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AP PHOTOS: Traveling circus stays put in virus-hit Italy

Otilia Maria Martinez Dos Santos, an artist of Portuguese origins, performs at the Rony Roller circus parked on the outskirts of Rome, Friday, April 1...
Rony Vassallo poses for a portrait with his lions at the Rony Roller circus, parked on the outskirts of Rome, Saturday, April 18, 2020. "It is strange...
Rony Vassallo puts his head to his camel at the Rony Roller circus, parked on the outskirts of Rome, Thursday, April 16, 2020. "It is strange for me t...
Alberto Vassallo sand papers to repaint a truck of the Rony Roller circus parked on the outskirts of Rome, Thursday, April 16, 2020. The Rony Roller i...
Alessia Vassallo, wife of Rony, animal trainer and director of the Rony Roller circus walks outside their mobile home parked on the outskirts of Rome,...
Otilia Maria Martinez Dos Santos, an artist of Portuguese origin, poses for a portrait at the Rony Roller circus, parked in the outskirts of Rome, Sat...
Otilia Maria Martinez Dos Santos, an artist of Portuguese origins, walks in the Rony Roller circus parked on the outskirts of Rome, Saturday, April 18...
Otilia Maria Martinez Dos Santos, an artist of Portuguese origins, stands with Asia as they look at 13-year-old Megan Vassallo training at the Rony Ro...
Clown and juggler Daniel Aanitei poses for a portrait in the Rony Roller circus parked in the outskirts of Rome, Saturday, April 18, 2020. "I am the c...
Daniel Aanitei, right, wears a protective mask as he leaves to do some shopping, out of the Rony Roller circus parked in the outskirts of Rome, Saturd...
Banners reading "Thanks to all" hang at the entrance of the Romina Orfei Circus, parked in in San Nicola la Strada, near Naples, Italy, Sunday April 1...
Carmela Ukmar, 85, former acrobat, mother of Romina Orfei sits outside her mobile home parked in San Nicola la Strada, near Naples, Italy, Wednesday, ...
Alyn Valeriou shows his number at Romina Orfei Circus, parked in San Nicola la Strada, near Naples , Sunday April 19, 2020. Alyn and his wife Anamaria...
Verusca Coda Prin, left, and Anamaria Bud collect goods just donated by Civil protection, at the Romina Orfei Circus, parked in San Nicola la Strada, ...
Anamaria Bud shows her "cat number" at the Romina Orfei Circus, parked in San Nicola la Strada, near Naples, Italy, Sunday, April 19, 2020. Anamaria a...
Anamaria Bud brushes her daughter Maria Cristina outside her caravan at Romina Orfei Circus, parked in San Nicola la Strada, near Naples, Italy, Sunda...
Alyn Valeriou trains with his 3-year old daughter Maria Cristina, outside his caravan at the Romina Orfei Circus, parked in San Nicola la Strada, near...
Davio Casartelli, 64-year-old elephant and giraffe trainer proudly shows his giraffes Piccola, left, and Lamia, at the Romina Orfei Circus, parked in ...
Circus staffer Maverik Niemen juggles as Alyn Valeriu, left, trains his daughter Maria Cristina, and his niece Alex Casu in the Romina Orfei Circus pa...

Otilia Maria Martinez Dos Santos, an artist of Portuguese origins, performs at the Rony Roller circus parked on the outskirts of Rome, Friday, April 1...

Rony Vassallo poses for a portrait with his lions at the Rony Roller circus, parked on the outskirts of Rome, Saturday, April 18, 2020. "It is strange...

Rony Vassallo puts his head to his camel at the Rony Roller circus, parked on the outskirts of Rome, Thursday, April 16, 2020. "It is strange for me t...

Alberto Vassallo sand papers to repaint a truck of the Rony Roller circus parked on the outskirts of Rome, Thursday, April 16, 2020. The Rony Roller i...

Alessia Vassallo, wife of Rony, animal trainer and director of the Rony Roller circus walks outside their mobile home parked on the outskirts of Rome,...

Otilia Maria Martinez Dos Santos, an artist of Portuguese origin, poses for a portrait at the Rony Roller circus, parked in the outskirts of Rome, Sat...

Otilia Maria Martinez Dos Santos, an artist of Portuguese origins, walks in the Rony Roller circus parked on the outskirts of Rome, Saturday, April 18...

Otilia Maria Martinez Dos Santos, an artist of Portuguese origins, stands with Asia as they look at 13-year-old Megan Vassallo training at the Rony Ro...

Clown and juggler Daniel Aanitei poses for a portrait in the Rony Roller circus parked in the outskirts of Rome, Saturday, April 18, 2020. "I am the c...

Daniel Aanitei, right, wears a protective mask as he leaves to do some shopping, out of the Rony Roller circus parked in the outskirts of Rome, Saturd...

Banners reading "Thanks to all" hang at the entrance of the Romina Orfei Circus, parked in in San Nicola la Strada, near Naples, Italy, Sunday April 1...

Carmela Ukmar, 85, former acrobat, mother of Romina Orfei sits outside her mobile home parked in San Nicola la Strada, near Naples, Italy, Wednesday, ...

Alyn Valeriou shows his number at Romina Orfei Circus, parked in San Nicola la Strada, near Naples , Sunday April 19, 2020. Alyn and his wife Anamaria...

Verusca Coda Prin, left, and Anamaria Bud collect goods just donated by Civil protection, at the Romina Orfei Circus, parked in San Nicola la Strada, ...

Anamaria Bud shows her "cat number" at the Romina Orfei Circus, parked in San Nicola la Strada, near Naples, Italy, Sunday, April 19, 2020. Anamaria a...

Anamaria Bud brushes her daughter Maria Cristina outside her caravan at Romina Orfei Circus, parked in San Nicola la Strada, near Naples, Italy, Sunda...

Alyn Valeriou trains with his 3-year old daughter Maria Cristina, outside his caravan at the Romina Orfei Circus, parked in San Nicola la Strada, near...

Davio Casartelli, 64-year-old elephant and giraffe trainer proudly shows his giraffes Piccola, left, and Lamia, at the Romina Orfei Circus, parked in ...

Circus staffer Maverik Niemen juggles as Alyn Valeriu, left, trains his daughter Maria Cristina, and his niece Alex Casu in the Romina Orfei Circus pa...

ROME (AP) — They say the show must go on, but the Rony Roller circus isn’t going anywhere right now.

The caravan sits idle in an empty field on the outskirts of Rome.

Acrobats, clowns and other artists are stuck here with dozens of animals — including lions, tigers and monkeys. Their last show was March 7, and, as the coronavirus pandemic rages around the globe, no one knows when they will hear the roar of a crowd again.

“It is strange for me to be with the lions in this silence, this darkness,” says circus director Rony Vassallo, 46. "I miss my audience. I miss them. I miss the big top, the applause.”

Italy is considering easing the nationwide lockdown, which was put in place more than a month ago to stop the spread of a virus that has resulted in the deaths of over 24,000 people in the country — the highest toll in Europe. But events that gather large crowds, such as circus shows, are unlikely to return anytime soon.

“The entertainment sector will be the last to reopen. I have heard rumors about December,” says Maverik Niemen, a 23-year-old clown with the Romina Orfei circus, which is currently parked in a field outside Naples. “Our only hope is that they find a vaccine.”

In the meantime, the animals still need to be fed — and some are big eaters. The circus has almost 100 animals, including three elephants, a hippo, zebras, llamas, horses, giraffes and camels.

When the circus ran out of food, local farmers donated hay, fruit and vegetables, distributed daily by Italy’s Civil Protection Agency.

“We are not used to asking for help,” says Davio Casartelli, a 64-year-old elephant and giraffe trainer. “I am looking forward to being able to give something back.”

The Italian Circus Association recently requested 10 million euros ($10,800 million) in aid from the Culture Ministry to help all the entertainment businesses that shut because of the pandemic. According to the association, about 20,000 workers in 5,000 businesses are currently without income.

Circus workers are also eligible for unemployment benefits, like any other Italian worker, and can get food vouchers. Employers, meanwhile, can benefit from a temporary tax suspension — part of the government's economic emergency plan.

Many circus workers were born into the business. It’s the only life they know. This is the first time they have seen the circus stop for such a long period. Meanwhile, all they can do is practice their trapeze maneuvers, juggling, animal tricks and other acts.

The younger girls watch in admiration when Otilia Maria Martinez Dos Santos, a 44-year-old acrobat in the Rony Roller circus troupe, practices on the aerial hoop. She cannot wait to perform her dizzying feats in front of a crowd.

“I miss the audience, the preparation, the emotion of the show,” she says. “I hope that the future will be what our past was like, until the virus. I’m afraid it will be hard to come back as we were.”

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Associated Press journalist Paolo Santalucia in Rome contributed to this report.

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


Updated : 2021-06-14 21:04 GMT+08:00