Italy's Neapolitan figurine makers protest lack of coronavirus aid

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Italy's Neapolitan figurine makers protest lack of coronavirus aid

The artisans of Naples' Via San Gregorio Armeno, famed for their satirical statuettes, closed this week in protest at the lack of Italian government aid after the two-month coronavirus lockdown.


With no tourists around, this normally bustling street in Naples' old town where nativity scenes have been made for centuries is eerily empty.

Even when tourists do return, it is uncertain whether the shops on the narrow alley can enforce social distancing rules.

Nevertheless, the Di Virgilio family has managed to make the best of the two-month lockdown.

Coming from a family of nativity scene makers active since 1830, Gennaro and his father Rosario have created two figurines to honour Italian doctors and nurses who have become the new superheroes.

"They try to find a vaccine, and they try to help all those who have caught the illness which really took Italy by surprise," said Rosario Di Virgilio. While they could at least keep making the figurines during lockdown, they do not know when tourists will return and like many artisans in Italy, they need to pay the bills.


"We decided to have a week-long protest because no one has listened to us, we hope that things will get better and that the government will listen," said Di Virgilio.

Signs on the shuttered shops read: "I'm not opening" and "#SaveNativityScenes. Without help, the shops of San Gregorio Armeno are dying."

Di Virgilio says he wants the local government to encourage tourists to return to Naples to get the economy turning again.

"We're artisans, we're not big industry. Our work is done entirely by hand, and getting to Christmas without having been able to work, would be a serious problem for us."


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