AP PHOTOS: Italian resort wonders when it will see visitors

SPERLONGA, Italy (AP) — Normally at this time of year, the Italian seaside beach town of Sperlonga would have been bustling with its first clients of the season.

Restaurants would have been fully open and its golden beaches, although still too chilly for Italians, populated by northern Europeans eager for some warmth after a long, dark winter.

Instead, the beach is almost empty.

Although Italy is gradually reopening after a two-month lockdown to fight the coronavirus pandemic that has killed at least 29,000 of its people, there’s been no word from the government yet on when and how beach establishments can receive visitors.

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Sperlonga, a popular summer vacation spot 120 kilometers (75 miles) south of Rome on Italy’s western coast, is not alone in this dilemma. Seaside resorts across the Mediterranean, from Portugal to Turkey, are grappling with the same uncertainty.

“My hope is that they let us know as soon as possible how to work and when we can start. Because this is fundamental for us. Without this, we are dead,” says Lucio Daniele Faiola, who owns a resort in Sperlonga.

Despite the lack of information, Faiola has started maintenance work to fix up his property, painting a fence bright white. Another resort worker drives a beach-cleaning machine to level out the sand.

Sperlonga, where once the Roman Emperor Tiberius kept a villa, sits on a hill overlooking the clear waters of the Tyrrhenian coast about halfway between Rome and Naples. Its location makes it a popular weekend getaway for people in both cities, with up to 10,000 crowding its beaches during the peak summer season, according to Leone La Rocca, president of the local tourism association.

Foreign tourists, mainly from Russia, Germany, Austria and Norway, normally account for 30% of its visitors.

Many restaurants here typically remain open even during the off-season but this year they had to shut down when Italy went into a coronavirus lockdown on March 8.

While hotel and restaurant operators wait for instructions on how to adapt their businesses to new social distancing requirements, the town’s alleys and small piazzas are enveloped in a quiet lull. Cats sleep on the tables of shuttered cafes.

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Larco reported from Rome.

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Follow AP news coverage of the coronavirus pandemic at https://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak.

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