I detest the cold. Especially that of long, dark English winters. It drains my soul, dulls my senses, and my near-obsession with trying (and always failing) to keep it at bay leaves me as tense and exhausted as an addict seeking their next fix. After countless winters seeing me shut down, dormant and barely ticking over (as well as watching David Attenborough’s “Life in Cold Blood”), Mr. Blue-Shirt actually reckons that I am part reptile. Like a lizard, I have a physical need to feel warmth on my skin and in my bones in order simply to function properly. So when people ask why we wanted to move to Italy, they are seldom surprised that the Mediterranean climate featured prominently on the long list of reasons for our migration.
And I’m pleased to report that after almost a full cycle of seasons, the climate here is as benign as we had hoped. I moved in properly at the end of a summer that extended well into late September, with days of mellow amber sunshine and deliciously cool, star-filled nights. Autumn continued until mid-December, its vivid golden colours providing welcome brightness to the shortening yet still sunny days of Advent.
Winter proper didn’t really arrive until early February – on more than one occasion in January we enjoyed a mid-morning coffee on the terrace, and for weeks on end the ice-scraper lay redundant in the footwell of my car. But when it finally did arrive, it was with unusual severity, for while the UK was caught in the icy breath of the Beast from the East, we here were lashed by its vicious tail which even reached as far south as Naples. But after two or three days, the snow it had brought to us from Siberia melted as quickly as it had settled because the ground beneath had barely been touched by frost until that point.
Then no sooner had the Beast retreated than Spring rushed in. Not the tentative affair it is in UK, though, with new growth timidly poking its nose out into the watery sun, for weeks still fearful of more icy blasts. No, over the course of little more than a fortnight tender buds and delicate shoots exploded into a riot of primary colours, entirely confident that they were safe from further wintery assaults. As welcome and eager to please as a puppy bursting with life and energy. Bright, vigorous and completely irrepressible.
And now Summer is with us once again and the mercury is rising by the day. Long, languid days with a sun of dazzling brightness suspended in a sky of glossy blue, followed by soft mild nights with a silver moon illuminating the amethyst sky. Then just as we begin to wonder how long the temperature can continue its relentless rise- it is still only June, after all – the weather magically resets itself. Great towers of leaden cloud boil up over the mountains then roll down into the valleys, pouring torrents of rain on the sun-hardened soil and cooling the sun-baked air. In fact, this is exactly what happened earlier this week: within a couple of hours a blanket of dirty grey completely filled the sky, bringing with it almost twelve hours of solid rain and knocking the temperature, which had edged beyond 30˚C, back by several degrees. By the following morning, though, normal service had been resumed and we woke to a freshly-laundered cornflower sky with light so clear the world appeared in sharper focus.
All of which we have found to be entirely normal. The weather here is not permanently glorious: we get cloud and wind and rain and snow – and only the other day (Mr. Blue-Shirt’s birthday, in fact) even hail, with stones the size of sugar cubes. The thing is, bad weather never lasts; never hangs around for days like an unwelcome guest. And when it is bad, it is properly bad. Which is good – as it were. It is never half-hearted or non-committal, with endless days just of grey and drizzle, or watery sun and so-so temperatures. It is, rather, decisive, dramatic, bold and passionate. Not unlike the people.
By the way, I took the photo of the fantastic louring sky last September, just before an almighty storm broke.