- Lifestyle

Photo series shows how Italian travelling circus stuck during lockdown is coping

The Rony Roller travelling circus hasn’t been travelling anywhere lately amid the coronavirus outbreak, which has resulted in nationwide lockdowns in many countries around the world.

The performers, ranging from clowns to acrobats, are stuck parked in an empty field on the borders of Rome with dozens of animals — including donkeys, lions and tigers.

Their last performance was on March 7 and even now, with the pandemic persisting, circus members don’t know when they’ll next be able to perform.

Circus director Rony Vassallo, 46, says: ‘It is strange for me to be with the lions in this silence, this darkness. I miss my audience. I miss them. I miss the big top, the applause.’

Meanwhile 23-year-old clown Maverik Niemen, who’s with the Romina Orfei circus which is currently parked in a field outside Naples, says: ‘The entertainment sector will be the last to reopen.

I have heard rumors about December. ‘Our only hope is that they find a vaccine.’

Even though the circus isn’t holding shows, the circus’s 100 animals, including three elephants, a hippo, zebras, llamas, horses, giraffes and camels, still need feeding.

Local farmers have donated fruit, vegetables and hay to the circus, distributed daily by Italy’s Civil Protection Agency. Elephant and giraffe trainer Davio Casartelli, 64, says: ‘We are not used to asking for help.

‘I am looking forward to being able to give something back.’

The Italian Circus Association recently requested €10 million ($8.8 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 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 of those who work in the circus were born into the business and know nothing else.

All they can do now is practice their craft and wait for the lockdown and social distancing measures to be relaxed so their world can start turning again.

‘I miss the audience, the preparation, the emotion of the show,’ Otilia Maria Martinez Dos Santos, a 44-year-old acrobat with the Rony Roller circus 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.’