May is my favourite time of year (I’m also a big fan of Christmas, but that’s another story).
At this time of year the weather in Verona is just about perfect (although last night’s downpour was a timely reminder that there is also the occasional washout).
Generally warm, dry and sunny, but before the stifling heat of the summer arrives, by mid-afternoon the temperature approaches a very pleasant 25/26 degrees.
The shrubs, trees and grass are lush and green, and the local wildlife in full song. Our annual battle with the neighbourhood ant colony has reached its peak. I’m winning this year, but trying to prevent ape (bees) and vespe (wasps) from nesting in our air-conditioning units is a daily battle of wit and courage. Our real nemesis, the zanzare, have yet to arrive in full force.
Within a few weeks the temperature will have risen by ten degrees or more and the landscape will soon become scorched and arid. In the height of the summer the mountains, the beach or the lake are the best places to escape the oppressive heat of the city.
But for now, the weather is ideal. The Italians have finally made the transition to short sleeves (although you’ll still see, even now, the occasional bubble jacket and scarf).
In Italy, as elsewhere, May is blessed with innumerable holidays and long weekends (or ponte as the Italians prefer to call them). May Day, Festa della Mamma and Pentecoste all fall in this hallowed month. Between 25 April (when Italy celebrates liberazione and 2 June (Festa della Repubblica), there’s barely a full-working week to contend with.
Add to the equation the various community events and festivals that take place throughout the month, including the Festa della Comunità in our neighbouring village and the three-day celebration of San Zeno, the city’s patron saint, as well as various wine festivals, which include the legendary Magnalonga della Valpolicella (a 10km wine-guzzling extravaganza), and you can understand my affection for this time of year.
May also marks the climax of the domestic football season, and Hellas Verona are invariably involved in some nail-biting promotion or relegation battle. Some of the most memorable games I’ve witnessed in the past 9 years have taken place in May: securing promotion to Serie A against Empoli after an 11 year absence in 2013; Luca Toni’s equaliser against Juve a year later (his 20th goal of a remarkable first season back in A); and the bittersweet victory against Juve 2 years later, Luca Toni’s last game, with relegation already confirmed; and finally, last season’s incredible play offs, which culminated in promotion back to Serie A.
And to top of what is always a dramatic month, my birthday happens to fall on the penultimate day of the month!
But of course, this May is quite unlike any other I’ve spent in Verona. All public events have been cancelled, the concept of the working week is a distant memory and football still seems a long way off.
I’ll still be celebrating my birthday though! I might even have a party this year!
Available now on Amazon:
From wartime Italy, a true story of resistance and heroism.
A short collect of reflections on family life in locked down Italy
Richard Hough writes about history, football, wine, whisky, culture + travel.