking.

Milanese are lining up to buy new bikes. The government is providing coupons of up to $ 750 for bicycle purchases to discourage people from driving. (Prospero Bozzo / CBC)

“Our main concern is to develop enough cycle paths so that when the students return in September, our city is ready,” said Granelli.

To better prepare, Milan will start using its buses and trains with a peak frequency to create as much space as possible and its metro is developing a software system to automatically block entry turnstiles once a station reaches its passenger limit.

Opportunity for visionary reflection

But the biggest long-term challenge will be to replace the revenue from the loss of monthly ticket and pass sales, which covered half the cost of running Milan’s public transportation system. The city is turning to the European Union to help cover losses and invest heavily in more regional suburban and metro lines.

Renowned urban thinker and architect Patricia Viel says the time has come to explore how Milan can lead the world as a visionary city by banning most cars and widening the sidewalks. (Prospero Bozzo / CBC)

Milan’s approach is considered avant-garde by other big cities, but many here would like the city to go even further.

“As Milanese, we think this is a great opportunity for this city,” said Patricia Viel, architect and urban thinker from Milan.

She said the main opportunity was to revise Milan, transforming it into an open, polycentric and slow urban space. She wants Milan to ban most cars, adopt a speed limit of 30 km / h, widen the sidewalks and remove bike lanes entirely, requiring the few cars that need to access the center to keep pace with pedestrians cyclists. .

A cyclist had his temperature checked at the entrance to Idroscalo artificial lake in Milan on Saturday. Temperature controls are one of the measures in place, as Italy is loosening some of its lockout measures. (Alessandro Garofalo / Reuters)

“We have to educate people to share spaces in the urban environment,” said Viel. “To make them bigger, easier to use and safer. That means you have to be slow, but not by dividing. We really need to share more. “

She also considers foreclosure to have changed people’s relationships over time.

For many, she said, the undisputed acceptance that days must follow a predetermined pattern around work.

“It’s over,” said Viel. “Now we understand what it means to design our own day … and businesses have learned to trust” working remotely.

New hours and new places of work

Work restructuring will be the cornerstone of any infection control plan in a region where one in seven people have contracted the virus and half of the 33,000 deaths from COVID-19 in Italy have occurred.

Already, the Milan City Council is working with companies to increase distance work by urging them to make people work at home at least two days a week and to spread out working hours. Hairdressers and hardware stores, for example, are among many to open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.

With frontline healthcare workers, more than 200 of whom died in Italy during the pandemic, safety is of the utmost importance for occupations involving physical contact with others, such as hairdressing, barbers and beauticians.

WATCH | The “new standard” in an Italian spa

Beautician Margherita Bordo takes the temperature of a client in her small spa. “It is time for the word to spread that it is possible to come here safely,” she said. 2:55

In her small spa in the north of the city, Margherita Bordo aims at a purple plastic pistol-shaped object on a client’s forehead to measure her temperature.

In addition to checking clients’ fevers and recording their telephone numbers, Bordo also installed plexiglass barriers, installed wooden partitions around the treatment chairs (cleverly camouflaged as product showcases) and installed a system air purification – the latter is not necessary, but “to give customers additional insurance. ”

“It will take time for the news to spread that it is safe to come here,” said Bordo, who, with a loss of income, has invested several thousand dollars in security measures. “But I’m optimistic. Until we get a second wave of infections. “

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