Everything will be all right: Italy's message of hope

Singing from the balcony: life in lockdown Italy.

Rome mayor Virginia Raggi has extended a most unusual invitation to Romans, calling on them to open their windows or step out onto their balconies for a singsong, at 18.00 every evening, beginning today.

The mayor's rally cry is far removed from her normal announcements regarding Rome's transport and trash collection but then again we are living in extraordinary times.

The country is in total shutdown, with 60 million people indoors, in a drastic attempt not to catch or spread the dreaded Coronavirus.

Raggi is echoing the calls of other towns and cities up and down Italy whose residents have begun impromptu singalongs, flashmobs, musical performances, even dancing, from their windows.

Raggi's invitation, open to everyone living in Rome, comes the day after she hung a home-made banner from her office balcony at city hall, overlooking the Roman Forum. The message read "Andrà tutto bene" which means "Everything will be all right."

In recent days this reassuring slogan has become a beacon of hope in Italy, a collective call to think positive, to be strong, to resist. 

The movement began a few weeks ago in Milan, the capital of Lombardy, the northern Italian region left reeling from the deadly grip of the virus. Milanese citizens began to leave post-it notes with the words Andrà tutto bene on random doors and shopfronts, a happy antidote to fear and death.

With schools closed around Italy since early March, children stuck at home began painting images of rainbows accompanied by the slogan, placing their masterpieces in the window of the family home for the neighbours to see.

Under the hashtag #andratuttobene, the message has now gone viral on social media. Italy is a country with a big heart, after all, and the lockdown has effectively caged the most sociable people on the planet. With this new slogan, cooped-up Italians can combine hope with a social release.

For gone are our routines, our commutes to the office or school, our morning coffees, our choice to go wherever we want, whenever we want. Terms like "stir crazy", "cracking up" and "cabin fever" come to mind. And remember that these are very early days of a scenario we could be facing for a long time to come. 

This lockdown - tedious but absolutely necessary - is lonely for people living on their own but in many ways it is tougher on couples and families. All of us - even the most saintly - have bad habits, annoying characteristics that come to the fore during prolonged captivity.

Some commentators believe that Italy will experience a population explosion in nine months' time; others suggest there will be a spike in the divorce rate.

Whatever the outcome, it is during grim times such as these that the suggestion of something fun, something uplifting, is seized upon by even the most grouchy among us.

The idea of opening the window to wave at neighbours across the street, never mind singing to them, is something we would never dream of doing in normal circumstances. But there is a growing and welcome sense of solidarity in Italy, a recognition that we are all in this together.

"Look out the window, step out onto the balcony, stop and say hello to your neighbours" - Raggi says - "If you want to sing, wave your hands, wave a white handkerchief. We are human, we are a community. Together we will get through this moment."

So this evening, and every other evening during this long haul, open that window. If you can sing, sing. If not just listen and let your spirits be raised.

Everything will be all right.

 

Andy Devane