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Crisis keeping Italians at home? We'll see. PDF Print E-mail
Aug 04, 2012 at 05:32 PM

The Exodus (Italian style)
Today is one of those days that they say you shouldn't travel by car: Bollino Nero (black marker) is what the Italians dub it, reminding you that the roads are likely to be jammed with the cars of all those hundreds of thousands who are leaving for the traditional August vacation, heading either to the seashore (68%) or the mountains (15.4%), depending on one's preferences.

However, although the esodo (exodus) is taking place as usual - by road, train and plane - it appears that fewer people are travelling and yesterday, in fact, the autostrade were not quite as crowded as usual. Indeed, it would seem that la crisi, the economic crisis, is making itself felt if vacation-happy Italians are keeping their plans in check - shorter holidays or cheaper ones - or even staying home. According to the federation of Italian hotels, Federalberghi, this year 6 out of ten Italians, or 51%, will be staying put. Departures, they say, are down 29% compared to last year, and the hotel business will earn 22% less, with likely unhappy consequences for the nearly one million people employed by the sector.

Is this true? Who knows? The statistics tell you the situation is bad but as is the case every year, for the last two months everyone you meet has only one question for you: ferie? Holidays, they query when they meet you in a shop, on the street, or when they call you on the phone. Furthermore, other indications are that despite the well-known economic problems - high unemployment, especially among the young, higher taxes (ouch, me too!) and overall stagnation, things  may not be all that bad. It's hard to judge but the fact is that most restaurants in my neighbourhood, Trastevere, seem packed in the evenings, and the diners are by no means only tourists. Furthermore, the hair dressers, manicurists and masseurs whom I know say business is booming. Cristina, who does my nails but also provides her clients with other beauty treatments such as waxing, spray tanning and massaging, says in recent weeks she's had to open her store in the Testaccio neighbourhood of Rome at 7 a.m. to handle the crowd of women wanting to be in shape for the summer. When I was there the other day I was particularly struck by the enormous overflowing can of discarded waxing papers. Apparently, these days hair everywhere (and I mean everywhere) is considered follicle non grata! And no economic crisis is going to keep an Italian woman from getting rid of hers.




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