Good morning on Thursday 25th February. Spring edges ever closer but Italy remains in the thrall of the Coronavirus pandemic with numbers on the rise again. Yesterday the country reported 16,424 new Covid 19 cases, a big jump from the day before which had had already been a sharp increase on the preceding day.
Most of the country remains in a partial lockdown with travel between regions forbidden and an evening curfew in place from 10pm to 5am. Sadly, it would appear that the current measures aren't sufficient to see those case numbers heading in the right direction which must be the cause of some head-scratching at government level. One can only assume that the new mutations are more resistant to the hitherto social-distancing measures imposed and that extra resistance is tipping the balance in the virus' favour right now.
We continue to look to the weather as a way out of the pandemic and we're still a little way off that particular cavalry coming to the rescue. Having said that, the weather is pretty good today and feeling spring-like again. Unusually, Rome is expecting the lowest maximum temperature today with 10° Celsius the forecast while eye-catching temperatures come from the northern cities of Bergamo (16° C) and Venice which is topping the charts at 18° C.
Some positive news has been emerging from Sicily over the last few days, with two separate stories surrounding the remote Pelagie Islands. The island group lies closer to Africa (specifically Tunisia) than the Italian mainland, and the three islands are among the most remote in Italy. Lampedusa has regularly been in the world news in recent years as African refugees saw it as a viable way into Europe. The way the media have reported on those stories has created a very negative world view towards Lampedusa, one that made even myself think twice about visiting the island. However, once you get there you find something quite different from what you may have been expecting.
Lampedusa is famous for its standout beach: the Spiaggia dei Conigli (Rabbit Beach), which has once again been voted by Tripadvisor as the number one beach in Europe. I've also listed it as my number one beach in Italy, just ahead of La Pelosa in Sardinia which I briefly touched on earlier this week. Two more of Lampedusa's beaches feature in my list: Cala Guitgia and Cala Croce, but quite honestly I could have included half a dozen. It's a very small island where you can easily walk from one end to the other (if you can stand the heat), and completely flat. Nearly all of the beaches share a common theme of bright, azure water and shallow bays to bathe in. The island has its own airport and as such, remains one of Italy's tourist hot-spots even in late-season (October/November) when most other resorts in the country have packed up for the winter hibernation.
The second story of the week from the Pelagie Islands comes from one of my personal favourite places: the island of Linosa. Roughly a quarter of the size of Lampedusa at just 5.4 km², Linosa is a completely different island to its larger neighbour. I say "neighbour", even thought the two islands are some distance apart, separated by fifty kilometres of Mediterranean Sea, with a much smaller population of just over 400 inhabitants.
As things stand, those 400 or so residents of Linosa are Covid-free; one of the few places in the world that's able to make that statement. The islanders are very proud of this and as such, determined that things remain that way until the pandemic is over on the mainland. Once travel to the island is possible again, its visitors will be charmed by its multi-coloured houses and by its volcanic surface of red and black hues. Linosa doesn't have an airport and can only be reached by sea, either from the Sicilian mainland town of Porto Empedocle, or more easily from Lampedusa.
I'll leave you with a few glimpses of the Pelagie Islands and I'll be back with more tomorrow. Let's hope those case numbers have started to head in the opposite direction 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.