Sunday, March 01, 2020

Italian Wine and Love - At this Point in Time

Breaking: Vinitaly is postponed until June.

“It was inevitable,” so the introduction goes. Here I am, on an early Sunday morning, the wind outside is howling, pushing leaves, swaying branches, and offering an eerie air to the day. What will we hear today? We’re, all of us, on this giant cruise ship, earth, is there nowhere to go, nowhere to hide?

That’s the status, for now, here in flyover country, where everyone hopes it will fly over us. But we’re also in the global Petri dish, adapting a wait-and-see attitude. Meanwhile over in Italy…
...cases of the affliction have increased. But, as one friend, writes, “Of the 50 tests done in Rome, not one was positive.”

In Verona, authorities there confirm (as of this moment) that Vinitaly will go forward.

“We can’t just ‘turn off’ our cities,” I read. "We want to offer our service to give a signal of normalcy and tranquility to people." Cites in the north of Italy are being described as ghost towns, business has been disrupted. A sense of dread has set in, although there is also the spirit of “We can fight this, we must not give in to panic and gloom.” But there is also the reality of civic responsibility, to take protective measures at this time.

This is exceedingly difficult for Italians, as they are more prone to extroversion and conviviality. But the numbers aren’t there, businesses are suffering. People aren't going out to eat as much as they normally would.

"The show must go on."
In Germany, Prowein has been postponed cancelled. And Vinitaly, which comes in six weeks, is still scheduled to go on. "The world of Italian wine has already provided positive signs of change in the past. Veronafiere is convinced that, even on this occasion, the sector will contribute to the recovery of our economy and revive a climate of trust in the country," said CEO Giovanni Mantovani. Update: Vinitaly is postponed until June.

Meanwhile America waits. At this time, the U.S. State department lists Italy as “Level 3 – Reconsider Travel,” and lists Lombardy and Veneto as “Level 4 – Do not travel to.” Vinitaly is in the Veneto and Lombardy is where Milan is.

American Airlines has suspended all but one flight to Italy (Philadelphia to Rome) until after Vinitaly. All flights to Venice or Milan as of the present moment. That would make it more difficult for Americans in the wine trade to travel to Italy.(Link here:

This has become an existential dilemma. People in the wine trade often have rigorous and tight schedules, so planning ahead is often necessary. One friend here in the States said to me, “Do I go or do I stay? I must make arrangements now or else I won’t have a way to get there.” Indeed, with American Airlines all but out of the picture. Flights to Milan have been announced to resume on April 24, after Vinitaly, which is the main hub for travel into Northern Italy. There is one daily American Airlines flight remaining, from Philadelphia to Rome. So, travel to Italy will be hindered by that.

This is not to spread panic, or to be that one in the darkened movie theater to shout “Fire,” but to bring up all the concerns people are sharing with me.
Interactive (and regularly updated) map - click on to enlarge

According to the New York Times, on their Interactive map of the Coronavirus, Italy now shares the same C.D.C. risk level (Warning Level 3, Avoid Nonessential Travel) as Mainland China, Korea and Iran.

Patricia Guy writes, from Verona, "The reason Italy has a large number of reported cases of the virus is because the authorities are testing for it. The government has acted responsibly. My concerns are for people living in countries where these precautions are not being taken."

So, what is one to do? With a large percentage of Americans not believing that civic authorities are telling the truth, the whole truth, and another large percentage believing this is all a hoax, where does one go to find out how to make an informed decision? I have friends who are in Rome right now – will they stay, or will they be able to come home? And compound that in a situation where hundreds of thousands of people converge on a trade show like Vinitaly, the logistical (and potentiality humanitarian) nightmare that it could evolve into is something to take notice of.

For now, many of us, like I said earlier, are in a “wait-and-see” position. But the clock is ticking. And that strong wind is still blowing on the other side of my door.

Coronavirus in Italy - update site - [these, too ArcGis (desktop functionality only) and Worldometers]

Covid19 in Italy

wine blog +  Italian wine blog + Italy W


kathleen said...

Hi from Liguria. I really love reading your posts and seldom comment, but something I wanted to add here if people are still trying to decide about making a trip to Italy is that new rules require that all air passengers leaving Italy be "screened" before being allowed to board, and they will be "screened" again when the plane lands in the US. No details have been filled in as to what the "screening" will consist of, nor has it been revealed yet what happens to a planeload of passengers and crew if, upon landing, one passenger is screened and is thought to be infected with the coronavirus.

Just as a detail, there is now confirmed case of coronavirus in Rome (a priest at San Luigi dei Francesi) but we are getting the impression that the "lockdown" of towns in Lombardia and the Veneto has worked to stop the geographic spread of the virus within Italy. There are no real flare ups or "community spread" elsewhere. All the cases elsewhere are easily traced back to the so-called "red zones". But of course that is not enough to predict how things will be tomorrow.

Salute! Kathleen Quinn

kathleen said...

Hi from Liguria! Thank you for all your sensitive writing about Italy.

If friends are still trying to decide whether to make a trip to Italy now they might want to follow developments about exactly what kind of screening of air passengers the US and Italian governments say they are planning to institute. So far all that has been said is that there will be 2 screenings of all passengers leaving Italy for the US, one before boarding the plane and one when the plane lands. Perhaps the most important unknown detail is what will happen to a planeload of passengers if the second screening on US soil turns up one passenger suspected of carrying the coronavirus.

As a minor detail, there is now a confirmed case of the virus in Roma (a priest at San Luigi dei Francesi). It does appear, however, that the lockdown of northern towns in Lombardia and the Veneto has worked to contain the geographic spread within Italy. The other regions of Italy that have cases have them in the low digits, and all are easily traced through a single traveler back to Lombardia or the Veneto. In this situation that's not enough to confidently predict anything about tomorrow in Italy. We hope it is working.

Best to you! Kathleen Quinn

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