Good morning on Tuesday 23rd February, a day positively bristling with news concerning Italy. The headline story from yesterday was the assassination of an Italian ambassador in the Democratic Republic of Congo, along with two passengers travelling in the same car. Reports suggest it was a bungled attempt at a kidnap with tragic consequences.
Closer to home, in Italy itself, there was a curious, morbid and very sad incident just outside the seaside town of Camogli in Liguria. In Italy there are many cemeteries placed in scenic positions on hillsides, often overlooking the sea. In one such cemetery yesterday, the cliff crumbled and fell to the sea, taking hundreds of coffins with it. Horrified relatives had to stand and watch as their loved ones drifted out to sea before the local authorities tried their best to haul some of them back to land for a reburial.
Italy's Coronavirus pandemic has improved a little bit over the past few days with the numbers of new cases dropping. Yesterday in Italy there were 9,630 new Covid 19 cases, a reduction of 3,822 from the day before when there were 13,452. These daily figures don't necessarily reflect what's going on out there and the weekly totals for the past two months have shown something of a plateau. Let's be optimistic though and hope this is the start of a significant downward trend.
News from the UK in the past 24 hours has been very positive with Prime Minister Boris Johnson laying out his roadmap towards an end to the pandemic. His plans, cautious as they are, have led to a surge in holiday bookings reported by travel companies such as Tui, Thomas Cook and Easyjet. Travel to Italy is still banned but it's good to see things opening up a little bit around the world and hopefully Italy will soon be one of the countries open for business.
It's really starting to feel like spring out there and that's another big positive. Venice will be the coldest part of Italy today with a maximum temperature of 8° Celsius but contrast that with the southern cities of Naples (15°C) and Palermo (16°C). The highest temperatures in the country should come from Sardinia today, with the capital, Cagliari expected to reach 17°C.
Thus far on my blog I've paid little attention to Sardinia so let's correct that now. Last week the Governor of Sardinia declared that visitors to the island this year would only be permitted if they can demonstrate that they're both negative against the virus and that they've had a vaccine. That's quite a big statement and it doesn't appear to be official policy, but in my opinion it's the right way to go. It will provide a level of reassurance and confidence to tourists while they're visiting the island and help them relax into their holidays. That last word "holiday", almost seems to have become a forgotten concept with so many people not having had one for so long but hopefully the next one is not too far away now.
So what can visitors to Sardinia expect? For sure, the big attraction of Italy's second largest island (it's slightly smaller than Sicily), is its array of beautiful beaches. Whether you're in the north, south, east or west of the island, you're never far away from the sea and it's almost always of that stunning azure colour that's so inviting. The most famous seaside town is Alghero which is in the north-western corner of Sardinia. It offers historic monuments, a mixture of cultures due to its Catalan heritage and of course, some great beaches.
Alghero has its own airport just outside the city, as well as a whole host of great places to visit close by which makes it an ideal base for exploring the local area. South of Alghero is the uber-colourful town of Bosa which has to be seen to be believed, while head in the other direction, north and you soon reach one of Sardinia's best beaches called La Pelosa. This really is one of the prettiest areas of Sardinia as from La Pelosa you can see across to the island of Asinara which is a nature reserve and officially one of Italy's national parks.
Asinara offers breathtaking scenery with its beaches but it's quite a curious place where the donkey population greatly outnumbers that of the one human, and there's also an abandoned prison; some of the places they've placed prisons in Italy does make you wonder whether it's actually not such a bad thing to get caught! You can take a ferry across to Asinara from either Stintino or Porto Torres which is just further along the coast. Once there you can choose to just walk around the island but I can personally recommend hiring a buggy which is great fun.
Just along the coast from Porto Torres is another colourful seaside town: Castelsardo, around an hour's drive from Alghero, while the island's interior is also fascinating; the landscape is peppered with old stone buildings called nuraghe which date back some 3,500 years. One of those lies a short distance to the east of Alghero, called Nuraghe Santu Antine. The biggest and most famous nuraghe site is a long way south of Alghero: it's called Su Nuraxi di Barumini and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Well that's my little round-up for the day; I feel there's more positivity in the air and some images of Sardinia only serve to enhance that feeling.
Back with more tomorrow.
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.