Nearly three and a half million people live in the metropolitan area of Milan, the Italian and international center of fashion, finance, culture, and commerce. In recent weeks, the city has also become one of the centers of the coronavirus pandemic: it is the capital of the northern region of Lombardy, which has been hardest hit in the outbreak in Italy. (The country currently has more than a hundred and one thousand coronavirus cases.) As of Monday, Lombardy reported more than forty-two thousand cases of COVID-19 and more than sixty-eight hundred deaths—including four hundred and fifty-eight that day alone.
Since the Italian government ordered a lockdown of the northern regions, more than three weeks ago, which soon expanded to the rest of the country, Milan has been transformed, its normally teeming streets and piazze deserted. Milan Men’s Fashion Week, planned for June, has been cancelled and combined with the city’s womenswear show, which is still scheduled for September. In the new video “Milan, a City Closed,” the photographer and photojournalist Franco Pagetti documents the city under quarantine, capturing its iconic landmarks and attractions—such as the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, Teatro alla Scala, Duomo di Milano, and Naviglio Grande—and residential neighborhoods empty and enveloped by a striking silence.
“Here in the deserted city, there are no sounds, only noises,” Pagetti wrote to me in an e-mail. Instead of the usual hum of urban life, there is now an eerie quiet punctuated by birds chirping, screeches from empty trolleys, and church bells tolling. “But more disturbing than ever are the sirens of the ambulances,” he went on, “a lacerating scream that breaks the peace of silence, as if to remind us what tragedy we are experiencing.”
What struck Pagetti most while walking the silent streets of Milan, he told me, was “the absence of voices.” And the only voices to be heard in the video above are those of medical personnel at San Giuseppe Hospital, in the center of the city, where, in its intensive-care unit, doctors and nurses talk in the corridor of an isolation area. “To hear people talking and smiling among themselves gave me comfort and strength, gave me hope and put me in a good mood,” Pagetti wrote.
On the quiet streets, a sense of resilience and solidarity is visible in buildings lit up in the tricolor of the Italian flag at night, and in messages on banners displayed around the city: “Insieme ce la faremo” (“Together we’ll make it”) and “Andrà tutto bene,” a phrase that has become something of a national slogan and, Pagetti said, is also posted on the door that leads to the San Giuseppe I.C.U.—“Everything will be fine.”