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LIFE IN ITALY

Italian cafés and hairdressers accused of hiking prices as they reopen

Having a coffee or getting a hair cut is more expensive now than it was when Italy went into lockdown two months ago, according to a consumer watchdog.

Some businesses are charging as much as 50 percent over average prices, says consumer rights' association Codacons, which says it has received dozens of complaints since shops, cafés, restaurants and beauty salons began reopening on May 18th.

READ ALSO: Everything that changed in Italy from May 18th

Some customers have reported seeing cafés charge €2 for an espresso in central Milan – nearly 54 percent more than the city's average pre-lockdown price of €1.30, said Codacons, which did not say how many businesses it had received complaints about.

In Rome, where a coffee costs €1.10 on average, café-goers complained about paying €1.50, while in Florence (average price: €1.40), they reported paying €1.70.

Hairdressers have also been charging more for their services, according to Codacons, which says that consumers have reported seeing prices rise by around 25 percent on average.

“We hope these are just isolated cases, and that business owners are not deciding en masse to revise their price lists in order to recoup lost earnings and extra cleaning costs,” said the association's president Carlo Rienzi, who invited consumers to report any price hikes to the watchdog.


Photo: Alberto Pizzoli/AFP

Cafés and hairdressers, along with restaurants, bars, beauty salons and most shops, were forced to stay shuttered for more than two months during Italy's coronavirus lockdown.

Since reopening they are operating at reduced capacity due to social distancing guidelines that require staff and customers to remain at least a metre apart. They are also shouldering the cost of personal protective equipment for staff, as well as adapting to rigorous cleaning requirements and other safety measures.

Business owners had warned that they would struggle to survive the closure, prompting the government to speed up its reopening plans. 

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Not all of the roughly 800,000 businesses eligible to reopen on Monday were back in business, according to Italian catering industry group FIPE, which reported that only 70 percent of cafés, bars and restaurants were open and 40 percent of their staff – some 400,000 people – remained off work.

While retail associations reported that shops had better opening rates, business is likely to remain tough for Italian enterprises of all kinds as unemployment spikes, spending power plummets and tourists stay home.

The government has released emergency payments and allowed business owners to delay paying commercial rents and some taxes during the shutdown – but many owners have said this won't be enough to keep them afloat.

Member comments

  1. I’m not surprised. Many business are operating at a fraction of the capacity of pre-COVID. In order to survive, they would seemingly have to raise their prices.

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COVID-19

Covid-19: Are Italian live events at risk of being postponed?

As the infection rate rises sharply across the country, Italian virologists are calling for concerts and festivals to be rescheduled.

Covid-19: Are Italian live events at risk of being postponed?

Italy has seen a large increase in the number of Covid-19 cases in recent days, so much so that a number of virologists across the country are now urging the government to postpone major live events in a bid to curb infections. 

According to a new report by Italy’s independent health watchdog, the Gimbe Foundation, 595,349 new cases were recorded in the week from June 29th to July 5th; a worrying 55 percent increase on the previous week. 

In the same time span, the country also registered a 32.8 percent rise in the number of hospitalised patients, which went from 6,035 to 8,003.  

The latest Covid wave, which is being driven by the highly contagious Omicron 5 variant, is a “real cause for concern”, especially in terms of a “potential patient overload”, said Nino Cartabellotta, president of the Gimbe Foundation. 

As Italian cities prepare to host a packed calendar of concerts and festivals this summer, health experts are questioning whether such events should actually take place given the high risk of transmission associated with mass gatherings.

READ ALSO: What tourists in Italy need to know if they get Covid-19

“Rescheduling these types of events would be the best thing to do right now,” said Massimo Ciccozzi, Director of Epidemiology at Campus Bio-Medico University of Rome. 

The summer wave is expected to peak in mid-July but, Ciccozzi warns, the upcoming live events might “delay [the peak] until the end of July or even beyond” and extend the infection curve.

Antonello Maruotti, Professor of Statistics at LUMSA University of Rome, recently shared Ciccozzi’s concerns, saying that live events as big as Maneskin’s scheduled Rome concert are “definitely not a good idea”. 

The Italian rock band are slated to perform at the Circus Maximus on Saturday, July 9th but the expected turnout – over 70,000 fans are set to attend the event – has raised objections from an array of Italian doctors, with some warning that the concert might cause as many as 20,000 new cases.

If it were to materialise, the prospected scenario would significantly aggravate Lazio’s present medical predicament as there are currently over 186,000 Covid cases in the region (nearly 800 patients are receiving treatment in local hospitals). 

Italian rock band Maneskin performing in Turin

Italian rock band Maneskin are expected to perform at the Circus Maximus in Rome on Saturday, July 9th. Photo by Marco BERTORELLO / AFP

But, despite pleas to postpone the event, it is likely that Maneskin’s concert will take place as scheduled.

Alessandro Onorato, Rome’s Tourism Councillor, said that rescheduling is “out of question” and that “all recommendations from the local medical authorities will be adopted” with the help of the event’s organisers and staff on the ground.

At the time of writing, there is also no indication that the Italian government will consider postponing other major live events scheduled to take place in the coming weeks, though the situation is evolving rapidly and a U-turn on previous dispositions can’t be ruled out.

READ ALSO: At a glance: What are the Covid-19 rules in Italy now?

On this note, it is worth mentioning that Italy has now scrapped all of its former Covid measures except the requirement to wear FFP2 face masks on public transport (though not on planes) and in healthcare settings.

The use of face coverings is, however, still recommended in all crowded areas, including outdoors – exactly the point that leading Italian doctors are stressing in the hope that live events will not lead to large-scale infection.

Antonio Magi, President of Rome’s OMCEO (College of Doctors, Surgeons and Dentists), said: “Our advice is to wear FFP2 masks […] in high-risk situations.”

“I hope that young people will heed our recommendations and think about the health risks that their parents or grandparents might be exposed to after the event [they attend].”

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