Rome Travel Guide

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Monday, April 13, 2020

Waiting out the Coronavirus in Borgo

The 5th in RST's series of accounts by Romans of life under the coronavirus is by Isalena. 
She has lived in the heart of Rome for years, together with her husband and 3 daughters. Her story reflects conditions on April 2. 

Yesterday, I went to buy a medicine which has run out in Italian pharmacies for my aunt.  I ventured to the far side of Piazza San Pietro to try my luck at the Vatican Pharmacy.

The passageway below Largo di Porta Cavallergeri, now
Where I live, being a stone’s throw from the colonnade, is usually a throng of locals, tourists, those less fortunate trying to survive on charity and weary sightseers waiting their turn at the trattorie. The walk would have me cutting my way through a forest of selfie-sticks that have just disgorged from buses obstructing the flow of traffic, to pass below Largo di Porta Cavallegeri with its homeless occupants, before walking amongst pilgrims, enthusiastic would-be museum ticket vendors, mendicants and beggars.

The ramp leading up to Piazza San Pietro 

Yesterday there was none of this.  Restaurants all shuttered. An occasional person masked and gloved, walking purposefully. The only traffic was local buses, lucky to have 2 passengers aboard.  Not a soul in the underpass or the ramp leading up to San Pietro.  Enjoying the eerie emptiness of the Piazza in the glorious spring sunshine were just a couple of Polizia, with others on the outside were barring entrance to anyone else.

But on the north side of the colonnade, there was a different scene. A meandering line, of needy folks, each at the prescribed distance from each other, waiting, perhaps for a soup kitchen to open. Nuns helping an elderly bag lady. It was animated, friends calling to each other, dogs playing. 

A brief glimpse of ordinary street life –troubling yet heartwarming.

I had no luck at the Vatican Pharmacy.