Good morning on Friday 19th February with the weekend almost upon us. Noises coming from the UK have been striking a noticeably more positive note over the past twenty four hours with the idea of vaccine passports being mooted again. Discussions are under way between the Greek and UK governments at the moment and should those talks prove successful, there's hope that other countries will follow suit.
Also in the UK, the vaccination program is going great guns with one newspaper report last night suggesting that over 40's could be vaccinated by the last week of March, just over a month from now. This is in addition to the early reports suggesting the vaccinations are proving effective in significantly cutting transmission rates, hospitalisations, serious illness and deaths. More data on that will come to light in the coming days with Prime Minister Boris Johnson expected to outline the way out of lockdown at an announcement on Monday 22nd February.
Italy is in a slightly different position at the moment; whereas in the UK the transmission rate (R) is below 1 and new cases have been dropping by around 20% week by week, in Italy the R rate is at least 1 and above that in some areas. Every Friday the Italian government reviews its colour-coded restriction zones and today should see a number of regions heading in the wrong direction. Abruzzo is one of the worst-affected and expected to become a red zone today while others such as Molise, Emilia Romagna and Campania are likely to change from yellow to orange, meaning restaurants and bars must close. One positive is the region of Valle d'Aosta which will enter into the white zone where no restrictions are necessary apart from the nationwide ban on inter-regional travel and night-time curfew.
You can find all the latest colour-coded zones and statistics on the home page including yesterday's 13,762 new Covid 19 cases which was an increase of 1,688 from the previous day. The overall number of people currently infected in Italy continues to drop however, now down to 384,501, down by just over four thousand from the day before.
Time and the warmer temperatures are the ticket out of all this so we all need to remain patient and as optimistic as possible over the next few months. Andrà tutto bene (everything will be fine), to bring back the motto from the beginning of the pandemic. Speaking of the weather, it's still not particularly warm anywhere and decidedly cold in the north (Turin 5° Celsius and Trento 7° Celsius), but the further south you go the temperatures are on the cusp of spring-like (Catania and Reggio Calabria both 16° Celsius). There should be a mixture of sunny and cloudy spells in the north with more sunshine in the south.
So how about some nice, sunny photos to take us into the weekend and leave the pandemic gloom behind us for a while? Well I just mentioned Reggio Calabria in the weather report and that's usually a pretty good source of sunshine. Reggio lies on the eastern shores of the Strait of Messina which divides the Italian mainland from Sicily to the east. You probably wouldn't rush to Reggio Calabria as a tourist although it can boast the incredible Riace Bronzes: two giant statues from the Magna Graecia period (roughly 5th century BC) that were fished out of the sea at nearby Riace (hence the name). The bronzes are on display at Reggio's National Museum of Magna Graecia in specially-sealed chambers which are surprisingly space-age.
Calabria has two coastlines: to the east is the Ionian Sea and to the west is the Tyrrhenian Sea which stretches all the way up to Tuscany. It is this Tyrrhenian Coast that provides most of Calabria's sparkle: just a short distance north of Reggio is the beautiful seaside town of Scilla (pronounced like the name: Sheila), with its crystalline water, banks of multi-coloured houses, hilltop fortress and charming fishing borgo called Chianalea. The two other brightest gems in Calabria's jewellery box are further north: the seaside towns of Tropea and Pizzo Calabro. Tropea has recently been entered into the list of Borghi Più Belli d'Italia (Italy's most beautiful villages) but it hardly needed the tourism boost as it's already hugely popular.
That word borgo crops up quite a lot in my blogs and I should explain what it means. A borgo is usually an historic little village, often on a hill top, but quite often just a little area of a larger town or even a fishing village as in the case of the aforementioned Chianalea. Calabria's interior is sprinkled with dozens of these fascinating borghi (plural), among which are some of my favourites such as Altomonte and Morano Calabro which are in the province of Cosenza. Back down at the southern tip of the region in the Metropolitan City of Reggio Calabria province and just a short distance from the city itself is the fascinating ghost town of Pentedattilo and nearby Palizzi where time seems to have stood still.
Calabria's other big feature in its hinterland comes in the form of three national parks. Whereas the region is mostly known for its countless seaside resorts, its interior is one of forests, hills and valleys. You can even ski in Calabria's Aspromonte National Park while the further north Sila National Park (1,928 metres) and Pollino National Park (2,267 metres) are regularly covered in a dusting of snow throughout the winter due in part to their elevation above sea level.
Well, that's me done for the day and for the week. I wish you all a great weekend and I'll be back with more on Monday. Hopefully we'll be a bit closer to the end of the pandemic by then!
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.