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The Milanese Quarantine, as told by nss magazine

Thecofounder of nss magazine Walter D'Aprile writes about how COVID-19 is changing Milan and its creative industry

The Milanese Quarantine, as told by nss magazine Thecofounder of nss magazine Walter D'Aprile writes about how COVID-19 is changing Milan and its creative industry

This article first appeared on Highsnobiety, under the title I've Been Quarantined in Italy, Here's How to Get Through It, on March 20th, 2020.


I struggle to actually feel productive without being in office. It may seem old fashioned or naive, but the little sentiments of rushing down the hallways and walking briskly to make an appointment to the first shot of espresso at the usual bar - paired with the morning WhatsApp messages outlining the daily agenda - are pleasant rituals that are difficult to set aside. Those first moments, those 15 minutes of reflection and strategy which separate my actual abode from my figurative home are fundamental parts of the job, like warming up before a game. 

Yet here in Milan, the city where everything travels at the speed of light, is where everyday double kiss greetings and salutations have been replaced by cautious glances and obsessive glimpses on cell phones. The daily rituals have been interrupted by an invisible enemy, one which though at times may have felt made-up, has proven to be undoubtedly menacing. It was January 31st when the first cases of the COVID-19 virus were detected in Italy: from that day onwards followed a whirlwind of events including denials, worrisome newspaper headlines and seemingly speculative social media updates that took control of our decisions and sent us in a wondering daze up until February 22nd. This was when the entire region of Lombardy was declared a red zone, and Milan, which had already been on its way, came to a standstill.

The first official measures took place during the last days of fashion week, when the city was more alive than ever and the final few events marked those moments of change in between quick handshakes and heartfelt hugs, where we all slowly distanced ourselves as far as into what would eventually feel like another dimension.

Not long after, from the 24th of February, Milanese companies gradually began to adopt to smart working in an effort to limit contagion and protect the health of their employees. Then came the March 11th, when the Italian Government declared the discontinuation of all commercial activities that were not necessary and consequently implemented a mandatory national quarantine. In the span of a week, Milan transformed from the place to be, the city where one can chase dreams and seek out urban adventures, to what has become a motionless, crystalized lockup. 

Which is what sparked the first big question: how does one keep his dreams afloat? How can one fulfill expectations and keep up with goal-oriented standards if suddenly an invisible monster shows up out of nowhere and forces you to stay locked inside? It’s a complex question, with no simple answer, but through our personal and collective experiences we have the power at least to sensitize others, remembering that this is precisely the first real shared experience of the globalized world of our generation, affecting everyone’s daily lives regardless of social class, age or origin.  

On one hand, with this in mind, it makes sense to want to share your mood, your hobbies and daily routines during this time through social networks with friends and acquaintances; on the other hand, those who have chosen to welcome this moment in silence, in efforts to take a break from it all and reflect and eventually be able to approach it from a new perspective can and should also be respected. A quarantine can also be seen as the half-time of a game, an important game where you’re playing in rounds: in those fifteen minutes of break, some players will need to be distracted, in order to find comfort in their companions on the occasion of a lost ball or a foul penalty, while others will prefer to stay silent and with their solitude, seeing this as an opportunity to recollect their energy and start again in order to score when the ball arrives. There are even those who make speeches as leaders and use smiles to temporarily play down the anxieties of a new beginning and a possibile defeat with the hope of something greater.

Personally, I am experimenting all three approaches: at the moment, even if I’m longing for the rhythm of routine, I feel quite positive, and I believe my team in its entirety of both nss magazine and nss factory are also reacting in the best way possible, considering the gravity of the obstacles we’re facing.

nss as a media outlet is fortunate enough to allow flexibility: at this point, when production and events are on standby, we have been able to take the time to focus on our various divisions of publications — nss magazine, nss sports and nss g-club —  as we look to be a beacon or guide for our readers while maintaining our editorial identity. For me it's like going back to our origins, a sign of recognition to where everything started, and at this moment it seems most important than ever to acknowledge how fundamental they are. 

In fact, in this precise moment our role invites us to reflect, to find the right energy and to act accordingly. In an era where every account counts as media and everyone has the opportunity to share their own experiences, we aim to continue to communicate the principles of not only accurate but also positive information. We have set up an editorial plan which will help with sensitivity in telling what’s happening in our world, highlighting various issues and also offering different perspectives and light-hearted solutions that might simply spark smiles as well as to inform and educate. We have created initiatives that aim to implore creatives to be more fervent today than ever and to find unfinished work in their archives and use this as a time to rediscover new passions and arts, as a productive way to pass the silence of these days.

We are pursuing the concept of normality as much as possible, by trying to emphasize that the Coronavirus is but a halftime, the end between the first and second half of a good game.  A game that we all can and must still play, even though there are literal and figurative injuries and fatalities which will be disheartening, in the end we must persevere. 

Personally, however, if I have to make a first assessment of how things are going, I'd  first say (to my mother’s delight) that I drink one freshly squeezed juice per day, at least. Thankfully,  my work has not taken that great of a blow or undergone many variations - mainly because I follow international projects that have not been affected yet by the slowdown. On the same spot, I too am trying to plan ahead for upcoming goals and strategies as the rest of our team. It is certainly the time to get things in order but also the time to think outside of the box. Going outside of the comfort zone is an excellent strategy to escape from the confines of our walls.

Quarantine and smart working have their cons, some of which are surely worrying. One is, for example, the too many hours spent in conference calls (here in Italy, it seems that it takes more time to organize them than to actually have them). Not to mention the initial phase of pleasantries, which today is longer than usual, since everyone wants to talk about their quarantine survival strategies. A more serious issue is also the inevitable loss of attention: at times I feel bombarded by the news that wants to keep me company or that I perhaps seek for an answer to my initial question.


Furthermore, here's my personal guide to survive the Milanese quarantine.

  1. Even if working at home, you should continue to dress as if you were going to work. Avoid all hoodies, being cozy right now will not help with productivity;
  2. Continue your beauty routine, and if you don’t have one, start it;
  3. Don’t give up on an espresso and a good orange juice to start your day;
  4. Only update yourself through official channels
  5. Don’t change your habits. If anything, improve them and keep on being a master of your life and choices;
  6. Define a goal for the end of the quarantine and complete it;
  7. Share your experience through social media but don’t become a slave for it, always maintain the same approach;
  8. If silence comes along, get used to it, get comfortable with your own presence;
  9. Do research, listen to new music, and if you don't read books don’t necessarily feel obligated to do it;
  10. Repossess your goals and set new ones that are even more ambitious;
  11. Be compassionate, consider those around you who are less privileged, check up on your friends who might not have family around.