13th September 2020
Life in a Coronavirus Pandemic: A Welcome Return to Italy
It is a joy to return to Madonna di Campiglio for a second time this summer. I will be challenging myself to find a different walk or activity each precious day I am here.
Safeguards against COVID-19 are still in place throughout Italy as they state of emergency was extended from 31 July to 31 October. During the week there is an alarming rise in COVID-19 cases in the UK. But Italy is also showing a steady increase in the number of cases with warnings of a worldwide return of the pandemic.
Monday 31 August 2020
I am so happy when my alarm goes off at 4 am this morning as it means I will soon be on my way to Madonna di Campiglio in Italy. My taxi arrives on time and I have completed the formalities (temperature check and Health Declaration Form) by 5 am. Although I have done an internet check-in my boarding pass has to be verified before I can go through to Security. There is still plenty of time for a leisurely breakfast in the British Airways lounge before my flight at 8 am. Yes, once again I am treating myself to Club Class but I know I will enjoy the journey more being at a safe distance from other passengers. I will also be boarding last and disembarking first. I have a very unhealthy breakfast in the lounge and save my packed breakfast on the flight for my long journey up the mountain and back to the lovely Hotel Lorenzetti.
All the elements of my four-hour journey from Verona fit neatly into place. The airport shuttle to Verona Porta Nuova station arrives at the stop five minutes after I do. I just have time at the railways station to buy a ticket and find my platform for the next train to Trento. I have to follow along one-way system from the ticket machines to the platform. When arrive I am at the far end and can barely see the train way down the other end. It is not easy running with two items of luggage but I manage and board the train just before it pulls out. We arrive at Trento ten minutes before the bus leaves for Madonna di Campiglio. As I have a Trentino Guest Card (free travel on regional transport) I don’t have to buy a ticket. Using the card is a bit complicated as it comes in the form of an app. One thing COVID has taught me is that I can no longer avoid using apps. I take a photo of the bar code displayed on the bus and then use the photo to validate my journey. That done I settle down to enjoy a two-hour scenic journey up the mountain. The bus is not very full and all the passengers are wearing face masks – those who don’t will not be allowed to board/told to get off.
This evening for dinner I am promoted to the main restaurant in the Hotel Lorenzetti. Just two more weeks of the summer season remain and the hotel is not full. I am pleased to be at the far end with a good view of all the other guests and the majestic Brenta Mountains above us. The COVID state of emergency in Italy was extended from 31 July to 31 October so face masks and social distancing are still obligatory in the hotel. I am looking forward to another splendid meal and I am not disappointed. I choose a smoke tuna starter, steak for my main course and a Lorenzetti special, strawberry mille foglie. It is so good to be back.
Tuesday 01 September 2020
I wake at 6 am when my alarm goes off. It is still dark and I have slept well. I am in my favourite room, a small double at the side of the hotel where I can hear the soothing swoosh of the little river below my window. It is a glorious morning. The sun is shining, the sky is blue and it is a pleasant temperature for walking. So, after breakfast, I cross the road outside the hotel and set off along the giro. There is a pedestrian crossing marked on the road but none of the cars stop – it appears to be for decoration only. Rivulets of rainwater run down the path following heavy rainfall two days earlier. Mountain ash trees heavy with red berries line my way. I follow the giro as far as the Miramonti ski slope then walk down into the town. I need to buy a new adapter for my English plugs. The European adaptors sold in the UK don’t quite fit the Italian sockets. The subject of much disgruntlement when I have had groups in Italian hotels and the reason why my stock of adaptors has been reduced to one. I find a multi-country adaptor at a very reasonable price and walk back to the hotel. The rest of the day passes very pleasantly. Although I am slightly disconcerted that evening when a guest at the table next to me unzips his trousers and stuffs a paper serviette down one trouser leg. I later discovered he had fallen and grazed his knee but no idea why a plaster would not have been equally as effective.
Today in the UK changes to the furlough scheme came into force and companies will now have to start contributing to staff wages. This has resulted in a call for an extension of the existing scheme as in France and Germany to prevent a large increase in job losses. But a top economist countered this by saying a spike in unemployment was inevitable whenever the scheme ended. British holidaymakers in Portugal, fearing the removal of the country from the quarantine-free list, have started a mad scramble to get home before 4 am on Saturday morning. Portugal was only added to the quarantine list on August 22 but a sudden spike in COVID-19 cases prompted fears it would be back on the list. Thousands of people went to Portugal and now the demand for return flights has pushed fares up significantly. Students return to schools in England and Wales today. According to government guidelines, pupils will be grouped into bubbles to reduce the transmission of the virus. In primary schools, an entire class will form a bubble, and in secondary schools, entire year groups will form bubbles. Social distancing rules will not be applied at all times, but older children will be encouraged to keep their distance from their peers where they can. Schools in Scotland began to reopen on August 11, while all pupils in Northern Ireland were due to return from August 31. There has been a call for “rapid testing” to be introduced in schools, using a similar model to that used in Germany.
Wednesday 02 September 2020
This morning I have arranged to walk down the old road to the next village, San Antonio di Mavignolo, with my Italian friend’s nine-year-old son, Emanuele. When I collect him at 9 am it has just started to rain. We look very English walking down the road umbrellas aloft. We confuse passers-by by chatting together in English as we approach them and then greeting them in Italian. It is very pleasant walking and Emanuele is especially happy as it is downhill all the way. Our conversation ranges from the size of an elephant to mushrooms versus toadstools and double knotting shoelaces. We visit the two churches in San Antonio di Mavignolo. Both named Chiesa Sant’Antonio the older of the two is the fifteenth century Chiesa Sant’Antonio Abate vecchia. The beautiful sixteenth century frescoes on its façade is attributed to Simone Baschenis. We get the local bus back to Madonna di Campiglio. We have both remembered our face masks with this short journey in mind. I take my young companion home and return to the hotel for a lovely lunch and a leisurely afternoon.
Thursday 03 September 2020
At breakfast this morning I watch a young couple make several visits to the COVID buffet taking one roll each per visit and stuffing them in a rucksack brought to the restaurant for then purpose. They have not appreciated that the supply of fresh rolls is limited to the delivery that morning. They miss the dismay on the faces of later arrivals when they see the seriously depleted buffet as they are long gone by then. I assume they have gone out early to do some serious walking. But, I meet them again two hours later when I use the hotel shuttle bus to get to the start of the walk I am doing today, the path to Lago Nambino. They don’t seem to know where they are going and rely on the shuttle bus driver to plan their day. I have forgotten that the path to Lago Nambino runs alongside a waterfall. It is very full due to recent heavy rainfall. I stop to take some photos which involves some precarious rock climbing.
When I get to Lago Nambino there has clearly been some severe flooding. The bridge on the main footpath has been swept away and a new one has been constructed further downstream. This is balanced on a tree trunk that has been lain across the water. What was once a gentle trickle is now a fast flowing, wide river. The white, gravel beach has been furrowed by overflowing water and requires careful planning to get across the channels flowing through it to the lakeside. I walk around the lake enjoying the wonderful view of the lake against a backcloth of the Brenta Dolomite mountains.
I decide to follow a different path back to Piana di Nambino where I started my walk. I intend to walk all the way back to the hotel on the far side of Madonna di Campiglio. This path is fine at first but then I encounter floods and I have to splash through them or make a detour through the woods on either side of me. On one of these detours, I get stuck in some sinking sand and have to re-trace my steps and find a safer, longer diversion. It is too late to walk all the way back to the hotel but when I finally get back to Piana di Nambino I am on the wrong side of the river. I have to walk a bit further to find a bridge that crosses the river to get to the car park where the shuttle bus can pick me up. I am ready for my late lunch by the time I get back to the hotel. Antonio, the maitre d’, suggests thee tagliatelle with salmon and courgettes followed by tagliata (sliced fillet steak). Both are delicious and an excellent prelude to a lazy afternoon – chatting to Giovanni, my friends’ oldest son – about his desire to study fashion at a University in London.
Friday 04 September 2020
As it is another glorious morning I decide to go out and practice with my Olympus mirrorless camera. This is a relatively new acquisition but I have not had time to appreciate how it works which is different from a digital SLR my previous camera. When I expressed my disappointment to Olympus I was put in touch with David who runs free workshops and individual online tuition. We were able to arrange a tutorial just before I left for Italy. So, filled with enthusiasm I set off along the path to Panorama which overlooks the Brenta Dolomite mountains. I decided I needed a theme and chose the Mountain Ash. This is a common tree in this area and this autumn they are covered in succulent red berries. I take close-ups and landscapes and I am pleased to see some improvement in my technique.
This afternoon I meet up with Emanuele. He has acquired a FitBit and a desire to walk ten thousand steps. I agree to go for a walk with him and we set of down the road behind his home before turning onto the giro di Campiglio. This takes us down into a valley where we cross a river before walking up the other side of the valley. Part of the path goes under some overhanging rocks. I like to get this bit over with quickly just in case they decide to come crashing down one day. Emanuele lingers under the rocks running up and down the steps taking photos on his iPhone. I carry on to the bridge over the river and wait for him there. I don’t voice my fears as I know he will tease me every time we walk that path.
As we walk up the path on the far side of the river Emanuele stops yet again at a bench to check the time and the number of steps he has completed. This is a regular occurrence and I query his need to stop so often. Emanuele is charmingly candid. His aim is to keep me out until 7 pm when I usually go back to the hotel for dinner. If he achieves his objective, he will avoid having to ‘study’ any English. I just laugh at his cunning. I would much prefer to be walking and talking than sitting inside reading storybooks. We decide to continue walking and make our way back to the hotel on foot rather than calling someone to come and collect us. As we walk into the flat Emanuele’s FitBit buzzes as it records ten thousand steps and the clock strikes seven. Mission achieve. We wish each other a good evening and I walk back to the hotel for an excellent dinner of salad, goulash, and mashed potato finishing with fresh pineapple accompanied by a delicate elderflower sorbet.
Today in the UK confusion continues to govern quarantine rules as new laws come into force but vary in different countries. In Wales arrivals Portugal, French Polynesia, and six Greek islands - Crete, Mykonos, Zakynthos (or Zante), Lesvos, Paros, and Antiparos - must self-isolate for 14 days. Portugal and French Polynesia have also been put on Scotland's quarantine list. Greece was added last Thursday. But arrivals to England and Northern Ireland from these three countries are still exempt from quarantine. Leaders in the aviation industry are calling for testing at airports. Meanwhile, more than four years since the UK voted to leave the European Union, guidelines have finally been issued regarding new travel restrictions that will become effective in 2021.
Saturday 05 September 2020
I am up at 6 am and standing by the window watching to see if the 6 am bus to Trento is running. The bus timetable has altered for the first time in the twenty years I have been coming here and the introduction of this early bus means I can get to the airport next Saturday in time for my flight without having to resort to taxis. However, I don’t entirely trust the timetable. But I am reassured by the sight of the bus going past the hotel. It is travelling at speed. I have learnt from experience that the bus drivers time their journeys according to the designated time of departure from the start of the line and their arrival at the final destination. What happens in between is not always strictly in accordance with the timetable. I need to catch up on some writing this morning so have to be content with the occasional glimpse of the Brenta Dolomites from the hotel. I am confident I will be walking with Emanuele this afternoon.
This afternoon Emanuele and I walk up to the viewpoint at Panorama. He hesitated at my use of the word ‘up’ but is persuaded it is a gentle ascent. I have forgotten that the start of our walk involves a steepish section of the Giro di Campiglio. He moans all the way up this short section but is soon distracted by the sight of a bench and the opportunity to while away some time. From Panorama we take an easy path through the woods towards the town. At the junction with the giro di Campiglio, we turn back towards the hotel. When we get there Emanuele has not quite managed ten thousand steps so we do a circuit of the complex of apartment blocks where he lives. He succeeds on both counts – his FitBit buzzes and it is dinner time.
Sunday 06 September 2020
My plan today is to walk the entire giro di Campiglio. I started by crossing the road outside the hotel and walk towards the town. This is a regular route for me but walking across the Miramonti piste I am in lesser-known territory. It starts spitting with rain but I carry on hoping it will pass over soon. It does and I can enjoy the rest of the giro – once I find out where it goes. A tunnel was built about twenty years ago to by-pass the centre of the town. The new road cut through the original giro di Campiglio which was diverted on to a blue piste for a short distance and then over a new footbridge that flows over the river that flows through the town. The path takes me away from the town and then does a U-turn back towards the centre of town. I miss a section of the path and walk down the road for a while until I can re-join it. The perfectionist in me wants to go back and find the start of the section I missed. But, it is nearly time for lunch and I still have quite a way to walk back to the hotel. I decided I will leave it to another day and complete my walk briskly, Nordic Walking style.
Today's number of positive tests, 2988, is the highest daily total since 23 May, when there were 2,959 cases. Residents of Bolton have been told not to mix with people from other households after the town's coronavirus infection rate became the highest in England. The rules apply to meetings indoors and outdoors unless a person is part of a support bubble. But, as it has been pointed out, comparisons between recent and past cases should be made with caution. The number of confirmed cases is heavily dependent on how many people - and who - is tested. This has changed significantly since the start of the pandemic, with the number of tests processed each day increasing significantly.
As of 5 pm on Monday 31 August, there have been 335,873 positive tests for COVID-19 and a cumulative total of 41,433 deaths within 28 days of a positive test including a daily total of 2. By Sunday 5 September the number of positive tests for COVID-19 has increased to 344,164 positive tests and the cumulative total of deaths within 28 days of a positive test is 41,549 and a daily total of 12.
More next week