ROME               -              It’s not easy being Italian these days. Especially without coffee. For Alessandro, a 30-something busi­nessman in suit and mask in central Rome, an espresso at the local bar in the morning is “indispensable”. on Thursday, after the govern­ment’s latest measures to stem the rise of coronavirus, all bars in Italy, where locals gather to drink cof­fee, chat and steal a few moments of conviviality before work, were closed. Alessandro was forced to have coffee at home.

“Let’s just say it’s hard,” said Ales­sandro, who has drunk his coffee -- up to three times a morning -- at a bar near his workplace at Piazza Venezia in central Rome for “forever”.

“It hurts me that everything is closed,” he said of the closures of bars, restaurants and other “non-essential” businesses in the usually busy district. “We usually all joke around together.”

The sudden restriction on a ritual as seemingly banal as morning cof­fee with others strikes at the core of Italian cultural life -- social, familial, and of course, caffeinated.

Bloody coronavirus, now we’re even denied our coffee? What kind of world are we living in?” lamented Roberto Fichera, a retired man in his 80s, on finding his favourite bar closed nearby the Colosseum.

“Without my pastry and my ex­presso I can’t start my day.”

Fichera hadn’t heard about the new nationwide restrictions that were announced by Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte on Wednesday in order to halt the spread of the coro­navirus that has already killed 827 people in Italy.

The rising death toll and over 12,000 infected people has made It­aly, after China, the country most af­fected by COVID-19, now considered by the World Health Organization to be a pandemic.

Bars, restaurants, and stores -- which were previously allowed to operate until 6pm -- were to im­mediately shutter as of Thursday morning.

Grocery stores, pharmacies and various businesses like hardware and mechanic shops remain open, but residents are to stay at home ex­cept to travel to work, shop for pro­visions, or seek medical help.


The impact of the new regulations was immediately visible. Outside the Pantheon, the former Roman temple, the cafés lining the cobble­stoned piazza were all closed.

The same desolate environment was seen at Piazza Navona, consid­ered by many the most beautiful spot in the city.

Instead of the street musicians and tourists snapping photos, po­lice on foot and in cars circled the square, asking the few passersby for their “self-declarations,” writ­ten statements explaining the rea­son for their leaving their homes.