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Italy set for frugal New Year festivities

Spending on travel, food cut as effects of recession linger

31 December, 17:07
Italy set for frugal New Year festivities (By Denis Greenan).

(ANSA) - Rome, December 31 - Italians will be spending less on parties and staying closer to home this New Year as the effects of Italy's longest postwar recession continue to bite.

The traditional New Year's Eve dinner of lentils and cotechino, a cooked pork sausage, will be eaten at home by some 70% of Italians, according to surveys.

"It's going to be another frugal fest," said farmers' association Coldiretti, which measures seasonal spending on food and conducts polls on what consumers are going to do.

A small minority of Italians will be heading off for holidays in the sun or trips to New Year favourites like London, Paris and New York.

Famed Italian resorts, on the other hand, are sold out.

Cortina d'Ampezzo, the jewel of the Dolomites, has been "inundated with Russian bookings", the local hoteliers' association said.

The iconic Naples bay island of Capri is also booked out, by Italian and international tourists.

They will be enjoying mostly mild weather, the Italian meteorological office said.

"Sun will be making a return to the north while it will be even milder, albeit rainy, in the south," it said. Italians will spend an average of 66 euros on New Year's dinner, Coldiretti said. At least 47% of respondents have budgeted less than 50 euros, 26% plan to spend 50-100 euros, and 14% will spend 100-200 euros. At least 68% said they will ring in 2014 behind closed doors: 28% at home and 40% at the homes of relatives or friends.

More families are choosing traditional, cheaper Italian products over exotic foods: 81% of Italians will be eating lentils and 73% will consume cotechino, up 9% over last year, while 5% will splurge on oysters and 4% on caviar, down 2% and 1% respectively. Spending on local, seasonal fruit is set to rise by 11% while estimated sales of out-of-season cherries and peaches will shed 1%. Almost nine in 10 Italians will imbibe Italian sparkling wine, or spumante, while 11% said they prefer champagne.

More than 80 million spumante corks will pop at midnight as Italians prefer the national bubbly over champagne to salute 2014, Coldiretti said.

A vast majority of Italians also said they won't give up their traditional holiday cakes such as panettone (81%) and pandoro (78%).

The New Year comes as Italy is struggling out of a grim recession and still grappling with painful austerity measures.

In the latest doleful economic news, it was reported that absolute poverty had doubled from 2005 to 2012 and tripled in the richer and far more industrial north, while relative poverty was at a high since records began in 1997.

Italians are also bracing for the traditional New Year's fireworks mayhem, which usually brings mutilations and sometimes deaths. Police, who have been seizing powerful and illegal fireworks for weeks, said spending on "munitions-grade pyrotechnical devices" was down because of the recession but they were still "preparing for the worst" in cities like Naples where the lust for saluting the new year in the loudest mode possible shows "little sign of abating".

Many of Italy's biggest pop stars will also be making a lot of noise around midnight - including the first-ever New Year's concert in Rome's huge Circus Maximus.