A worker sprays disinfectant as sanitization operations against Coronavirus are carried out in the museum hosted by the Maschio Angioino medieval castle, in Naples, Italy, Tuesday, March 10, 2020. (Alessandro Pone/LaPresse via AP)

A Phippsburg couple visiting family in northern Italy remain in the country during a nationwide quarantine that has affected some 60 million people.

The couple, who asked not to be identified, are staying in the city of Forli, in the Emilia-Romagna region, as they visit their son and his family.

The matriarch of the family described an experience both frightening and serene as the family awaits new information on travel. Most flights to and from Bologna have been canceled until at least March 20.

From the start of the trip, it was clear COVID-19 was gripping the country. The couple arrived in Bologna on Feb. 26, and were met at the airport by government health workers in full gear to protect against hazardous materials.

“They took our temperatures and allowed everyone in. The flight was less than half full,” she said, adding that when they arrived, all schools were closed, but stores, markets and restaurants were open.

“There are cordoned off spaces at vegetable markets where customers can look and select produce, but the merchant actually puts items in your shopping bag,” she said.


They have been staying in a rented apartment just around the corner from their son and his family. They have not seen any other tourists for at least 10 days.

The Italian government announced a nationwide quarantine Monday that stipulates citizens may not leave their towns, cities or villages unless for work or emergencies. Road blocks were put in place. Museums, theaters and libraries are closed.

As of early Tuesday, the outbreak had killed 631 people and affected more than 10,000 there.

But despite the drastic measures to deal with the outbreak, the Phippsburg woman said there was not panic in the air.

“People are worried, yet calm and respectful of one another,” she said. “Italians are taking the localized quarantine and social distancing measures very seriously.”

She described long lines at the local pharmacy, maintaining a 3-to-4-foot distance between customers, and the more obvious social rules: No hugs, kisses or handshakes.


She said Tuesday the local market was open and food and essentials were in good supply, although the town was quiet. Some stores and cafes were open, she said, while bars and restaurants must close by 6 p.m.

“We are able to go out for long walks in the parks, which are relatively quiet,” she said. “Weather is mild. Spring flowers and fruit trees are blooming.”

The couple are trying to take advantage of the extra time they have with their family, enjoying home-cooked meals, reading books and doing crossword puzzles.

“As Americans, we appreciate and support these measures and stand in solidarity with Italians for the sacrifices they are making to ‘flatten the curve,'” she said.

If able to return home soon, she said, they plan to self-quarantine.

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