This striking photo of central and northern Italy, taken by the British astronaut Tim Peake from the International Space Station, appeared in the Italian newspaper La Repubblica this morning.
It provides a fascinating reminder of population distribution. The main urban centres of Rome, at the bottom right, and Milan, just left of centre, are to be expected. On the left from Milan just before the snow-covered mountains is Turin, and at the top of the Adriatic Sea on the right is the Venice/Padova/Treviso conurbation. But the most striking features are the two lines of prosperity running across the Po Valley: the strongest one east through Bergamo, Brescia, Verona, Vicenza to Venice; the second one running south-east where Piacenza, Reggio Emilia, Parma and Bologna are clearly discernible, as are Imola, Forlì and Cesena beyond Bologna. All Roman cities, with the single exception of Venice, and all prosperous today.
It’s a pity Major Peake didn’t catch the south of the country as well.