A year of living and documenting Italy's lockdowns

[Schoolteacher Marzio Toniolo saying:]

“A year ago the area in which I live was hit by COVID-19. It was the first place in Italy and also in Europe.”

It’s been a year since Marzio Toniolo picked up his camera

and began taking photos that would soon be shared by international news organizations all over the world.

He was a primary school teacher in the small, quiet northern Italian town of San Fiorano

living with his daughter Bianca and his wife Chiara.

Then on the 21st February 2020 – Italy diagnosed its first citizen with coronavirus in nearby Codogno.

His area became a ‘red zone’ - the world’s first COVID lockdown outside China.

He began documenting how life was changing as the virus spread through the country.

[Reuters reporter saying:]

"Italy has struggled to maintain a sharp rise in infections across the North of the country."

[Reuters reporter saying:]

“Europe’s worst outbreak remains In Italy”

[Reuters reporter saying:]

The narrow streets of san Fiorano in northern Italy. A coronavirus ghost town near Milan. Marzio Toniolo is a primary school teacher here.”

He was discovered by Reuters after posting intimate pictures of life inside the red zone on social media – and began working as a photojournalist.

Back then, a 'lockdown' was unprecedented, people wearing masks unusual and the words 'social distancing' were not yet part of everyday vocabulary.

No one knew this would become normality across the globe.

“It wasn’t because I was the first to do it, that wasn’t important but because it was useful in some way. Those who followed my photographs and our story, I think, they could prepare themselves better for when lockdown hit.”

“These are some of the pictures that told the story of the first Italian ‘red zone’ in February 2020. This is the picture to which I am most connected. Because it recounts a completely normal moment in an extraordinary dramatic period. ”

Now, a year later, the family is stuck at home in quarantine, again.

The threat of coronavirus has crept into their home.

Chiara had contact with someone who tested positive, and she is now isolating in her bedroom.

"Chiara and Bianca are eating together separated by the door."

“Everything that we are living through at the moment has a certain feeling of déjà-vu because it really feels as though we have gone back one year, to relive the same things, feel the same way, almost to smell the same smells and breath the same air. I can't believe it.”

As they are both school teachers, Marzio and Chiara will soon receive vaccines - and are feeling hopeful.

Bianca turns four in May, more than a quarter of her life will have been spent living in the COVID era.

[Marzio and Bianca Tonioli talking:]

“I can’t wait until coronavirus ends.


So I can go back and see my friends.”