1. HOME  EUROPE COVID-19: ALL ABOUT THE PANDEMIC

By YEET MAGAZINE | Updated 0200 GMT (1000 HKT) June 6, 2021

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This spring, Italy embarked on a "great seduction" with foreigners, a race with other European countries to attract tourists eager for holidays in the sun. In the Rome region, it is not clear whether they will be there despite the COVID.

A group of people near a building.

Stefania Molinari and her group in the entrance to the Vatican Gardens.

“Before, we used to enter this way. We were greeted by Michelangelo, on the left, with his sculptor's hammer… ”The tour guide points to the statues above the vast entrance to the Vatican.

There are no crowds this afternoon, nothing to do with the long lines of pre-COVID visitors.

Regardless, Stefania Molinari's enthusiasm is contagious. She sprinkles her visit to the Vatican Museums with anecdotes and little jokes that make her group of visitors smile.

At the Holy See, the museum reopened its doors a few weeks ago. Work is resuming very slowly for Stefania Molinari. A little too slowly for his liking. Certified guide for Rome, it is difficult to explain the absence of visitors in such a busy period.

Everything reopens in early June , she recalls. These days, Rome is really insolent in beauty, precisely because there are no tourists. See the Trevi fountain or the Sistine Chapel with only 10 people… it's a dream situation.

The Trevi fountain at night.

The Trevi fountain, practically without visitors.

A dream situation for foreigners, but a sort of nightmare for those whose livelihood depends precisely on their presence in large numbers. Italy may lighten its health restrictions for tourists, they are still desired.

From what we currently see, it does not resume so much, she regrets. The French are afraid to come to Italy. With the mortality figures we had last year in Lombardy, it has cast a black veil on the whole of Italy!

Stefania Molinari has one faint hope: that visitors will return in September, when the warm months are more favorable for beaches than for long visits to historic sites.

Sophie Benezech in front of a tourist.

Tour guide Stefania Molinari with a rare group of visitors that she accompanies to the Vatican.

PHOTO: RADIO-CANADA / YANIK DUMONT BARON

Not even priests in the streets around the Vatican

Italy has just adopted a certificazione verde , a mechanism by which the authorities promise free entry without quarantine to those who prove that they are vaccinated or not contagious.

This certificate is inspired by what Europe is preparing to ensure free movement between countries this summer. A document seen by some as a sesame erasing doubts in the minds of travelers.

The enthusiasm for this mechanism among European politicians and officials does not yet seem to have materialized in the streets of Rome. At least not around the Vatican.

The entrance to the museum is empty of people

Like other cultural and historical sites in Rome, the Vatican Museums experienced busier days.

There are many visitors, but these places seem deserted. Usually, pilgrims and tourists from all over the world should come together in a mixture of piety and enthusiasm.

Zero! Alessia Astrologo has not seen any clients during the day. She shares her despair alongside her husband, sitting on the small steps that lead to their business.

I do not know what to think. The news is more positive [new infections are decreasing], but the work is getting worse. There are no clients. It is only 3:30 p.m. and it would be better to close for the day ...

I've been here for 50 years, I've never seen anything like this. There aren't even any passing foreign priests , she exclaims, as her husband stares into the void in silence.

Sweaters and stakes are offered for sale

A shop in Rome near the Vatican

For us it's weird, but it's necessary

You have to climb a few steps to reach the reception of the Hotel Canada in Rome. At the top of the small staircase, a very sticky blue carpet. Sploch! makes the shoe on this obligatory passage. You enter the hotel, you let the bacteria out!

Silvia Pucci seems very proud of this special carpet, one of the many health measures put in place since the arrival of COVID-19.

Table service has replaced the buffet, menus are downloaded from the phones, cushions, carriers of germs, have disappeared from the sofas.

Usually we have more contact with customers, she says. You have to relearn the routines, be more hygienic.

She is talking on the phone.

Silvia Pucci, employee of the Hotel Canada. His family has owned the hotel for over 60 years.

PHOTO: RADIO-CANADA / YANIK DUMONT BARON

New, less welcoming habits are also needed, such as this plexiglass panel that protects reception employees. In this 72-room family hotel, any measure that can reassure the guest is deemed necessary .

The young woman ensures that with this pandemic, customers are closely interested in the hygiene measures of the hotels they can attend. It's important these days.

Measures that took time and money. But this particular hygienic vigilance is slow to bear fruit. Reservations are picking up very slowly, she says, but we are hopeful . Hope for a return to normal… next year.

Until then, hotel staff live in fear of another wave of contamination forcing yet another closure. I'm a little afraid of behaviors that are not responsible , admits Silvia Pucci, who is doing everything possible to get out of this hellish period .

Boats near the village.

The port of Ponza a hundred kilometers from Rome.

Islands without COVID

We feel more hope and enthusiasm in Ponza, an island about a hundred kilometers from Rome. The sea is calm; along the beach, a few tables await tourists.

In this port, many people wander without a mask. A habit that goes against Italian instructions, but which highlights a fact: most of the 3,400 inhabitants have already been vaccinated.

We are an island without COVID , launches Carlo Marcone, one of the elected officials responsible for the community. Not entirely without COVID , but almost: about 70% of residents are vaccinated; double the national average.

In front of the small town hall overlooking the sea, Carlo Marcone praises this strategy, designed to attract tourists and carried out with the blessing of the regional authorities.

View of the sunny bay of Ponza from a table in the shade.

View of the sunny bay of Ponza from a table in the shade.

The idea is primarily health: there is only a small medical clinic on the island, recalls Carlo Marcone. If there is a seriously ill patient with COVID, it would be very difficult, he emphasizes: we are 40 miles from the coast, it takes three hours by boat. It's risky.

But the strategy also responds to an economic imperative: to assure visitors that they will not bring back the COVID as a souvenir. It allows tourists to take their vacation with confidence.

We should be more relaxed, more relaxed this summer , confirms Luca Mazzela, the manager of a cooperative of sailors offering boat tours around Ponza. It's been a long time since people took a real vacation.

Between two clients, he confides his hope for a busy summer, the opposite of what those who make a living from tourism around the Vatican anticipate. We are all a little quieter with vaccines, he says. It's time for everyone to regain their confidence and start traveling again.

In front of his business.

Luca Mazzela is responsible for a cooperative of sailors offering boat tours around Ponza.

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