By Melissa Butz
Italy sped up its reopening by two weeks with restaurants, bars, hairdressers and shopping welcoming clients. Masses in the majority-Catholic country have also re-begun.
St. Peter’s Basilica is open once again, following Italy’s measures to resume Mass. Volunteers from the Order of Malta measure pilgrims’ temperatures, before they enter the nearly empty basilica.
Public Mass wasn’t held at the Vatican, but other churches in the country saw many changes.
Sanitation measures meet faithful at the door. Communion is also different. Priests in masks and gloves, are encouraged to walk person-to-person to give out the Eucharist.
Despite these changes, Catholics are overjoyed.
“I’m thrilled to return to Mass and to pray the Rosary,” said churchgoer Riapertura Mattino.
“As soon as I entered the church, I gave thanks to God and cried tears of joy,” added another.
Store and restaurant owners, desperate to resume their work, have a different experience. They say “normal” won’t return until there are tourists.
“In one sense, there’s hope to re-begin, but in another, it’s very sad,” explained store owner Nichola. “It’s terrible to see this street, which is usually alive with tourism, so empty.”
Barbers, on the other hand, are full of work, but are finding the new rules and masks a bit difficult.
“On a couple of clients, I accidentally cut through the elastic and cut off their mask. It’s horrible,” added Andrea, a barber in Rome.
Each store owner said they can only afford one or two employees working at a time. In more than 70 days of lockdown, many said the government has not delivered the promised financial help and they are struggling.
What Italians really want is for tourists to return to their country. Flights within the E.U. are expected to start at the beginning of June, allowing at least Europeans to visit Italy for part of the summer.