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Italy made its own entertainment on coronavirus lockdown

“One day I am playing for hundreds, even thousands of people, the next — I am home, in my room," said trumpeter Alberto Anguzza.
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Even while stuck inside for days on end, Italians will still find a way to put on a show.

Italy, the hardest-hit country in Europe by the coronavirus pandemic, has in the second week of a nationwide lockdown, and scenes of support and solidarity continue to emerge across the country.

Italians are used to their streets and piazzas bustling with food, music and a sense of dolce vita, but the quarantine has erased much of that, leaving major cities almost deserted.

The singer Giuliano Sangiorgi serenaded his neighbors from his Rome apartment, while tenor Maurizio Marchini performed "Nessun Dorma" from Puccini's "Turandot" from his terrace in Florence.

The trumpeter Alberto Anguzza performed John Lennon's "Imagine" from his balcony in Trapani, Sicily, surprising neighbors who stood listening on their balconies.

"Being a professional musician, I play in clubs, I do many concerts. My job is to entertain people. Staying at home is hard," Anguzza told NBC News. "One day I am playing for hundreds, even thousands of people, the next — I am home, in my room, trying to share as much as possible my music to cheer everyone up."

Rudi De Fanti recorded one of his neighbors performing a violin concert on his balcony in Bologna, which was viewed more than 1 million times on Twitter.

"In the past few days, most of our life has been on small terraces and balconies," said De Fanti, 49. "You read, you speak with your neighbors, you become friends with people that lived next to you for 10 years but which you had never engaged with before, aside from saying good morning and good night."

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Similar camaraderie emerged in Wuhan, the city in central China where the coronavirus is believed to have originated, as it went on lockdown in late January.

Videos shared on Chinese social media showed residents shouting "Wuhan, stay strong" from their balconies and windows to boost the morale of their neighbors in the quarantined city.

Image: Singing in Milan
People lean from their homes' balconies to play and sing during a flash mob in Milan on Friday, March 13, 2020.Claudio Furlan / AP

Experts say this kind of camaraderie is a common phenomenon in disasters.

"The pandemic and the social isolation creates shared goals — staying healthy and sane during these times — and hence we have a stronger sense of connection with the people around us and are much more willing to give help and cooperation," said Andreas Kappes, a psychology lecturer at City, University of London. "Even if it is simply in the form of a song on the balcony."

While it might be assumed that people in crises panic and act selfishly, Steve Reicher, a professor of psychology at the University of St. Andrews, argues it is much more common for people to act thoughtfully and cooperatively — often making major sacrifices to help others.

"What produces this care and concern for others is the sense of common identity that stems from common fate — 'We are all in this together,'" he said.

Image: Guitarist in Milan
A man plays the guitar and sings from a balcony to raise morale in Milan on Sunday, March 15, 2020, during a lockdown of Italy. Daniele Mascolo / Reuters

The question remains, however, whether the lockdowns will actually work.

Paul Yin, a Beijing-based psychologist, said the biggest lesson from Wuhan's nearly two-month lockdown is that such large-scale restrictions can be effective, as illustrated by the falling number of coronavirus cases in China. But cultural differences may stop European nations from being as successful.

"Not just in China, but in South Korea and Japan, it has worked pretty well, partly because we have similar collective cultures, where there is a tradition of people working in concert." he said.

"The Western culture is more individualistic, where people are more free spirited. That could perhaps be the biggest difficulty."