Saturday, May 2, 2020

Florence: Two Months Later. The Day of the Zombies

May 1st, 2020. Florentines sit in the sun the "Piazza Pitti" square in Florence to pump up their vitamin D levels after nearly two months of segregation in their homes.

The Florentines are back. After two months of forced segregation because of the COVID-19 epidemics, the regional government issued an "ordinanza" allowing people to walk free in the streets of their town. They are still ordered to wear face masks and groups are forbidden, but it seems that it is past the time when you were insulted from the windows if you were seen walking in the street, or reported to the police by your neighbors if they saw you leaving home more than once per day.

Now, Florentines can walk in the sun again. And that's what they did on this sunny weekend in May.

The result was eerie and disconcerting. There was a definite sense of "zombie movie" in the masked people cautiously exploring the streets, looking at each other as if asking, "are you a zombie, too?" It was a scene not unlike the photos of Tokyo or Hiroshima after the bombings of WW2, with the survivors walking aimlessly among ruins. Florence has not been bombed, of course, but, in a sense, it has been razed down like Hiroshima. It is in ruins in an economic sense.

All the shops are closed, so are hotels, museums, and offices. With the current rules of "social distancing," it is unthinkable that they will ever be able to reopen, they just can't make ends meet without their usual number of customers. And when will tourists come back to a ghost city? No shops, no tourists. And no tourists means, no money, no jobs, no income. And no shops. Those people walking along the street yesterday were economic zombies, and they knew that.

But, if it all happened, it was because it had to happen. Florence couldn't survive forever to the sheer pressure of the millions of tourists arriving every year, something had to give. The only surprise is how fast and abruptly it happened. As Lucius Annaeus Seneca said, "Growth is slow, but ruin is rapid"

Just to give you an idea of how things were, and expected to be as the norm, here is Florence's Piazza Duomo, last spring.

In the end, even zombies have hearts. And, like this old lady, they can sit on a bench, take off their face mask, and enjoy a quiet afternoon in the silence of the empty streets and the closed shops.

Afternoon in Piazza della Passera, Florence -- empty of the usual throngs of tourists. This lady looks British, but she is probably a Florentine.


  1. Here comes the sun.

    1. Great song - and I am a Sun Worshiper - going for a long bike ride on this Sunday - along the Lake Michigan waterfront.

      But to think that I live in an Urban Environment - in a Studio Apartment - dependent upon Supermarkets - and Farms for my sustenance. That's an unreal World. Just like Florence - dependent upon Tourists.

      Industrial Civilization is/was a mistake. The artificial became reality for the masses - and there is a limited time for that to exist - but we exist in that time.

      Looking at the montage of the 4 Beatles crossing the street - what do you see? An urban landscape - filled with paved streets and cars. A totally UNNATURAL environment. Trees which produce no human necessary food fill the space between paved spaces.

      Industrial Civilization - brought about by unsound money - fiat money loaned at interest which pushed future demand into the present was a mistake.

      Live and learn.

      Thanks for sharing.

    2. Community gardens:

  2. Museums (at least not museums like the Uffizi) don't exist to make a profit, so they can and should reopen. Plenty of museums (probably most) get only a trickle of visitors and that is not considered a reason to close them.

    1. Mmm.... sorry, Olivier. Here, museums are understood as profit-making machines. And VERY profitable machines.

  3. Hello Ugo. We are just a few weeks behind you here in the USA.

  4. global oil peak October 2018?

  5. Is this "the big one" or are we going to just hit every branch on the way down until we hit the ground?

  6. being a confused and frightened zombie in a dying city must be like being a surviving member of one of millions of doomed species, after your entire amazon or indonesian or congo rain forest has been chainsawed and burnt down to make way for palm oil or some other important commodity to feed the ever growing human population. you are walking around smoldering stumps of forest giants, in a daze, wondering where your entire habitat has gone and waiting to die.

    i know we are just a sort of crappy chimp on steroids, and therefore an innocent animal really, just following our hardwired biological mandates, but i also find it hard to believe we didnt have free will to control our numbers and not to destroy everything if we had made the effort not to. therefore i find it dificult feel sorry for my fellow crappy chimps when behaviours and inventions they have enjoyed the benefits of comes back to bite them in the ass. and so when i see people being tilled under in their thousands, i dont know whether to laugh that its what they deserve, or cry at its utter insufficiency.

    1. I choose to refuse fatalism. I cannot choose otherwise!

  7. Corona is nothing. The people of Florence are not gone, but hiding. Right now there is a terrible hunger catastrophe in the making in east afrika. 23 million people will loose their food supply to a locust swarm that just birthed its second wave. This also coincides with terrible poverty, corona, cyclones, floods, terrorism and civil war.

    So much for any chance of a "rebound". I expect this year to have more nasty surprises and next year to be even worse.

    Instead of preparing for the limits of growth we have given more money to the rich.
    Instead of preparing for epidemics we gave more to the rich.
    Instead of providing a fair wage and health care for all we gave more money to the rich.
    Instead of acting to stop global warming we gave more money to the rich.
    Instead of helping the poor in the countries refuges come from we gave more money to the rich.
    Instead of having a save, responsible and sustainable agriculture we gave more money to the rich.

    Our solution is : giving more money to the rich.

  8. A precious moment to enjoy the fine architecture: it should be relished as a moment of pure beauty before the darkness descends.

    The old centre here, Cambridge, is very lovely too, and thankfully without the huge snakes of Chinese day-trippers which have tortured us for the last few years

    Most live their lives with no such possibility of beauty or leisure, we should complain.



Ugo Bardi is a member of the Club of Rome, faculty member of the University of Florence, and the author of "Extracted" (Chelsea Green 2014), "The Seneca Effect" (Springer 2017), and Before the Collapse (Springer 2019)