Italians and Pandemic

Posted by Massimo Marzo on

Right now in Italy many shops are closed due the soft lockdown imposed by the government. Barbershops are closed, movie theaters are closed, gyms and swimming pools are closed, and restaurants can only do takeaway. 

This may seem bad, and in fact it is, but it is nothing compared to last year where all the shops and factories were closed, except for grocery stores and factories that made food.

It’s been over a year and a half now and we’ve all gotten used to it.

You watch a movie were people do not wear masks and the first thing you think is “you’re not wearing a mask, you donkey!”, and then you realize that was life before COVID.

We were not ready. Some people are still not ready, but they are probably the same people that were planning to “shoot down” Hurricane Irma with guns in Florida, so they do not count.

Do you remember how it was during the first two months when it all started?

First of all, let me say that during this pandemic we all learned to give things the value they deserve. Those living in densely populated areas learned the importance of living in a house not the size of a closet. Americans learned the importance of being able to buy all the toilet paper in their city. Italians…. Oh my God, where do I start?

 It was February and I was in line at the register, an old lady asked the clerk if they sold masks, and laughing the clerk said no. He laughed as if that request was stupid. Unfortunately, 20 days later masks were impossible to find and we ended up like these guys.

 

I had no oranges so I made a mask out of baking paper and an old bed sheet, but this was just the tip of that iceberg called “Italianness.” 

In Italy, they say that when you reach the bottom you can always start digging? This is what happened with food here in Italy.

Before going on I have to make it clear that our government said, multiple times, that under no circumstance would they close the grocery stores, so there was no need to raid them. Do you think Italians realized that? No, sir.

Many items became impossible to get. Among the most difficult to find were flour, yeast and mozzarella. Does that ring a bell? Yeah, bravo, you guessed right, pizza. I mean, we have to live up to our stereotype, but that was absurd. The grocery store where I shop (and many others around the Country) put a limit on how many of those items that you could buy, but that was useless. Women sent husbands and children in turns. On the news we saw a lady who bought 7 kgs (15,4 lb) of yeast. Considering that for 1kg (2,25 lb) of bread you need 10gr (½oz) of yeast, apparently she was gonna make 700kgs (1543 lb) of bread, or 1400 pizzas (I’ll spare you the math on this, but trust me). Or she was just crazy.

Italians are not all like our Yeast Queen; there are some that have shown the world that, even in the darkest hour, they can take advantage of something.

And that something is Nutella Biscuits.

Last year Nutella launched Nutella Biscuits, and people went nuts like a hummingbird on cocaine. People bought 5-6 packs at a time. I saw people waiting for the delivery truck to get them before they were put on the shelf.

People were so crazy about these biscuits that it didn’t take long before someone realized that they could make a profit out of that situation.

People started selling them on Ebay for more than triple the price. Here’s a screenshot from ebay and a photo of the shelves from 1 year ago.

  

 You can see 4 packages at 34€. At retail, 1 pack costs 2.99€.

They were not reselling just on Ebay, but also on the streets! In Naples there are still a lot of people selling contraband cigarettes. It is something that happens only in the Naples area and you don’t see that anywhere else in Italy. Anyway, those smugglers started selling Nutella biscuits. I’m not making that up! You could actually walk down a backstreet in Naples, where people buy illegal stuff, and buy biscuits. The world of the Mafia has never been so sweet.

What would a slice of Italian life be without pasta?

At the beginning of the pandemic, pasta was also one of the food items impossible to find. I don’t know if you’ve ever been in an Italian grocery store, but we have multiple isles of pasta, so it is quite hard to imagine a store out of pasta, but it happened. Ok, I get it, pasta is cheap, you can store it for years and you can’t predict the future, so it is smart to stock up on pasta. Let’s be pessimistic and say that it was a life or death situation… now I need to know why the only type of pasta remained unsold in the whole Country was Penne Lisce? In the pictures below you can see a whole shelf with only Penne Lisce on it and a picture of the pasta itself so you get an idea.

 

This is hilarious. In the whole country, the entire Italian population preferred starving instead of eating a smooth pasta. Can you imagine entering a grocery store to buy pasta for your starving family, finding 30 packs of Penne Lisce and saying, “Ouch, they’re out of pasta”? I can, because I said that too.

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