Coronavirus update, Lucca walls and the trash

Coronavirus update

Several people have recently asked me about the status of the coronavirus emergency here. The worst is over now for Italy and the restrictions are slowly being lifted. A few examples:

  • Restaurants have been allowed to deliver food to your house. Starting today, we can pick up food at the restaurant but need to pre-order and they will tell us when to pick it up so no crowds form. Rumors are that we’ll be able to go to a restaurant starting May 18, but all tables need to be at least 2 meters apart. Traditionally they are only inches apart, so the restaurant capacities will be far decreased.
  • Food stores, pharmacies, gas stations and other true essentials have never closed and we are experiencing very few shortages. Starting this week, book stores, stationary stores and children clothing/shoe stores could open. Apparently, the kids are running out of clothes that fit and supplies needed for online school! Rumors are that most other stores will be opened by May 11th. Yesterday I saw many storekeepers preparing their stores for reopening.
  • Moving about is quite restricted today. When we leave our house, we need to fill out a form stating where we are coming from, where we are going, and why. Police can stop anyone to check the paperwork and we see police patrolling every time we go out. Legitimate reasons include going to work, shopping for necessities, health care, and taking trash out (see below!). We can now take walks with a dog, small child, or by yourself, but need to stay within 200 meters of our house. Fortunately, the area around our apartment is gorgeous and I have enjoyed these walks. I expect that these restrictions will be relaxed over the next several weeks. One rumor is that we’ll be able to travel freely within our region starting May 4th. That would mean all of Tuscany is open to us… but I’m not counting on that!

We get daily updates of the number of people infected, in intensive care, recovered, and deaths – for all of Italy, the region of Tuscany, the province that we live in and the city we live in. In the city that we live in (Lucca, population 88,000 in the city and surrounding areas), there have been 202 people diagnosed with the virus, 13 are currently in the hospital and 14 have died.

So, it is around us but not too bad. Neither Jim nor I have been sick since we arrived. That doesn’t necessarily mean that we didn’t get it, so we wear masks when we go out in case we are carriers and don’t realize it. And masks are now required for anyone outside of their homes.

The Beauty of Lucca… its walls!

Lucca is one of the many “walled” cities of Tuscany. The walls were built to defend the city from warring parties, generally other cities such as Florence and Pisa, and occasionally other countries. Since the days before the Roman Empire, Lucca has had multiple walls to address the city’s expansion and changing threats. This aerial map shows how Lucca expanded since the Roman Empire days:

Lucca Expansion since the Roman Empire

The reddish square represents the Roman town of Lucca, laid out in a very orderly grid fashion. The Roman wall was about 7 meters high and 2.5 meters wide. There are few traces remaining of the Roman wall; only one portion is available to see above ground.                              

The greenish area was surrounded by a wall during the medieval period, which was finished around 1270. This wall originally had several gates, two remain today. Porta dei Borghi is close to our apartment, so I’ve enjoyed taking pictures of it on walks and from our apartment. Wouldn’t it be cool to live above the gate?

Porta San Gervasio originally had a drawbridge and moat, but both are gone today. Fortunately the starry design underneath the archway and some of the artwork remain. I took this picture in 2019 during one of our visits. It feels odd to be walking through the town and see a gate in the middle of the city!

Porta San Gervasio at dusk
Porta San Gervasio at dusk

The yellowish area of the map represents the expansion of Lucca during the Renaissance era. The walls built during this era still go completely around the historic district of Lucca today. They are 4.2 km around, 30 meters wide at its base, 18 meters at the top, 7 meters in height, and were completed in 1650, after over 100 years of constructions. These walls are so wide because they needed to be wider than a cannon ball could be launched. Fortunately, the walls were transformed into a public park in the late 1800s. Today, the Lucchese people and tourists walk, bicycle, picnic, exercise, and relax on the wall. As I mentioned in my last post, the walls are now closed because of the coronavirus. Too many people were gathering on the walls as they have done since the 1800’s. These walls are one of the biggest attractions in Lucca. I’m sure that future posts will include lots of pictures taken from these walls.

Everyday life in Lucca… the trash and recycling

Everyday life in Lucca is different than in the United States. Some things are much better (plentiful fresh food available daily), some are worse (the bureaucracy!) and some are just different. Part of the reason that we moved to Italy was to experience these differences… In this and upcoming blog posts, I’ll talk about some of these differences.

Where we lived in Virginia, we kept 2 very large bins in our garage. Twice a week, the garbage truck came to pick up trash from one of the bins and once a week, they picked up the recycling in the other bin. It’s different in Lucca.

They are very serious about recycling and we need to separate all recycling into four categories: paper, multi material (including plastic and metal), glass, and organics. Because there are no garbage disposals here, any wasted food goes into “organics”. This can get smelly quickly! There are long lists that tell you exactly where to put every kind of waste. Whatever remains goes into the non-recyclable.

When we first arrived, the apartment had a container for organics, but we just used separate bags for each. Last week, we purchased our very own fine recycling bin for the kitchen. Much better now!

There are sets of recycling bins on the street that match these categories. The openings are quite small, so trash and recycling goes out daily. To open the bin, you need a card that is registered to us. Our realtor spent weeks working to get our card for us (and lent us one in the meantime). You need to use your card each time you open each bin, so that they can track exactly who is using which bins! I just read that “the citizens will pay for the actual amount of unsorted waste produced and conferred to the islands.” How is that for being serious about recycling???

I plan to continue posting to my blog every few weeks, highlighting something that I find beautiful, a bit about how everyday life is different than in the United States, and some personal updates. Let me know if there are topics you want me to write about!

12 thoughts on “Coronavirus update, Lucca walls and the trash

  1. Thank you for sending these out each week. I really enjoy reading these posts! I’m thankful that your restrictions are beginning to lift.

    Karen Field

  2. Oh my! I love the photos of the underneath of the gate in the old wall. So beautiful…..and so cool that it is not lost after all these years. It’s good to hear a country being so serious about their recycling and trying to reduce the trash. When I last went to Canada and stayed in an Airbnb, they had those different sorting receptacles and instructions (but not the lock & key method of disposal). It was confusing to me, but I’m sure it would become more intuitive in a hurry once I got used to it. I look forward to more photos and posts of whatever beautiful things surround you once you can get out and about. Take care!

    • Thanks Joy! We stayed in Airbnb’s on previous trips to Italy so were introduced to the sorting then. But since we have been coming to Lucca, they have changed their trash/recycling approach 3 times that we know of! LOL!

  3. Your pictures are beautiful! I’m a huge fan of maps and how areas develop so I also appreciated the historical insight. The recycle system is impressive. We had the occasional week (in VA) where our recycles were greater than our trash but that was rare. My favorite trash system was the one we had in Paris. We had a door in the wall of our kitchen. It was a direct chute to a large trash container in the lower level of our apartment building. Both girls were in diapers so it was the perfect solution for us!

    • Thanks Renette 🙂 I always loved hearing your stories of raising the girls in Paris and other places… made me want to live in Europe!

  4. Thank you for sharing your experiences, photos, maps, and stories! Love the recycling requirements! Just think the impact if everyone recycled at that level. Do the stores charge for bags? :). I was in Italy in the late 80’s!

    • Thanks Kelly. Some stores do charge for bags, but some of them seem to use their own bags even if we have a bag to use. Especially the fruit/vegie stores. Most of them don’t even want you to touch the produce. You say what you want and they get it. And that was even before the coronavirus…

  5. I love the pictures and the updates as you widen our world during these days of confinement. We had fun trying to communicate with the Airbnb proprietor last September regarding the recycling and making sure we followed his strict instructions!! but we found it an excellent system. The food waste is one extra step up from the French so we had to make that adjustment too. Last Saturday we had a bottle of Appassimento and raised a glass to you! It was very good – we are trying to explore some of the Italian wines based on your recommendations. Salute!

    • So glad that you are starting to explore Italian wines! Jim has said that he’d like to go to France to start learning about French wines, but I’ll believe it when I see it! We had planned to go to Paris this year for our 40th anniversary, but not sure when/if that will happen…

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