Scenes from Naples, Italy: A city changed by lockdown

A woman stands in the middle of a subway car in Naples, Italy. All forms of public transport in Naples have markers signaling where people are allowed to sit and stand to ensure social distancing. (Savin Mattozzi)

In its 2,500-year history, Naples has witnessed numerous wars, revolutions, natural disasters and invasions. Over the past couple of months, however, Neapolitans experienced something almost entirely new: silence.

Italy was the first European country to institute a strict nationwide lockdown to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus. In the southern Italian region of Campania, of which Naples is the capital, lockdown restrictions were even tighter due to fears that the virus could ravage the chronically underfunded medical system in the south.

Food delivery and nonessential walks, largely permitted in the rest of Italy, were forbidden, bringing life in the city of just under a million people to a nearly complete stop. People were only able to exit their homes to go grocery shopping or to the pharmacy and were required to carry documentation explaining why they were outside.

A man walks down Vico Conte di Mola in the Spanish Quarters neighbourhood of Naples, Italy. After nearly two months of strict lockdown, many residents of Naples’ densely populated historic neighbourhoods flocked to more open areas of the city, leaving certain sections as empty as they were during phase one of the lockdown. (Savin Mattozzi)

A light at the end of the tunnel appeared on 26 April, when Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte announced that an easing of lockdown restrictions would begin on 4 May. Although most stores and businesses would remain closed, people in Naples would be allowed to take walks, exercise, deliver food and visit relatives.

People wait their turn to enter a corner store on Via Toledo in Naples, Italy. Some small shops only allow one customer in at a time to comply with social distancing measures. (Savin Mattozzi)

A woman waits for customers outside of a street pizzeria in the Santa Lucia Neighbourhood of Naples, Italy. Restaurants and street food vendors are struggling to recuperate their losses after nearly two months of inactivity in Naples and the surrounding Campania region. (Savin Mattozzi)

Fish market employees prepare to open up their shop in the Spanish Quarters neighbourhood of Naples, Italy. Open air markets faced heavy restrictions during phase one of lockdown but were allowed to remain open. (Savin Mattozzi)

As people exited their homes, they walked into a different Naples than the one they left two months prior. Announcements in the metro reminded people they must wear a mask at all times. Large jugs of hand sanitizer sat on tables outside of cafes. Police erected checkpoints for vehicles entering and exiting the country’s most densely populated city.

A municipal police officer checks the documents of a car stopped at a checkpoint in Naples, Italy. Travel between regions in Italy is still restricted and police continue to stop vehicles at highway entrance points across the city. Travel between regions is expected to resume on 1 June. (Savin Mattozzi)

People buy fruits and vegetables at a mini market as scooters squeeze past in the Spanish Quarters neighbourhood of Naples, Italy. Maintaining one to two metres of distance is a difficult feat for people living in Naples’ tight historic neighbourhoods, where some streets are barely wide enough for a car to pass through. (Savin Mattozzi)

People walk along the pedestrian section of Via Toledo in Naples, Italy. After nearly two months of strict lockdown, Neapolitans were able to exit their homes on 4 May to take walks, do limited physical exercise and visit close relatives. (Savin Mattozzi)

On 4 May, the first post-lockdown train from hard-hit Milan arrived in Naples’ Central Station. Passengers were ushered into a line by authorities with loudspeakers, reminding them to keep a two-metre distance as medical personnel in full protective gear checked each person’s temperature. The usually chaotic station was transformed into a series of calculated checkpoints as passengers looked wide-eyed at the men in protective medical clothing as well as the row of journalists pointing their cameras at them. After passing through the final two police checkpoints, passengers were allowed to exit the station.

A rail worker arriving in Naples from Milan has his temperature checked at Central Station in Naples, Italy. On 4 May, passengers and rail workers arriving in Naples on the first train from hard-hit Milan had to go though heavy security and medical screenings before being allowed to leave the station. (Savin Mattozzi)

Despite this new reality and the continuing economic toll, Neapolitans are starting to slowly breathe life back into their city. From baskets that hang down from people’s windows filled with food for the city’s poor, to friends bantering as they walk along a busy Via Toledo, life in Naples is continuing to move forward, just as it has for the past 2,500 years.

Savin Mattozzi is a journalist based in Naples.


Coming soon: CityMetric will relaunch as City Monitor, a new publication dedicated to the future of cities

Coming soon!

Later this month, CityMetric will be relaunching with an entirely new look and identity, as well as an expanded editorial mission. We’ll become City Monitor, a name that reflects both a ramping up of our ambitions as well as our membership in a network of like-minded publications coming soon from New Statesman Media Group. We can’t wait to share the new website with you, but in the meantime, here’s what CityMetric readers should know about what to expect from this exciting transition.  

Regular CityMetric readers may have already noticed a few changes around here since the spring. CityMetric’s beloved founding editor, Jonn Elledge, has moved on to some new adventures, and a new team has formed to take the site into the future. It’s led by yours truly – I’m Sommer Mathis, the editor-in-chief of City Monitor. Hello!

My background includes having served as the founding editor of CityLab, editor-in-chief of Atlas Obscura, and editor-in-chief of DCist, a local news publication in the District of Columbia. I’ve been reporting on and writing about cities in one way or another for the past 15 years. To me, there is no more important story in the world right now than how cities are changing and adapting to an increasingly challenging global landscape. The majority of the world’s population lives in cities, and if we’re ever going to be able to tackle the most pressing issues currently facing our planet – the climate emergency, rising inequality, the Covid-19 pandemic ­­­– cities are going to have to lead the way.

That’s why City Monitor is going to be a global publication dedicated to the future of cities everywhere – not just in the UK (nor for that matter just in the US, where I live). Our mission will be to help our readers, many of whom are in leadership positions around the globe, navigate how cities are changing and discover what’s next in the world of urban policy. We’ll do that through original reporting, expert opinion and most crucially, a data-driven approach that emphasises evidence and rigorous analysis. We want to arm local decision-makers and those they work in concert with – whether that’s elected officials, bureaucratic leaders, policy advocates, neighbourhood activists, academics and researchers, entrepreneurs, or plain-old engaged citizens – with real insights and potential answers to tough problems. Subjects we’ll cover include transportation, infrastructure, housing, urban design, public safety, the environment, the economy, and much more.

The City Monitor team is made up of some of the most experienced urban policy journalists in the world. Our managing editor is Adam Sneed, also a CityLab alum where he served as a senior associate editor. Before that he was a technology reporter at Politico. Allison Arieff is City Monitor’s senior editor. She was previously editorial director of the urban planning and policy think tank SPUR, as well as a contributing columnist for The New York Times. Staff writer Jake Blumgart most recently covered development, housing, and politics for WHYY, the local public radio station in Philadelphia. And our data reporter is Alexandra Kanik, whose previous roles include data reporting for Louisville Public Media in Kentucky and PublicSource in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Our team will continue to grow in the coming weeks, and we’ll also be collaborating closely with our editorial colleagues across New Statesman Media Group. In fact, we’re launching a whole network of new publications this fall, covering topics such as the clean energy transition, foreign direct investment, technology, banks and more. Many of these sectors will frequently overlap with our cities coverage, and a key part of our plan is make the most of the expertise that all of these newsrooms combined will bring to bear on our journalism.

City Monitor will go live later this month. In the meantime, please visit to sign up for our forthcoming email newsletter.

As for CityMetric, some of its archives have already been moved over to the new website, and the rest will follow not long after. If you’re looking for a favourite piece from CityMetric’s past, for a time you’ll still be able to find it here, but before long the whole archive will move over to City Monitor.

On behalf of the City Monitor team, I’m thrilled to invite you to come along for the ride at our forthcoming digs. You can already follow City Monitor on LinkedIn, and on Twitter, sign up or keep following our existing account, which will switch over to our new name shortly. If you’re interested in learning more about the potential for a commercial partnership with City Monitor, please get in touch with our director of partnerships, Joe Maughan.

I want to thank and congratulate Jonn Elledge on a brilliant run. Everything we do from here on out will be building on the legacy of his work, and the community that he built here at CityMetric. Cheers, Jonn!

In the meantime, stay tuned, and thank you from all of us for being a loyal CityMetric reader. We couldn’t have done any of this without you.

Sommer Mathis is editor-in-chief of City Monitor.