“I Stay Home” is not just a hashtag. We all know it’s an instruction we need to follow. Still confined to our homes by the coronavirus emergency even as we enter a new phase, many of us are juggling the hours in our day between home office and leisure time. But despite the lockdown, there’s still plenty to do. Just think books, virtual museums and online courses. This is the ideal time to catch up on all those things we never had time for, to stave off boredom and stop us feeling down.
Get up to speed. The first thing we could do with the time on our hands is to learn more about what is happening in the world around us, of course staying well way from fake news. This is the ideal opportunity to get to the heart of the news and explore topics that we only superficially glanced at in the past. Many Italian newspapers like “Avenire” and “Il Manifesto” have taken down their paywalls and opened up their content free of charge for the duration of this emergency. It’s also been a time for beginnings: “IrpiMedia” is a new website dedicated to investigative journalism featuring high-quality reports completely free of charge.
This could also be a good moment to read newspapers from other countries. Giants like “The New York Times” and “The Economist” are currently offering digital subscriptions at discounted prices.
If you are on the lookout for high-quality video reports and documentary journalism, the Premio Roberto Morrione on the RaiNews24 website offers up the work of young investigative journalists, among the finalists for this annual prize.
Read. If your time in quarantine seems endless, you could take refuge in literature. Now is the time to finish the book that’s been sitting on your bedside table for far too long. Perhaps you’re ready for a new book or an ebook. In some countries, bookshops may already be open again but many will deliver to your door. Some publishers, like Italy’s Il Saggiatore, have decided to regularly release some of their books free of charge. Alternatively, why not browse through the UNESCO World Digital Library?
How will you choose what to read? You could start a bulky volume like “Anna Karenina” or read all four volumes of Elena Ferrante’s “My Brilliant Friend”. You may like to switch to non-fiction titles on current affairs between one volume and the next. Paolo Giordano’s “How Contagion Works” explains the situation we are dealing with at this very moment. Among recently released titles is Massimo Gaggi’s “Crack America” about the USA in the throes of coronavirus. If you’d rather read something more comforting, then Elena Molini’s “Piccola Farmacia Letteraria” gives you a ‘medicine’ for every mood. Another must-read for your self-improvement in these challenging times is Daniel Goleman’s “Emotional Intelligence”.
The world may be standing still, but publishers are as busy as ever. The social media platforms of Italian publishers like Feltrinelli or Laterza, are running full schedules of encounters and conversations with their authors. Or why not try audiobooks? Platforms like Audible have made some content freely available to ease the stress of quarantine. In Italy, the Telegram Channel is playing host to “Storie al Telefono” (Stories on the telephone) where workers in lockdown can tell their story and read an extract from a book, story or poem.
Listen. The world of podcasts is wide-ranging. The offering includes stories about the famous, interviews, news chronicles and reports that take us into far-off worlds, as well as topics like the economy and the world of work. To ease the confinement for Italians, Michele Dalai has created the podcast “StayOM” featuring 40 interviews with musicians, artists, writers, journalists, publicists and actors who describe their experience of the lockdown. For crime lovers, “Buio” is the latest podcast edited by journalist Pablo Trincia. If you are looking for inspiration, try “Fucking Genius” where Massimo Temporelli talks about those great talents who have changed the way the world has developed. For startuppers and entrepreneurs, we recommend “Bedtime stories for managers” where the moral of classic fairy tales is revisited in a business key. For managers, Spring Professional Italy has launched “Metamorfosi”, a series focusing on the qualities of managers- the first episode is on resilience.
On the website of national broadcaster Rai Tre, you will find a selection of audio-documentaries in the ‘Tre Soldi’ series with stories about Sardinian miners or the women of the Neapolitan suburb of Scampia.
For those who love theatre and concerts, radio channels have just what you need. Many are offering a rich program of music shows and previously unreleased live recordings. Make a daily appointment on social media with the big names in Italian music. Many have created what are essentially online festivals and marathons of music, often fundraising to support Italy’s hospitals – follow these hashtags #StayON and #iosuonodacasa.
Study. Why not take advantage of this moment to learn new skills? The Italian Minister for Technological Innovation and Digitalization, Paola Pisano, with the technical support of the government ‘Agenzia per l’Italia Digitale’, has launched the “Solidarietà Digitale” (Digital Solidarity) project which is supported by various vocational training schools. The website has courses on IT, workplace safety and managing privacy. The Adecco Group Italia’s Mylia platform provides training courses and webinars for you to up-skill or re-skill and be ready to go back to work. There’s a wide choice of workshops and online courses, both free and at a cost, where you can sign up and learn new skills. The online newspaper “Il Post”, for instance, has organised an course on journalism and writing. “La Cucina Italiana”, one of Italy’s foremost magazines for gastronomy and food culture, is giving away a three-month subscription to its online courses. Google is also offering courses for professionals in Italian.
Learn a foreign language. This could be the time to improve your level or learn to speak a language that has always appealed to you. Some people have started to learn Arabic or Chinese from scratch and others have finally found the time to improve their English pronunciation. There are scores of tutorials on YouTube, alternatively you could sign up on one of the various platforms or apps with video lessons and personal tutors. One of the most popular is Babbel. In Italy, various schools have signed up to the initiative “Solidareità Digitale” (Digital Solidarity): Yeschool, for example, offers free English conversation lessons with its teachers online.
Online content in English is extensive. The American platform Coursera has opened up its education programmes to universities in those countries affected by the coronavirus crisis. Courses are offered by such renowned institutions as Yale and Stanford and by tech companies like Google and IBM. If you’re ambitious, you can remotely attend the courses of some of the world’s best universities like Harvard, Berkley, the Sorbonne and Princeton. Who knows, it could give you that extra edge in your next job interview.
Films, series and documentaries galore. Until cinemas open their doors again, you could switch off the TV and start up your computer or tablet. Netflix and Amazon Prime offer a vast selection of all genres. You can brush up on film history with a classic film that you never had time to watch before or the complete opus of your favourite director. Netflix originals we recommend are “Sergio” or “The Platform” or one the mini-series such as “Unorthodox”, “Caliphate” and “Tiger King”. Amazon’s offering of original productions includes “The Report” and “Hunters” also got good reviews. Raiplay, the multimedia portal of Italy’s national broadcaster, has an interesting choice of old and new. Among recent films we suggest Il Sindaco di Rione Sanità (the Mayor of Rione Sanità) but you can also find old favourites like Alberto Arbasino’s Match.
Let’s not forget documentaries. “Produzioni dal basso” (grassroots productions) is community streaming a large selection of documentaries, videos and films. With the cancellation of football championships, European athletics and the Olympics postponed, why not enjoy some sports documentaries and support your team from your living room. Here are three suggestions: “Antoine Griezmann: The Making of a Legend”; “Ronaldo” telling the story of the months he spent at Real Madrid; and “The Last Dance”, 10 episodes on the career of Michael Jordan.
Art and exhibitions. Don’t worry if the museums are shut. The websites of Italy’s major museums, like the Egyptian Museum in Turin and the Vatican Museums in Rome, are taking history of art enthusiasts on virtual tours. In Rome, the Scuderie del Quirinale has virtually opened the doors thanks to a series of digital projects developed as part of the exhibition “Raffaello 1520-1483. The Uffizi Gallery in Florence has launched a social media campaign “Uffizi Decameron”: images and photos of its masterpieces can be enjoyed on Instagram and Twitter. Let’s hope we can soon enjoy all these treasures for real.