SAN FIORANO, Italy (Reuters) – “There is me and my shadow,” primary school teacher Marzio Toniolo says, standing alone in a usually bustling car park in northern Italy’s coronavirus “red zone”.
The car park in Casalpusterlungo, one of the 10 small towns that have effectively been closed off from the outside world by a quarantine order, is next to a street full of bars and restaurants that would, in normal circumstances, be packed.
“This is the first time in my whole life that I have seen this car park so empty,” he says. “Unbelievable.”
Toniolo, 35, has been filming a daily diary as his family copes with being unable to leave the zone.
He is one of around 50,000 people whose lives are on hold as Italy tries to contain Europe’s worst outbreak of the new coronavirus.
The number of cases confirmed in Italy stood on Wednesday at more than 370 in five days, with 12 deaths.
With most local shops closed, and Toniolo’s family running out of food, he drives 6.5 km (four miles) to a large supermarket to stock up.
To protect the staff, the store limits the number of shoppers let in at the same time.
“It is extremely well run,” Toniolo says, after buying 300 euros ($325) of supplies. “Everybody is very kind, they work non-stop.”
Another of Toniolo’s ‘heroes’ is Rudy Tagliaferro, a young chef who cooks bread in his kitchen and then hand delivers it for free to people in need in their red zone community.
Then there is the woman who works the local chemist. Her husband and children live in nearby Brescia but she decided to stay in the red zone to keep the pharmacy open. The town mayor found an apartment for her so she didn’t have to pay rent.
“The community of San Fiorano will come together even more tightly, because the village is small, but the community is strong,” Toniolo said.
Eerily, even the local graveyard is closed for business. “Attention,” reads a sign, “for health reasons, the cemetery will remain closed until a later date.”
(Writing by Emily Roe; Editing by Crispian Balmer)