Good morning everyone on Friday 26th March. With the weekend almost upon us, let's have a look at what's happening in Italy at the moment.
The pandemic is the obvious first port of call and yesterday in Italy there were 23,696 new cases of Covid-19, a drop of just over 1,200 from the previous Thursday. The fact that the numbers are in a slight decline is starting to be picked up by the media in general but we're still a very long way from where we need to be and those tragic deaths are mounting up each day. Last Friday there were in excess of 25,000 new cases so let's hope for a significant reduction on that when the new figures are published later.
It's just been announced that the latest R number (the reproduction rate of the virus) is down from 1.16 to 1.08. That's another little sign of encouragement but as we all know by now, anything above 1 means the virus is containing to grow. The Italian Government has stated its aim of providing half a million jabs per day but we're still some way short of that; yesterday there were a total of 233,563 doses given out and although this does represent something of an upturn, it's still less than half of the target number.
We seem to be experiencing some "pandemic fatigue" in Italy at the moment. Despite those unacceptably high figures of new cases and relatively small number of vaccinations being carried out, there are growing calls to end the current lockdown after Easter. Good Friday is just a week away and the whole country will be under the strictest, red zone restrictions from that day until Tuesday 6th April which is the day after "pasquetta", known as Easter Monday in other countries. One of Italy's most controversial politicians, the right wing Matteo Salvini is pushing for April to be the month of rebirth when the country can get back to work, while many of the nation's schoolchildren are staging protests today against their obligation for distance-learning.
Of course it would be lovely to just stop all the restrictions and get on with our lives but it's clearly not going to be as simple as that. We're still at a very delicate stage where vaccine supplies are insufficient and the below average temperatures are keeping the infection rate high. If the R rate is above 1 now even with all the restrictions in place, it will almost certainly rise further if restrictions are lifted.
Are there any signs of the weather coming to the rescue? Well there just might be, yes. Pretty much the whole country will be bathed in early spring sunshine for much of the weekend and the temperatures are thankfully on the rise. Rome and Palermo are both back up to 16° Celsius today and although that's barely enough to encourage the removal of a jacket, as we head into early next week I can see the number 22° C flashing up on the screen for Tuscany. Once we get into those sorts of temperatures, there's a good chance we'll see the Covid figures dropping more sharply. We only have last year to go on as evidence of that so whilst we still don't know for sure, let's keep an eye on any correlation between warm weather and low numbers of new cases.
At this point I'd like to mention a couple of very important birthdays that took place this week. First, and in order of age, is the city of Venice which completed its 1,600th year yesterday, March 25th. Quite how they (the mysterious "they" that we always refer to) know this was the exact date on which a city was established is unclear but let's not quibble. Venice was established therefore in the year 421 AD as the thousand or so years of the medieval period started. The medieval period gave way to the Renaissance and one of the icons of that era was the poet Dante. His most famous work was The Divine Comedy and as coincidence would have it, that same date of 25th March is the one that scholars ascribe to the start of the journey into the afterlife in Dante's masterpiece. So whilst Venice was celebrating its 1,600th birthday yesterday, the so-called Dantedì had its 700th anniversary.
Incidentally, if you look closely at the word Dantedì, you'll notice the letter i at the end has a reverse-accent instead of a dot above it. Whenever you see that letter, it means you must put the emphasis there. This is in fact the way that each of the five Italian weekdays are spelt. It's a little difficult to explain just in writing but if you can imagine the way you currently say "Friday", you naturally put the emphasis on the first syllable (the Fri bit). With the Italian equivalent, you need to put more emphasis on the dì part of venerdì for example.
Dante is most closely associated with the city of Florence which I recently featured on this blog while Venice also featured here quite recently. So I won't go into great details on either of those cities again for a while but instead, I'll use it as an opportunity to plug a new idea I have for the website. I have categorised everything in Italy under some kid of list such as "Cathedrals of Italy" or "Hill Towns of Italy" to give just two examples. I've always found it difficult to whittle these numbers down to just a small number but I'm planning of creating some smaller versions of these lists called "Top Tens" and perhaps incorporating them into a slightly different blog on Fridays. So whereas some of the lists I've created run into the 20s and 30's, I'll create a new section on the website with no more than ten of each.
So what do you think to the idea? I personally hate the links that often pop-up for these kinds of lists as I often find they're poorly researched but worse than that, the page is almost unreadable because of the amount of ads. I have a strict policy on each of my websites of just one ad at the bottom of each page so it's out of the way. So at least in that way, I think these top tens might be a little but better and more useful for people planning trips to Italy.
I'll leave you to ponder that idea with some ideas for the top ten cities in Italy. I'll be putting my own list together soon but if I asked you to vote for your favourite one or two, which would they be and why? I won't ask for answers on a postcard (it's amazing to think people really used to go and buy a postcard before sending their requests in to Blue Peter and the like!), just a simple comment on Facebook should do the trick.
Have a great weekend everyone and let's hope the world is in a slightly better state by the time of the next blog 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.