As the mayor, but also as a native born and raised in Riva del Garda, how did you see your town change during these long months of Covid quarantine?
From what I can remember, I had never before seen Riva so quiet and deserted. All of a sudden, everything was paralyzed. In recent years, in fact, Riva capably made internationalisation and a year-round tourist season two of its greatest strengths, with visitors coming from around the world – and especially from Northern Europe, – attracted by a virtuous mix of lakes, mountains, cities of art, fairs, and cultural events. Without warning, the lockdown caused all this to come to a standstill, but at the same time Riva revealed itself in all of its beauty with its wonderful, untouched, and silent panoramas.
How are you facing this new phase of reopening and restart of activities and normality?
The economy of Alto Garda is mainly based on a balanced combination of industry, services and tourism, in a complex and strictly interconnected system. The moment we were forced to close all of our activities, besides those considered essential, this complex system was blocked and now starting this ‘machine’ back up will not be easy: restaurants, the hospitality industry, transportation, commerce, events, etc.… In fact, it’s important to remember that Riva del Garda on its own accounts for over 50 percent of tourism in all of Alto Garda. We are speaking of 1,800,000 individuals, joined by those who here on a day trip, for a total of 4 million visitors a year. Many hotels and restaurants will not open up before July, to then extend their season, if possible, to the end of November. Many regulations must be followed with many additional costs created by the need to implement cleaning and safety protocols. So, restarting the engine of this complex circuit is not easy, but we are
already taking action.
What are the cultural and sports events, and other shows and fairs you have planned, which will signal the critical restart of Riva?
The first event that signalled the end of the lockdown and a restart of cultural activities was the exhibition of Riva artist Riccardo Schweizer “Tempesta sul Lago” [Storm on the Lake] continuing through 26 July. At the same time, the traditional ‘Fairy tale Night’, even if it is in a reduced format, has been reconfirmed from 27 to 30 August with performances, music, light shows, etc., in complete safety. As far as trade fairs are concerned, we of course have ‘Expo Riva Schuh’ planned for this coming December, which every year attracts loyal visitors from all parts of the world, who come to Riva del Garda to discover innovations and the latest trends in volume footwear, while also enjoying the beauty, climate, and flavours of the Trentino area. An event that represents one of our crowning glories, while embodying the high level achieved in the organisation of fairs, conferences, and events of international scope.
In this period, we experienced everything from inside some kind of space-time ‘bubble’: do you believe there will be changes in our habits and lifestyles that will continue even once we have surpassed the Covid emergency?
I believe that almost three months of lockdown have pushed Italy to recover 30 years of delays in the use of information technologies! Social distancing has forced not only students to use technology, but also most workers, and in general citizens. Online purchases of every kind have increased, as have online bank transactions and even telemedicine. In this process, all the positive aspects of the use of technology and internet are highlighted, aspects that must also be considered in the future. At the same time, many social, age-related, and geographical gaps and inequalities have emerged. The aim in the future will be that of offering all citizens equal opportunities of access to technology.
Are there aspects or trends that have emerged as a result of this medical emergency that might become strengths in the future?
Smart working has made our cities less overcrowded, while reducing pollution, and the use of technology has allowed for a simplification of bureaucracy… In one word, the lockdown has shown that ‘it is possible’. In recent years, youths have pushed for a cleaner world that is more respectful of the environment, with greater sustainable development. And it is exactly in the direction of a more extensive use of technology and greater environmental sustainability that we must move. Even in terms of consumption, the experience of the lockdown has taught us something and I believe that in the future people will increasingly seek out quality products made to last over time.
What do you believe are the ‘winning cards’ that Riva del Garda must play in this difficult game of relaunching tourism and attracting professional visitors?
In the future, Riva will have to increasingly focus on offering quality products and services capable of fully replying to the multiple kinds of tourism, which range from the seaside to sports, from that generated by conferences and trade fairs to the cultural kind. There will also be a need to focus more on respect for the environment and its equilibrium, while making the most, for example, of renewable and green energies, investing even more in bike paths, developing public transportation and interregional connections on trains, and taking advantage of government incentives for sustainable renovations. Another fundamental aspect in which we intend to invest is the strengthening of the ‘Garda Lake’ brand, which already today is very well-known by Northern European and international tourists: the lake, mountains, and cities of art that surround us – like Verona, Mantua, Brescia and the Trentino cities of Rovereto and Trento – will allow our region and Riva del Garda to attract tourists and visitors throughout the course of the entire year.