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The sudden worldwide focus on the spread of the coronavirus has put Italy in an unwanted spotlight.

The virus has hit the country particularly hard — it is currently third in the number of cases and second in the number of deaths — and has touched all 20 regions. Meanwhile, Italy’s tourism sector is projected to lose more than $7 billion and more than 31 million visitors in the period between March 1 and May 31.

To counter the unprecedented decline of tourism and remind the world (and themselves) what Italy is about, many Italians on social media have started posting photos under the hashtag #labellezzaècontagiosa — “beauty is contagious.”

Trio Medusa, a popular comic trio on Radio Deejay with more than a million Twitter followers, started the hashtag initiative #labellezzaècontagiosa to “not let the coronavirus win.” Their followers have responded with beautiful photos of Italy’s famous and not-so-famous cities, monuments, squares, landscapes, and works of art.

A hashtag campaign is of little comfort to the many businesses and workers in Italy’s tourism trade. Nor does it ease the sadness of many travelers who have had to cancel their dream trips to Italy.

But, as I write this on the 545th anniversary of Michelangelo‘s birth, I have to agree that beauty is contagious. Beauty won’t make the coronavirus go away overnight but it will shine a light towards the end of the tunnel. Beauty is what inspired Italy in darker times and beauty is what will compel tourists to return.

With this post, I am also taking the opportunity to transition away from writing about the coronavirus to writing about Italy’s beauty, food, culture, and all of the other things that I usually cover on this site.

I’ll keep filing updates about the ongoing coronavirus situation, though I may also keep writing about Italy with the pandemic angle in mind. Italy has been through such crises before and there is so much to learn from its history.

But I think it is time to start thinking positively. Start planning anew your trip to Italy. Or, at least, start making a wish list. Let the #labellezzaècontagiosa hashtag be your source of inspiration.

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