Good morning everyone on Friday 9th April, on a day when there's more news than you can shake a stick at! Hogging the headlines today are the likely news sources of the Coronavirus, Italian PM Mario Draghi and President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen. Vying for headline position alongside those usual suspects are the rather unusual suspects of some jellyfish and a humble sofa.
Let's have a look at the pandemic first and yesterday in Italy there were 17,221 new cases of Covid-19 reported. This again is a substantial decrease on the equivalent weekday from the previous week and brings further hope that things might be improving faster than we previously thought. Again it's a case of cautious optimism as we don't know how much of these lower numbers can be attributed to any potential lag from Easter although that now looks like a less likely reason.
The week on week difference is hugely encouraging, a 23% drop in new cases from the previous seven days, a difference of more than 33,000. The feelings of renewed optimism are strengthened by today's latest R number which is now officially 0.92, down from 0.98, which means the virus is gradually shrinking.
There's some big news from the UK this morning where Transport Secretary Grant Shapps gave some further details on the proposed traffic light scheme that could enable foreign travel as early as May 17th, but crucially said "this is the first time I'm able to come on and say I'm not against booking summer holidays". This is a hugely significant development for the travel sector and we all hope it will provide some stimulus to everyone upon whom the industry depends.
Of course there is still a long way to go and a lot that can happen; a lot needs to happen as well and at this stage we don't know which countries will be on the lovely green list. That won't be produced for another three weeks or so and if Italy's declining Covid-19 figures can continue their fall, we may just find ourselves back in business and looking forward to a wonderful summer. One of the key points of the plan surrounds the necessity for travellers to have to pay for their own Covid tests. Those costs look quite prohibitive at the moment but hopefully the continued debate will result in some reductions to make it affordable for everyone.
Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi and the aforementioned Ursula von der Leyen find themselves intertwined with the twin debutants on this blog: Turkish President Recep Erdogan and erm, a sofa. If you haven't seen the incident that sparked the controversy that threw these unlikely characters together, make sure you do so behind your palms as it's off the scale cringeworthy. The Turkish President unashamedly snubbing Von der Leyen by refusing her a chair and making her sit on a sofa, stage left. This has prompted Italian PM Draghi to label Erdogan a "dictator" and of course he's not happy about it.
Yes I did mention jellyfish at the top of the page and I'm sure you're asking yourself why. Well, I have this morning learned that the collective term for jellyfish is a "smack", which is almost as good as a murder of crows, and I learned this because a smack of jellyfish has somehow found its way into the harbour area of Trieste. Environmental groups have described this event as an "unusual gathering", a little like "sofagate" described above you might say.
At this juncture I must report the sad news that the UK's Prince Philip has died at the age of 99. The breaking news has just been announced by Buckingham Palace. The Duke of Edinburgh, husband to the queen since 1947, died peacefully this morning at Windsor Castle.
Back in Italy, the weather today continues its recent trend of plenty of sunshine tempered by lower than average temperatures. I feel like I've been reporting these same temperatures since the beginning of February with Cagliari the warmest at 16° Celsius and Turin joining Bergamo at the other end of the scale with a maximum of just 9° C.
I'm going to wrap up for the day and for the week by highlighting a new feature that I hope to be able to develop further in the coming weeks. I'm going to add into the Friday blog a little element called "Friday's Top Ten" (see what I did there?), I know, genius isn't it. This morning I put together my first Top Ten of Italy and the chosen subject was Top Ten Cities of Italy. I'm expecting/hoping it will ruffle a few feathers, so let me know what you think of my list and try not to swear please.
I'll leave you with a few photos of Italian cities but did they all make the list? If not, which ones did? And of those that did, which one came out on top? And in which order? The suspense is killing you I'm sure...
Have a great weekend!
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.