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Baret Magarian

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A novelist living in quarantine in Florence looks back at Italy’s cultural history and then forward, considering whether something positive might rise from the ruins that the virus will leave in its wake.

Last week I ventured out of my flat in Florence, armed with my auto-certificazione, the document you must possess in order to justify leaving your residence at any time in locked down Italy. As I cycled, trying to snatch a few minutes of permitted daily exercise, I veered for the Piazza del Duomo. I glanced around nervously, on the lookout for any abnormalities, policemen, anxious to avoid any official entanglements or questions. My exodus was marked by the electric flutter of adrenaline. As I gingerly reached the geometrically intricate miracle of Brunelleschi’s dome, I realized that I shared the square only with a military vehicle and some soldiers; no other civilian could be seen. It was disquieting. Did I mention the silence? It was .....