Good morning everyone on Friday 12th March. Don't look now, but I think I've just seen the weekend approaching.
Unsurprisingly, the news over the past week has been dominated by the Coronavirus pandemic which has taken a tighter grip on Italy. Figures continue to rise with another 25,673 new cases being reported yesterday; an increase of more than 3,000 on the day before and roughly the same increase compared to the equivalent day last week. The current 'R' number (reproduction rate) in Italy is 1.16 and as we all know so well by now, if it's anything above 1, the numbers will keep going up.
So what's the solution? Well, a raft of new measures to combat the virus are about to be approved with the headline-grabber concerning Easter. From 3rd to 5th April the whole country will become a "zona rossa", a red zone where restrictions are tightest. The one exception to this is the island of Sardinia which has managed to keep its new infections and R number relatively under control. In addition to those Easter restrictions, as of Monday we should see all of the regions that are currently an orange zone (slightly less stringent restrictions) turn to red, all of the yellow turn to orange and even some of the yellow zones change from the third tier of restrictions directly to red.
The Astra Zeneca vaccine made headlines across Europe yesterday when Denmark, followed by other countries) stopped using the jab in response to a small number of people suffering serious illness shortly after their inoculation. One has to wonder at the wisdom of such a measure when there was no evidence linking the vaccination to the illnesses, knowing the reaction it would create and the oxygen it would breathe into the cause of vaccine-sceptics.
News followed in Italy of two men that sadly died shortly after receiving the vaccine, but again, without anything to suggest it was the vaccine itself that caused the problem. There have been around 30 cases of serious illness for people that have recently been vaccinated, out of a total of 5 million vaccinations in the EU. Still, none of those 30 have directly been attributed to the vaccine itself.
There have been some more positive pieces of news emerging over the past 24 hours: the government of France has announced that it will allow British tourists to enter the country soon. This is in part, due to the successful vaccination rollout in the UK, allied to the fact that "the English Variant" is already widely in circulation and western Europe's prevalent virus mutation. It follows that if the French are thinking this way, then governments of the neighbouring countries are likely to follow suit eventually.
My summary of the current situation in Italy is that yes, it's really bad and action needs to be taken immediately. That action will be taken, and the beginning of April should see the numbers of new cases already in decline before a much sharper drop when the extra vaccine supplies arrive, again at the beginning of April and the warmer weather which we know has a huge impact on the contagion levels. The burning question on everyone's lips is "will it be possible to have a holiday in Italy this year?", and I'm very confident that it will. It might not be possible until the middle of May or early June, but I do honestly think we can look forward to a significant chunk of summer being available to us.
Ok, enough pandemic for one morning, let's have a look at that weather. Well it should be sunny in most of the country today although with some cloudy spells particularly in the central areas of the country. The coldest city today will be Venice with a maximum of 10° Celsius while Catania and Cagliari lead the way with 18° C.
To finish off today, let's head south and bask in the warm waters of Sicily. I recently spoke about the Sicilian island group known as the Pelagie Islands (mainly Lampedusa and Linosa), and today I'm going to take a look at another island group that lies on the opposite side of Sicily. Situated a short distance from the north-east coast of Sicily are the Aeolian Islands. There are seven inhabited islands in the archipelago with Lipari the most populous with around 13,000 inhabitants, and Alicudi the least-populated with around 120 souls on a good day.
The Aeolian Islands are a UNESCO World Heritage Site, earning their inscription with their contribution to the science of vulcanology. In a country where Mount Vesuvius destroyed nearby Pompeii and Mount Etna continues to roar until this very day, it's not unusual to encounter volcanoes and here we have several in close proximity. The island of Stromboli is almost permanently to be found with a cloud of smoke above it and it pulls in a lot of visitors that come to witness its displays of lava flow which are particularly spectacular at night. Further volcanic activity can be witnessed on the island of Vulcano where you can climb up to the crater (if you really want to!), or you can enjoy the slightly more sedate black sand beaches and hot springs at ground level.
Each of the islands offers something slightly different from the others: Panarea for example is known for its glamour and party-life, pretty Salina for its lush foliage and Lipari for being the cultural hub of the archipelago. The remote island of Filicudi with its population of 200 permanent residents lies between Linosa and the most remote of all the islands: Alicudi.
The islands can be reached from a number of ports around the country, but most notably from Milazzo on the Sicilian mainland where it takes 40 minutes to reach the nearest island: Vulcano. Ferries are also available from Messina and Palermo or from much further north in Naples. The proximity of the islands to the region of Calabria means it's also possible to join a private excursion from that region's main seaside resorts including Tropea.
Well that's my little contribution for the day; thank you all for following the blog this week through these turbulent times. I know it all feels quite bleak at the moment but it won't be long before we're all sitting by the beach in Italy, enjoying some wonderful food and relaxing in the sunshine, wondering what all that pandemic fuss was about.
Have a great weekend and we'll see what's happening in Italy again 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.