Good morning everyone on Wednesday 17th March. As you might have expected, most of the news in Italy over the last 24 hours has focused on the Coronavirus pandemic and specifically on Italy's decision to suspend use of the AstraZeneca vaccine.
Yesterday in Italy there were 20,396 new Covid-19 cases reported. The figure was unsurprisingly higher than the previous day but the more relevant comparison is to the equivalent day the previous week. By this measure, the news was less discouraging with an increase of fewer than a thousand cases. Those new case numbers do seem to be levelling-off now but of course they are still way too high.
We've all become so used to the reporting on these cases that we know what will happen next to some degree. For example, we know that a certain percentage of those new cases will result in hospital admissions a week or so later and that a smaller percentage of those will result in tragic deaths several weeks later. This is why the numbers need to start falling dramatically before any of us can properly focus on our lives once again.
The Italian government's suspension of the Oxford/AstraZeneca jab is an obvious political move as they seek to avoid any backlash from vaccinated people that subsequently report side-effects. What is quite astonishing however, is that they see such a threat in this tiny number of reported cases, when death is coming to the door in increasing numbers because of Covid. Another 502 poor souls sadly lost their lives yesterday to Covid-19 while the Italian government "awaits further assurances over the safety of the vaccine". They have had repeated assurances, extensive testing of the products before they were approved for public use and a raft of statistics showing the vaccine's dramatic benefits in other countries. Apart from anything else, the mental anguish they are causing to the millions of people that have already received the vaccine is damaging and all so unnecessary.
Another organisation working themselves into a political mess is the Church with the Vatican this week stating that it could not condone gay marriage. In the last 12 months we've seen huge displays of public outrage and this looks like another storm brewing. Elton John made his considerable presence felt on the debate yesterday and this story looks like it could gather momentum in the days and weeks to come.
On a lighter note, English soccer star Paul Gascoigne who once plied his trade in Italy with one of Rome's two major teams, Lazio, has jetted in to take part in one of the country's most popular reality shows. To say he jetted in isn't quite accurate as he arrived by helicopter to much fanfare to join in the shenanigans on the Isola dei Famosi TV show which works along similar lines to the UK's I'm a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here. Affectionately known as Gazza in the UK (which strangely translates as magpie in Italian - coincidentally apt as he started his career at Newcastle United - The Magpies), Gascoigne has never been too far from controversy or the British tabloids with his antics so this could be a very short and explosive appearance.
Perhaps inspired by some of the aforementioned institutions, the weather in Italy is firmly sticking to its dogma that as it's still officially winter for another three days, we must continue to see winter temperatures. The coldest part of the country today will be the Alpine city of Trento with a maximum of 6° Celsius while Genoa restores some faith with an acceptable 16° C. The saving grace is that most of the country will be bathed in sunshine.
I haven't mentioned Trento very often in these blogs but it's the capital city of the region I was planning to talk about today and its cold weather has given me a nice little way to segue into that. The rather long-winded name of the region is Trentino Alto-Adige South Tyrol. The region is dominated by the Southern Alps, and the Dolomites which are a part of those Alps; distinctive with their jagged peaks and recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Some of the region's and for that matter, the country's most breathtaking scenery can be found here with mountain passes such as Val Gardena and dozens of beautiful lakes.
The region is divided into two autonomous provinces which have changed names a few times in recent years causing some level of confusion. The city of Trento is the capital of the region and also capital of the Province of Trento which has also been known as Trentino Province. The other major city in the region is Bolzano which is the capital of the Province of Bolzano which has also been known as South Tyrol Province. I told you it was confusing! If you like confusion then there's really no end to it here as most towns in the region have both a German and an Italian name; more often than note the German name takes precedence which is owed in some part to the region's borders with Austria and Switzerland, but also to the fact that it was part of the Austrian/Austro-Hungarian Empire until 1919.
The Germanic culture is strongly felt in the region which can be surprising at first. There are parts of the region where you feel a bit like a fool if you only speak Italian and not German and others where the cuisine on offer consists of Apple Strudel and Pretzels for example. At the southern point of the region is the northern tip of Lake Garda where you'll find the beautiful lakeside town of Riva del Garda. I once stayed in a hotel there where all the staff were dressed in lederhosen and the waitress brought out huge tankards of frothing ale. It was a bit of a surprise at first but rather agreeable I must admit!
Trentino Alto Adige South Tyrol attracts visitors all year round; during the winter its famous ski resorts such as Madonna di Campiglio, Canazei and Ortisei ring to the sound of apres-ski, while those same resorts are summer hotspots with visitors coming to enjoy activity holidays where they can hike or cycle around the beautiful mountain slopes and breathe in that fresh alpine air. Some of the hottest summer temperatures can be found here in July and August when the region's lakes become hugely popular.
Aside from the lakes and mountains, the region can also offer a number of beautiful towns, rich in history such as Bressanone, Brunico, Rovereto and Merano, in addition of course to Trento with its Buonconsiglio Castle and Bolzano with its Cathedral, its famous winter market and arguably best of all, the South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology where you can meet Otzi the Ice Man. Ok, well you can't meet him in the traditional sense as he's been dead for the best part of 3,300 years but in his case, that's the main attraction.
That's all from me for today; there's much more to discover on the Trentino Alto Adige South Tyrol region throughout the pages of this site but I'll leave you with a few images as a little taster. I'll post the daily Covid-19 figures on the home page this evening when they come out and apart from that I'll be back with another blog 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.