Rome: The city belongs to the Romans this year

There are hardly any tourists coming to Rome anymore. Yet the city has few viral infections. At least people go out again in the evening – but the centre remains deserted.
[“It doesn’t get much nicer than this. Whether it’s the triumphal arch of Emperor Constantine directly in front of the Colosseum, the Egyptian obelisk with the marble lions surrounding it in the Piazza del Popolo or the Pantheon: Over the past few weeks, Rome’s Mayor Virginia Raggi has repeatedly arrived to inaugurate LED lighting systems that bathe the ancient monuments in a completely new light at night. It almost seems as if the Eternal City wants to at least aesthetically defy the Covid crisis. “] [“The façade of the Basilica of Santa Maria in Trastevere, with its mosaics in Byzantine style, has also been shining in an unusual glow for some days now. But what is not unusual is the crowd in the piazza in front of the church that is on Saturday evening. But people didn’t come for the magic of the new illumination – their interest is in beer and Aperol Spritz.”]

This is how it was here in the pre-Covid times and this is how it is again now. Hundreds of people push their way through the alleys of Trastevere, always one of the hotspots for going out in Rome. All trattorias, all bars are open, the tables outside are full, business is good. Mask? The young man in his mid-twenties, he introduces himself as Roberto, smiles tired. Just like his girlfriend, he wears his face guard on his wrist. “We are out in the open,” he says, “nothing will happen. And the crowd here? He shrugs his shoulders. He doesn\’t know a single person, not even from hearsay, who has been infected with Corona.

[“It’s true: for weeks the number of new infections in Rome, a city of three million people, has been under 20, last Monday it was just four, on Tuesday five. Even the lifting of the lockdown in May and the opening of the inner-European borders at the beginning of June have not brought about a new increase in the number of infections. Nevertheless, the bustling normality of Trastevere is deceptive: the pandemic itself has hardly affected Italy’s capital, but the Romans are also feeling its effects.”]

You only have to cross the bridge over the Tiber River, over to the historic city centre. Keeping your distance is no problem here – there are hardly any people to keep your distance from. In the Colosseum, in front of the Pantheon, in Piazza Navona: a handful of people get lost in front of the tourist attractions, foreign visitors are sought out in vain. The flying merchants, the street artists, the guitar players and the pantomimes have also disappeared. At the tables in the piazza, the Romans are left to their own devices – although they now come in greater numbers than before. The Caffè Barocco, for example, no longer takes 15 euros for the aperitif, a small Aperol shot is available for 3.50 euros, a gin and tonic for 6 euros.

But already a little away from the Piazza Navona, Rome is now extinct in the evening. On Via del Corso, the main shopping street in the centre, all shops are open, but already in the afternoon, only few customers stray into the shops. The young boutique owner stands idly at the entrance, checking out the few flâneurs who pass by. Turnover? She pulls a face, the face has completely disappeared. She sent her two employees on short time. Thank goodness the Conte government has found a generous solution to the short-time working allowance, thank goodness the scheme is now to be extended again until the end of the year. The tax credit of 60 percent of the shop rent also helps her get by, but she does not know whether it will be enough in the end.

As much as she cares, she has no intention of scolding the government. “Conte didn\’t invent Covid,” she says. And at the European summit she thinks he did a really good job. If Italy still has any hope at all, it\’s probably because of the 209 billion euros that will come in the form of EU grants and loans over the next few years.

[“The boutique owner is not alone with this opinion. After the EU summit, Giuseppe Conte’s popularity ratings went up once again, with almost two-thirds of Italians saying they are satisfied with his work. And Europe is now also doing better among the Italians. While in May 50 percent of the Italians wanted to leave the EU and the euro, the figure fell to 40 percent in July.”]

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