Tuesday, 6 April 2021

When will Italy be open to visitors again?

I'm guessing that many of my readers are looking forward to coming to Italy again soon and are naturally pondering the question: "When will Italy be open to visitors again?" Before I give my opinion on that, let's divert ourselves with a brief look at a similar interruption that took place just as mass tourism was just beginning.

In England at the beginning of the 19 C, one of the more frustrating aspects of the Napoleonic Wars (1803 - 1815) was the ban on foreign travel. The English were the continent's greatest travellers. Among the wealthy, the Grand Tour of the 18 C was still a living tradition. Both the classical curriculum at school and the training of manners at home confidently looked to the Grand Tour to complete their work, while the artist fretted to be back in the mellow light of the Campagna and the budding author to add his impressions to an already over-stocked market for Italian travel memoirs. For the ordinary tourist - the "Thomas Cook traveller" avant la lettre - the Peace of Amiens was the first chance to go abroad since the beginning of the war. When war broke out again 14 months later, most tourists on the Continent rushed for home. Only American citizens could travel freely. There was a brief sense of relief in 1814 when Napoleon was sent into exile on Elba, only to escape in February 1815 and rule France again for the 100 Days. His defeat by the British at Waterloo in June 1815 followed by exile to St Helena ended the wars definitively and the tourist trade jumped back into its full stride.

Visitors to Italy - the Uffizi in the 19th century

"Back into its full stride" - that's what we're all hoping for. But when? My best guess is that vaccination against the covid-19 virus will be sufficiently comprehensive in Italy and in the English-speaking countries by mid to late August this year, 2021, that travel to Italy will become possible and increase rapidly. I'm assuming, perhaps optimistically, that new virus mutants will not be resistant to current vaccines.

This might be helped by the introduction of what has been called a "covid passport" confirming that the traveller has been inoculated This kind of thing has been around since WW II in the form of a document confirming inoculation for diseases such as Yellow Fever, compulsory for the issue of a visa to travel to countries where that disease is prevalent. Visa-free travel calls for a slightly different administrative procedure, presumably involving airlines and/or immigration officers, but the principle is the same.

So that's my best guess right now. I will update that as events unfold, but my feeling is that you can book your accommodation for July onwards and flights as soon as the airlines start to offer normal schedules. As in 1815, there's huge pent up demand. I look forward to a good tourism season during the second half of 2021.

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Thursday, 1 April 2021

Tuscany celebrates the 700th anniversary of Dante's death

The year 2021 is the 700th anniversary of Dante's death. Throughout the year there will be events and celebrations of the great poet. If I were asked whose life marks the boundary in literature between the Mediaeval world and the Modern world, I would be hard put to choose between Shakespeare and Dante, even though Shakespeare died 300 years after Dante.

In any case, I will be posting here items about Dante that appeal to me, starting today with the report of the discovery of two triplets from the Divine Comedy that are not present in the current canonical text

In the holdings of the National Library in Florence, an incunabulum, printed in Venice on 1 April 1493, has been found containing one of the very first printed editions of the Divine Comedy, which, in addition to showing interesting variations to the currently known text, presents two triplets totally unknown until today. The verses refer to Canto VI of Purgatory, in which Dante has a vision of the future - or so the Comune of Florence would have us believe, according to their Instagram page (where else?).

Quando si parte il gioco della Viola,
Colui che perde si riman dolente
E il tristo colpo gli rimane in gola:
Ben lo imparò la bianconera gente,
La qual, credendo andare innanzi,
ratto lo gol in sua rete si trova.

HOWEVER, please note that this announcement was made on 1 April!

Here's my rough translation:

When the game of the Viola begins,
He who loses remains sore
And the sad blow stays stuck in his throat:
The Black and White people learned it well,
Those who, thinking to advance,
Find a rat has placed a goal in their net.

Here's what lies behind this joke:

The ancient aversion of Fiorentina (Viola - Florence) to Juventus (Black and White - Turin) dates back to 1928, the first competitive fixture between the two clubs. On 7 October of that year, in fact, in Turin, the Bianconeri defeated the Viola team, winning 11-0. The next day a Turin newspaper headlined: "Firenze, un…dici nulla?" "Florence, uh ... are you not saying anything?", a pun on 11 (undici) to 0 (nulla), the final score in favour of Turin - an affront never forgotten by the Viola fans.

Oh - and here's the manuscript - strange that in Venice in 1493 they embossed ACF and the Fleur de Lis of Florence on the cover!

See you here in Tuscany soon!

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