The first Italian public holiday after Covida. But in the shadow of the war in Ukraine

The summer holidays started in Italy and at the same time hopes were raised that it would be possible to make up for the post-ovid losses in tourism. It’s more expensive: even the iconic espresso in Rome doesn’t cost 1 euro more, just one and a half, sometimes two. But in Sicily it is still much cheaper than in the capital.

The financial losses are great. Suffice it to mention that Sicily’s largest civilian airport, Catania-Fontanarossa, served more than 9 million passengers a year before the pandemic. In 2020, the worst year of stagnation – just over 3 million. Such losses were suffered by all domestic airports and this parameter is a very good conversion of the economic price that the Italians paid for covid. After all, one should not forget the cost of life and the loneliness that this country experienced when it was the first in Europe to be confronted with the corona virus. But it’s all history, covid in Italy today is just a bad memory. People are being vaccinated, ready for new challenges that life does not spare them.

Again for the rich

As early as February, the government announced that it would give the tourism industry a break in the summer of 2022. It will remove the restrictions, allow anyone to come without having to show certificates at the border. Covid passports are indeed no longer checked, but face masks still have to be worn. In public transport, trains and planes on domestic flights. People often place them of their own free will, for example in line at the checkout in a supermarket. The trauma after the pandemic continued.

This year’s season differs from the previous season, especially in terms of prices. It is expensive. Last year I managed to pay just under 400 PLN for a Warsaw-Rome-Warsaw flight with low cost airlines. This year, with good luck, the same amount is enough for a one-way ticket. Everyone makes up for the losses, hostels, hotels, pizza in pubs and a glass of wine are more expensive. The prices of public transport will remain at the same level. Of course, if you really want to, you don’t pay too much because you can buy food in a supermarket and prepare it in the hostel’s kitchen. But the supermarkets are carefully hidden – they are for the locals, which is not surprising. The tourist is not there to buy sandwiches and cheese.

Despite these financial difficulties, the world just moved to Italy in June. Rome, like the Tower of Babel, speaks all languages ​​these days, people want to break the isolation, return to normal, and where to start, if not in the Italian capital? The old adage: “don’t start exploring Europe with Rome, because then nothing will interest you anymore” still applies. An additional advantage of the city is its proximity to the Tyrrhenian Sea, the beaches can be reached within an hour with the city map, as Ostia is the administrative part of the capital.

A pearl in a sea of ​​high prices

Sicily is a state within a state. It has its own parliament, government and president who can pronounce national laws. He also has his common sense and pragmatism that make life easier. It would of course be crazy to rave about anything Sicilian – it is the cradle of the Mafia, the place where Italian organized crime was born. It was here that the famous lawyers Giovanni Falcone and Paulo Borsellino died in the fight against the mafia. Today it has come to the point where the mafia is a national-scale institution, doing business illegally and legally.

The Sicilians know what their bread is for, they try to weave the mafia theme into the local folklore and turn it into a tourist attraction. T-shirts with the image of Marlon Brando as Vito Corleone from “The Godfather” are a popular gadget, and from the pubs you often hear the theme from the movie Nino Rota. In the legendary town of Corleone, about 70 km from Palermo, is the Mafia Museum (La Casa del Padrino), run by Anna Zygmunt, a Pole who has lived in Sicily for a quarter of a century. Set in a real, once Mafia house, it is furnished with equipment from the late 1800s.

Sicily is beautiful, its attractions and leisure opportunities cannot be overstated, and much cheaper than mainland Italy. To illustrate, with an example that is also well understood in Poland: a kilo of cherries in Rome now costs about 6 euros, and in Catania only 2.5. And this indicator can be used for any other tourist office in Italy this summer.

The food capital

That is why today Sicily is attracted by tourists wherever they can, including those who are not rich on a daily basis. They go to bustling Palermo. It is the capital of the world street foodand rumor has it that the culinary hit is the beef spleen in a sandwich (I say “supposedly” because not everyone can be persuaded to do something like that and I don’t know what it tastes like). Churches are an architectural attraction, often built on the ruins of mosques – this is the history of the island. No one destroyed the Muslim facades, they only drew Catholic elements.

Also waiting for tourists is old historic Catania with a wide beach coast and Mount Etna, which watches over everything. This volcano never sleeps, it breathes visibly all the time. And all this can not only be admired from the beach. Also from the center of Catania, especially from the hill of the park named after the composer Vincenzo Bellini. Mount Etna looks best at sunrise and sunset. Catania is a real tourist mecca, streets full of pubs, hostels near hotels and the main road through Etnea never sleeps. Security is guarded by the almost invisible but present police, who also use decent and communicative English.

Sicily is also a place where vegetation persists all year round. In the bazaars, only the set of vegetables, fruits and spices changes. Walking through the bazaar can give the impression that you are somewhere far outside the European Union and only the euro note reminds you that it is Europe after all.

Also read: Kitchen Crusades in Italy

The war in Ukraine, topic number 1

What do Italians live? The war in Ukraine is now number one in the media. Society is more or less divided in two: between those who argue that this is not our war and that we should only think and look after Italy’s interests, and those who accept the Italian government’s policies and consistently support Ukraine. All thanks to Prime Minister Mario Draghi, who turned out to be an extraordinarily strong personality. By the way, he proved that a former banker can be a good and effective politician, which is a funny curiosity in the Polish context.

Draghi is not easy. He heads the cabinet of a broad coalition, such as from right to left. The country is in a difficult economic situation, inflation has accelerated to 7%, prices are rising, unemployment caused by the collapse of tourism during covid is also high. As a result of the cessation of the supply of raw materials from Russia, fuel prices shot up: until recently, a liter of EuroSuper 98 gasoline cost 1.7 euros, today 2.10 euros and more, and we all know how this affects the prices of goods and services affect.

The prime minister does not succumb to populists, including those in his own office. It clearly states that Ukraine should be helped and that sanctions against Russia should be maintained and extended. Recently he said: “In Ukraine, war, people die, children suffer, women are raped, and you are pissed that you now have to pay more for air conditioning in apartments? Shame!” Draghi emphasizes that we must all bear the costs of the war, because it is a war for democracy and it concerns everyone. During the last visit of the “three tenors” to Kiev with French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, it was the Italian who was most consistent and categorical about Putna: “You can’t talk to criminals.”

What may shock our Poles is the fact that Russian diplomats and journalists are constantly invited to the Italian media, which present Putin’s point of view without restriction. But these traditional Russian sympathies of Italians have already faded. However, there is kindness towards Poland. Here, on the Tiber, the idea arose to award the Nobel Peace Prize to Polish society for what it does for Ukraine.

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