Quarantined Italians unite in music from their balconies as Italy rediscovers the sound of church bells.
Rome. Last night the bells at the Basilica of S. Maria in Trastevere rang out for a full 10 minutes in an expression of 'closeness, solidarity and prayer' towards all those suffering the consequences of covid-19, for the victims, their families, all those most fragile and at risk.
The gesture comes as Italy is in total shutdown, with 60 million people in quarantine while the country battles an escalating coronavirus outbreak.
The church in Trastevere is one of the oldest in Rome and is the focal point of a neighbourhood which has undergone enormous change in recent decades but still clings to its Roman working-class roots.
Bells rang out in unison from all churches in Trastevere, filling the normally bustling Saturday night streets with a sound that Romans are not accustomed to hearing without the backdrop of traffic and city bustle.
The ancient cacophony of bells against stony silence was stirring, with almost a wartime feel, and it will be repeated each evening at 20.00, for ten minutes.
The bell-ringing of Trastevere will be replicated on an even larger scale today, at midday, when all the church bells of Turin will ring out across the north Italian city.
The initiative follows calls from the archbishop of Turin who explained it as a way of "being present, impossible in these times, among the people."
Turin's bells will coincide with Pope Francis streaming the Angelus address from inside the Vatican, instead of coming to the window at St Peter's Square which has been sealed off
due to the Coronavirus.
At midday yesterday Italy erupted in applause for the valiant efforts of the country's doctors and nurses as they work around the clock to battle the coronavirus.
Six hours later we had our daily appointment on the balcony, as Italians flung open their windows to sing, play music and wave at neighbours.
This surreal experience also provides a time to reflect on the gravity of the situation, to remember the reason why we are stuck indoors in the first place.
As the quarantine continues, many individuals are 'upping the ante' by giving ever more spectacular performances, from the bizarre to the brave, involving amateur and virtuoso, young and old.
We have seen wacky djs in Rome, opera singers in Tuscany, concert violinists in Palermo.
At 18.00 this evening, Sunday, Italy will sing along to that most uplifting of Italian songs: Ma il cielo è sempre più blu, by the late great Rino Gaetano.
This song is a joyous testament to the fact that for all our many differences, we are all in the same boat - now more than ever - and that life must go on.
The sky is always more blue.