Life & Leisure

Italian coastal towns nervously eye a summer season like no other

By Álvaro Caballero

Rome, May 22 (efe-epa).- Two workers are busy repainting the sign for Battistini, the oldest private beach in Ostia.

The Roman coastal town is preparing to open despite the total absence of visitors, while its inhabitants look on tentatively at the prospect of a summer season like no other.

With a sandy beach that stretches for ten kilometres, Ostia is just half an hour from Rome and is a favourite spot for Italians and foreigners alike.

The hoteliers believe that the losses of the last months are “unrecoverable,” according to Lia, the owner of a bar near the beach.

Restaurant owner Roberto says that before the lockdown, issued 10 weeks ago, oysters were widely available but now seafood supplies have depleted, and so have customers.

“I am terrified to say it, but we have lost around 70 percent,” he laments.

That is why he decided to go on strike on 18 May, like many other businessmen, on the first-day hospitality businesses were allowed to reopen.

“The State has abandoned us, we have not received any help,” he says.

Outside, on the beach, many people are strolling and a few are swimming.

Romans have flocked to the seaside to enjoy the fresh air after months of confinement.

“Seeing the sea is a beautiful feeling, it gives the idea that something is improving,” says Valentina, who is from Ostia but had not set foot on the promenade until then.

Her partner, Simone, has come from Rome and appreciates this “rehearsal of normality”.

When asked about their work situation, they both say in unison that they are “momentarily unemployed.”

The devastating blow on the labour market caused by the coronavirus crisis has meant many young couples, like Valentina and Simone, can spend a day on the beach, many with their children.

Lia is the only one who works in her family. Her daughter is a waitress in a bar in Sorrento, a small tourist town near Naples.

With few inhabitants and greater dependence on tourism than Ostia, “the situation is disastrous,” she says.

Her other son runs a tourist apartment in the center of Rome and has not received a reservation for the summer.

“I don’t expect them to go back to work before spring 2021,” she says.

Italy has accelerated its de-escalation to revive a flailing tourism sector, which accounts for 13 percent of the country’s GDP, according to the National Tourism Agency (ENIT). Borders between regions and abroad will reopen on 3 June.

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