“We are already at zero”: the beloved town of middle-income Russians in Italy is in distress

«We are already at zero»: the beloved town of middle-class Russians in Italy is in distress

The Italian resort town of Scalea, beloved by Russian tourists, is counting losses amid the drying up of tourists from the Russian Federation. The coronavirus pandemic and geopolitical events have brought years of thriving business to a sudden halt in the Calabrian city. Now employees of restaurants, shops and real estate agencies are complaining about the protracted crisis and the plight due to the outflow of Russians, the British edition of The Guardian noted.

As the newspaper explained, since 2010, in the coastal resort town, experts have recorded a rapid influx of Russians who bought up inexpensive properties in pursuit of the sun, beach and sea. These were teachers, professors and doctors who bought up modest objects that even today can be purchased for as little as 14,000 euros (970,000 rubles). The most famous Russian property owner in Scalea was the actor Boris Klyuev, who died in 2020.

But there were many others as well. Several property owners have settled in the city, including Maria Stepura, president of the Calabria-Russia association, which helps promote Calabria in Russia and helps property buyers with Italian bureaucracy. Stepura bought a house near the beach in 2010. “The value of the ruble at the time meant that a house was worth a lot less than land in the suburbs,” she said.

Buyers with sufficient savings bought property right away, while others took out loans from Russian banks. “Life here is simple: you have a beautiful beach, the cost of living is cheap, you can eat cheap and have breakfast at the bar, which is always nice, and the locals are friendly,” Stepura added.

The local press described Scalea as a “little Moscow in Calabria”, but Giacomo Perrotta, mayor since August 2020, disagreed. “Yes, there have been significant investments from Russia – it is obvious that Scalea is different from Moscow for those who love the sun. But we also have other communities – Polish, Romanian and Ukrainian. Recently we held a peace march and everyone participated, Russians and Ukrainians. As a population, we are well integrated,” he said.

To understand the demand: Scalea, a city of just under 11,000 people, had about 30 real estate agencies, many of which sustained themselves by serving the Russian market. For middle-class Russians, this corner turned out to be financially more attractive than Forte dei Marmi in Tuscany or the Costa Smeralda in Sardinia, where villas and yachts belonging to Russian oligarchs have been arrested over the past two months.

The presence of Russian buyers and vacationers in Scalea has almost evaporated as a result of the coronavirus pandemic and the delay by the European regulator in the recognition of the Russian Sputnik V vaccine. Now the aftermath of events in Ukraine and the subsequent economic sanctions, especially the flight ban, mean that Russians are unlikely to return to Italy for the foreseeable future.

“We are already at zero. The Russians don't come anymore; they are cut off,” complained the owner of the real estate agency, Nicola Rotondaro, in an interview with the publication.

He was not the only one who feels the shortage of Russian travelers. Restaurants, bars and shops dependent on Russian visitors, who tended to spend more than their Italian counterparts, lengthened the holiday season by continuing to visit during the off-season. So, the spacious bar and restaurant La Playa has a menu in Russian and Russian-speaking staff works, but at the time of the journalist’s visit, there were few visitors.

“In normal times, there are a lot of Russians here. Now there is no one,” complained a waiter named Salvator and suggested that if the Russian special operation in Ukraine ends soon, then the Russians will probably be able to return to them this summer.

It remains to be seen whether the Russians will return to buy additional stock of real estate, but the mayor is confident the city is expecting a busy summer. “We will wait for the Russians to return … but after two years of the pandemic, we still expect a boom in tourist presence,” he concluded, expressing hope for an influx of domestic tourists.

For those who care about healthy lifestyle, we recommend reading: “The dietitian revealed a complete list of calcium-rich foods and how to use them correctly.”

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