By George Stone, TRAVEL Executive Editor
At this time of year, I'd prefer to be helping readers plan amazing springtime escapes to Rome and Venice, before the summer rush.
But this year, not even the people of Venice or Rome can enjoy coursing through their cities. They, along with the whole of Italy, are under lockdown/quarantine in an effort to contain the effects of the coronavirus outbreak. In the image above, taken two days ago, photographer Gabriele Galimberti captured a lonely International Women’s Day marcher on Milan’s dramatically thinned-out Piazza Duomo.
Italy is the first democracy to do the type of broad shutdown Beijing imposed on central China, but it likely will not be the last. Throughout the world, people are second-guessing attendance at life-cycle events like graduations, weddings, and funerals. The outbreak already has dealt the worst blow to the travel industry since the Great Recession of 2008-2009, the Los Angeles Times reports.
On Sunday night, the U.S. State Department, citing the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, didn’t mince words. “U.S. citizens, particularly travelers with underlying health conditions, should not travel by cruise ship." The statement also directed older Americans and people with health conditions to avoid crowded spaces and long non-essential plane trips. We may not know as much as we want to know now, but at least we have been warned.
National Geographic will continue to report on COVID-19, covering the science behind the outbreak as well as the practical actions travelers can take to stay healthy. We hope you do just that. Thanks for reading.
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Your Instagram photo of the day
The Way (of the dog): This is a photo of a dog standing on the “edge of the world,” as photographer Michael George puts it. Cape Finisterre is a peninsula on the northwest coast of Spain. Back when people thought the planet was flat, they would walk to this point, believing it was as far as they could go. This point is also part of the Camino de Santiago, or The Way, a pilgrimage thousands of people walk every year. “After walking the pilgrimage myself,” George says, “I sat at this point during sunset as this local dog wandered the rocks. At the end of the night, he followed us back to the village and disappeared into an alley."
Read: Walking to find a way: one photographer's pilgrimage
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Today in a minute
Getting black women pilots: A century after Bessie Coleman took to the sky, fewer than 1 percent of the pilots in the United States are black women, says the group Sisters of the Skies. Women of all kinds make up only 7 percent of that total. “Women should be pilots and mechanics. Girls should think about it [the field] and grow into it and become willing to do this,” says one United pilot, Carole Cary-Hopson. She told Afar that she has spoken with more than 2,500 young people nationwide about aviation since 2017.
The train that won’t die: The UK’s Pacer trains were never loved. They were meant to be a stopgap. Four decades later, the uncomfortable trains are still running, symbolizing the lack of investment in British infrastructure, CNN reports. "When you see the depressing sight of an ancient Pacer come rocking from side to side into a station at about 10 mph, usually running late, your conclusion is that the only rightful place for them is in a railway museum," says David Parkin, a retired teacher.
I Would Fly 4 U: Airport art doesn’t have to be boring. A stunning mural of homegrown rock star Prince greets visitors to Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. In Atlanta, a 450-foot ceiling installation casts a murky, rave-like atmosphere over moving sidewalks. “With some luck and the resolve to spend your layover in motion,” the Washington Post reports, “you can take in soul-adjusting pieces at almost any stop.
The big takeaway
We almost lost the Mediterranean: Yes, the sea at the root of many civilizations (and diets) nearly dried up, and a thick layer of salt remains deep below its basin. Only a cataclysmic flood revived the Mediterranean 5.3 million years ago, Nat Geo’s Maya Wei-Haas reports. The flood washed away a land bridge near current-day Gibraltar, letting the Atlantic’s waters whoosh in. Then, much later, modern religions came, and hummus and feta.
In a few words
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The last glimpse
Nearly empty: It’s a rare day when the white-tiled area inside Mecca’s Grand Mosque is free of worshippers. Saudi Arabia on Thursday had cleared Islam’s holiest site for sterilization after fears of the coronavirus. The unprecedented clearing followed Saudi Arabia’s suspension of the year-round umrah pilgrimage. The mosque partially reopened Saturday, but visitors were not allowed to touch the sacred Kaaba, or House of God, the black boxed structure at the center of the courtyard.
Read: Will warming spring temperatures slow the outbreak?