Good afternoon on Friday 12th February as the weekend starts to show its head above the parapet. The Italian prime ministerial confirmation process seems to be coming to a conclusion, thankfully, with Mario Draghi expected to be confirmed in the role over the next few days.
Two famous Italians are in the news today: sadly, author Massimo Manfredi is seriously ill in hospital after suffering carbon monoxide poisoning in his flat in Rome. We can only hope for better news of the writer/historian in the coming days. On a slightly more positive note, super-architect Renzo Piano is the first of the over 80's in Liguria to receive the coronavirus vaccine.
Speaking of the pandemic: yesterday's figures make for uncomfortable reading with another increase in the number of new Covid 19 cases. Yesterday there were 15,146 new positive tests, an increase of 2,192 on yesterday's 12,956. If I'm going to clutch at a straw of optimism, the actual rate of the increase has slowed which may suggest nothing more than a temporary spike. Let's hope so anyway.
The weather is a big source of news today with a malicious Siberian storm heading Italy's way over the St. Valentine's Day weekend. The north will bear the brunt of the icy and windy conditions, while layers of snow are predicted to reach as far as Puglia, Naples and Salerno in the south. Of the major cities, Turin is expected to be the coldest today, down to a maximum of -1° Celsius while the two Sicilian cities of Palermo and Catania are expected to rise to around 17° Celsius with plenty of sunshine.
On a personal note, I've been watching the Medici: Masters of Florence TV series on Netflix over the past week. Aside from its entertainment value, it's a great snapshot of Italian life in one of the country's most important historical eras: the Renaissance. Italy has only been Italy since 1871 when a process known as the Risorgimento finished, uniting the various regions of the country as one nation.
At the time of the Renaissance, the Italian peninsula was split into numerous republics, duchies and kingdoms; when they weren't warring with each other they were forming or breaking political alliances, leaving lots of room for political skulduggery and cunning. One of the chief protagonists of the era was Niccolò Machiavelli, a statesman representing the interests of Florence who went on to write The Prince; a book which has been instructing politicians on how to be success for around 500 years by now.
Another central figure during this time was always the pope, head of the Papal States, one of the largest territories in Italy which included Rome and stretched up to the modern-day Emilia Romagna region. The stories of this time are explained well in another TV series: The Borgias which has also aired on Netflix recently, where Jeremy Irons played the lead role of Pope Alexander VI.
For anyone interested in Italian history I'd highly recommend the two shows mentioned above. For today's images I'll leave you with some of the filming locations for both the Medici and Borgias TV series. They include the beautiful Villa Lante garden and Villa Farnese in Lazio, as well as some of Tuscany's finest locations including Montepulciano, Pistoia, Volterra and the incomparable Val d'Orcia.
Have a great weekend and I'll be back with my next update on Monday.
My name is Dion Protani, founder of Italy Review. The Italy Review blog is designed to provide ideas and inspiration to visit places in Italy you might not have heard about, as well those you have.