CAPRI, Italy – The ferry was stranded next to the blue “Capri a Covid Free Island” billboard and residents and workers boarded, carrying luggage and antibodies.
Among them was Mario Petraroli (37), freshly vaccinated and ready for the grand reopening of the luxury hotel where he works as director of marketing.
“The big day,” he said as he rode a cable car across turquoise waters, gardens with ripe lemons and winding footpaths on the cliffs.
He reaches the summit and steps out to a glamorous city famous for its observations in Jackie O and J Lo, exorbitant prices of Caprese salads and a reputation as a billionaire’s playground. Everyone around him – the shopkeepers unpacking the Pucci, Gucci and Missoni clothes from plastic bags, the bartenders sliding ice into Spritzes, the carpenters hitting the finish on the underground. Anema and Core Taverna dance club – vaccinated.
This is another story on the Italian mainland, visible across the gorge of the belvedere surrounded by faux Roman columns. There, the vaccination campaign progressed unevenly, with many seniors still receiving a first dose.
“It’s very frustrating,” he said. Petraroli, whose 68-year-old uncle contracted the virus in Naples in late April while awaiting his vaccination. He died days later.
The loss cost Mr. Petraroli further convinced that Capri did not have to wait for Italy to get his case settled. By then he would think that the summer season would be over and that livelihood and possibly lives would be lost.
The cruel president of the Campania region, which includes Capri, was clear.
Due to the heat of Greece and Spain, which preceded the vaccination campaigns on their islands to lure tourists away from Italy, President Vincenzo De Luca deviated from the government’s vaccination strategy to prioritize categories of more vulnerable Italians. Instead, he treated Capri and other holiday islands as special cases.
He quickly sent vaccinations to Capri by flooding the island with doses. Elderly people were vaccinated first, then middle-aged, then 20-year-olds and even teenagers, while the rest of the region still struggled to get shots for all its 70- and 60-year-olds.
Then Mr De Luca vaccinated everyone who worked on the island.
Massimiliano Fedriga, president of the northern region of Friuli-Venezia Giulia, warned that ‘social tensions could flare up’ if Capri, which avoided outbreaks, and other islands received special treatment. The national government in Rome insisted that younger residents – even on the islands – should only be vaccinated after all the entire region’s elderly and defenseless had been vaccinated.
But Mr. De Luca persisted and the government, eager to rekindle the economy, finally came. This month it approved the vaccination of all inhabitants of smaller Italian islands, from Elba to the Aeolians outside Sicily. Even enclosed towns like the Sestriere ski resort in the Italian Alps have tried to vaccinate quickly.
“It’s time to book your holiday to Italy,” Prime Minister Mario Draghi declared.
On May 8, when the national vaccinations picked up, Mr De Luca came to Capri famous piazzetta in the middle of the city to declare Mission Accomplished and encourage tourists to book their vacation on the islands.
Mr. Petraroli, the hotel marketing director, has now crossed the same square, past copper-tinted Capri enthusiasts sipping and smoking, with their faces to the sun. He enters a series of narrow streets lined with Rolex stores, branded boutiques and Hangout, a popular pub in the city owned by Simone Aversa.
“My friends say, ‘Oh, fortunately, we’re still waiting,’ ‘said Aversa, who is in his thirties and has been vaccinated. He said his family in Florence complained that they also live in a city that tourism is supported, why does Capri get such special treatment?
“Capri is the answer to the question why you and not us,” Mr Aversa said with a shrug. “Because it’s Capri.”
Mr. Petraroli showed the restaurant Aurora, the oldest in Capri. The owner, Mia D’Alessio (49), received on that day both her second recording of the Pfizer vaccine and a call from Beyoncé’s manager, and the usual private dining room for the diva and her husband, Jay-Z, discussed in August.
The couple would be safe, she said, because everyone in her restaurant and family had been vaccinated. These include her daughter (19), a tennis player who trained with Andre Agassi and beat along with Bernard Arnault, the French billionaire head of luxury goods giant LVMH Moët Hennessy.
“Capri will steal more aircraft than before,” she said. D’Alessio said in front of a wall of photos, including her position with Steven Spielberg, Mariah Carey and Michael Jordan. They come for the “pizza from the jet set”, she said. “It’s not too heavy. No yeast. ”
The VIPs, equipped with private jets, yachts and personal doctors, she said would have less trouble getting to the island than souvenir and Blue Grotto postcard-hungry crowds of day-trippers walking around in Capri sandals and stained with limoncello linen shirts, especially since the cruise industry is struggling to be full steam ahead again.
“It’s a good season to experience Capri,” he said. Petraroli said when he reached the city Capri Tiberio Palace, which Kylie Jenner recovered this summer after the workers at the port told him she felt bad on her hunt.
The hotel is named after Tiberius, who ruled the Roman Empire from Capri, threw people off cliffs and trained Caligula to have a good time. Many here call him Capri’s first tourist.
Mr. Petraroli said modern hedonists had already called and sent scouts to make sure the vaccine, and the atmosphere, was what they wanted.
“The real problem for them is that once they’re here, they have something to do,” he said as workers carried an espresso machine and dusted off the blinds.
On the top floor, Mr. Petraroli opened the Suite Bellevue, mostly booked by ‘sheiks and sultans and very famous guys’. It leads to a terrace tiled with hand-painted ceramics, with a Jacuzzi pool. Mr. Petraroli said the late basketball player Kobe Bryant had such a ‘special bond with our best suite’ that he named his daughter Capri after staying there.
Outside the room, Alessandro De Simone, 23, dusted off crystal colors with cognac and whiskey. Mr De Simone, who is also being vaccinated, said none of his friends were at home in Naples.
“From their perspective,” he said. “I’m privileged.”
But others on the island have said their mainland friends consider them luxury lab rats.
Domenico Marchese, 29, who prepared banana syrups for his distinctive Cuban-themed ‘Barbados Punch’ cocktail in the hotel’s Jackie Bar, said that while his parents, in their 50s, could not be vaccinated his friends in their twenties refused. on.
“I’m trying to change my mind,” he said. “I tell them not to worry.”
Across the island, which has been fighting against overcrowding as recently as 2019, the prevailing concern is that no one will come.
At the August Gardens, lined with flower beds and ornate statues, there was no one at the lookout to wait at the green-band markers reading, “Wait here.” The crystal water on the coast, usually clogged with ships, was almost vessel-free.
Giuseppe Maggipinto (53) and the president of the island oldest cooperative of motor boat owners (“All our skippers and staff have been completely vaccinated!” Reads their website) rushed around the island unhindered. He navigates through the island’s brand Faraglione rock formations (‘This is where Heidi Klum got married on a yacht’) and at La Fontelina Beach Club where three sunbathers, with their knees bent and shiny, lay under the cliff.
He lamented the ‘hysterical controversy over being vaccinated’, arguing that without a hospital ‘if there was a group here, we would have nothing to save our lives.’
He moored the boat at the dock, where more ferries brought some tourists, but also returning residents. Dario Portale, a local vegetable farmer, and his family were among them.
The day after they were shot, the couple left for Milan, in the country’s hard-hit region of Lombardy, to introduce their ten-month-old son to his mother. She is 62, works in a post office and is not vaccinated.
“She’s still waiting,” he said. Portals said.