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Italy reopens restaurants and cafés

In Italy, bars, cafés and restaurants are open again. Let’s discover what’s going on.

After three months spent between stovetop and the oven, experimenting (more or less successfully) with new, traditional dishes or refined recipes from celebrity chefs’ cookbooks, we Italians can finally return to our favorite restaurants. Or at least we hope we can.  Due to the economic crisis and new safety measures introduced to overcome the health emergency, not all bars and restaurants have been able to reopen their doors to regulars yet. According to the prestigious Michelin Guide, which has developed a barometer to track the reopening of Michelin-starred restaurants around the world, the situation is gradually improving. But in Italy, only 33% of the best restaurants were open last week (May 25-31).

Restaurants are open…

Empty restaurant
Some restaurants are ready to welcome their guests, but seats are still empty

Many restauranteurs complain that, despite the implementation of all the necessary safety measures, they are far less busy than they expected – and social distancing is not the only reason. There are other factors to be considered: not all companies have reopened their offices, resulting in fewer business lunches and breaks at nearby cafés or pizzerias; some people have lost their jobs or are not receiving wage subsidies and are thus struggling to make ends meet. On the weekend, the situation changes for the better, but is still not enough to support the hospitality industry, which plays a key role in the Italian economy.

Will creativity save us?

Villa Borghese in Rome
The Temple of Aesculapius at Villa Borghese, Rome

During the lockdown, the only chances of survival for restaurants and bars were represented by takeaway ‘cibo da asporto’ and delivery ‘consegna a domicilio’. For some of them, these are still the only alternatives to total closure, but others are going the extra mile in more creative ways. For example, the famous Casina Valadier, in the beautiful setting of Villa Borghese, in Rome, has just reopened, offering, for the very first time and upon reservation, a picnic option to customers of Caffè del Pincio who would like to spend a day surrounded by nature and historic buildings. In another example of creativity, the owners of RetroBottega in Rome have turned their restaurant, characterized by a particularly complex menu, into RetroPizza, with a simpler, more informal offering.

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