Good morning everyone on Thursday 18th February. The news in Italy continues to be dominated by the appointment of the new Prime Minister Mario Draghi and his plans for saving the country. Among his directives is a strategy for speeding up the vaccination rollout so let's hope he has some success with that.
The Coronavirus figures continue to be worrisome: yesterday there were 12,074 new cases of Covid 19, an increase of 1,688 from the previous day. The overall figure of people currently infected however, continues to drop and has now reached 388,864, down by almost five thousand from the day before.
Buzzword of choice in Italy at the moment is variante, relating to the English, South African and Brazilian mutations of the virus although there now appear to be others such as the Varese variant. I think we just have to accept that the virus will mutate, as viruses do, and that we need to continue to be vigilant while the vaccination programme continues. It's going to be a difficult few months for sure but hopefully better times are not too far away now.
On the weather front, it's still quite cold in Italy at the moment, especially so in Turin (6° Celsius), Trento and Ferrara (both 7° C), while the warmest temperatures can be found in the south with Catania (14° C), Bari (13° C) and the capital of Sardinia, Cagliari at 13° C. Bucking the north-south weather trend a little bit is the northern city of Genoa where it's also 13° C today. Overhead conditions will see a mixture of sunshine and cloudy spells.
Genoa is the capital of one of my favourite Italian regions: Liguria. The official name of the region gets relatively little attention outside of Italy but some know it better as the Italian Riviera. In fact, it's split into two rivieras: the Riviera di Levante and the Riviera di Ponente. Those names are actually quite interesting as they relate to the winds; whereas in English we might refer to a "stiff south-westerly breeze" for example, in Italy there are more clearly defined names for each wind direction.
There are eight different winds which relate to the compass points: you may have heard of the Scirocco which comes from the south-east and often brings sand from the Sahara desert with it. The Libeccio comes from the south-west, the Maestrale is the north-west, Grecale (from Greece) is the north-east, Ostro the south and Tramontana the north, the one that brings the coldest weather from the Alps. The two names that relate to the rivieras in Liguria are the Levante from the east and the Ponente from the west.
Liguria is a largely coastal region in north-west Italy; to its west, the town of Ventimiglia lies close to the border with France, while to its south-east is Tuscany. It shares a long border with Piedmont to its north and a shorter one with Emilia Romagna to its north east. The majority of towns can be found along its coastline on the Ligurian Sea, but there are also some fascinating hill towns in the hinterland which gradually rises away from the coast.
Genoa sits roughly in the middle of Liguria's coastline and the two rivieras are divided either side of it with the Riviera di Ponente stretching west towards France and the Riviera di Levante heading east in the direction of Tuscany. Without question, it's the Riviera di Levante which can lay claim to the more lustrous towns where it's able to name-drop the Cinque Terre, Portofino, Portovenere, Camogli and Sestri Levante, among others. The most famous town of the Riviera di Ponente is Sanremo; one of the first places in Italy where modern tourism took hold, along with some lesser-known lights such as Laigueglia (pronounced a bit like "lie gwellia"), and Alassio.
Apart from the rocky coastline and gorgeous beaches, a major feature of Liguria is the architecture which is quite distinct from other Italian regions. The prevailing feature is multi-coloured clusters of buildings, painted in a certain decorative way. Hundreds of years ago, Liguria was a constant victim of raids by Saracen pirates and those same pirates used to climb the walls to break into the houses. As a riposte to this, the Genoese started to construct buildings with flat, smooth surfaces that couldn't be scaled, but they are painted in a way that suggests the bricks and balcony windows protrude slightly.
The overall effect of colour and coastline is quite intoxicating and I will of course leave you with just a little flavour of Liguria's coastline and be back with more tomorrow.
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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.