Spring to Summer
Observations on the Italian weather (spring 2018)
After a winter that seemed longer, darker and colder than usual, summer arrived uncommonly early in Verona this year.
The first signs of spring, the burgeoning green trees on the wide city avenues, the cherry blossom, the early evening chorus of thrush and blackbird, the annual battle with invading ants, the reappearance in the parks and gardens of the city's children who, after their annual winter hibernation, are once again allowed outdoors to play. The Mayor of the City has even issued his annual directive requiring the residents of the city to switch off their central heating systems.
All of these indications of the changing season are routine enough. What caught most off-guard though, was the remarkable change in temperature that occurred almost overnight. On Easter Sunday, we were skiing in the mountains to the north of Verona. The following day we are sunning ourselves on the banks of Lake Garda. We seem to have switched from winter to summer without the intervening spring, causing our concerned neighbours to observe in grave tones that "qualcosa non va" [something isn't right].
Perhaps paradoxically given the high temperatures and absence of rain, the Adige (pronounced "a dee-jay") - the meandering river that winds its way from the Reschen Pass high in the Tyrolian Alps though the city and beyond to the Adriatic Sea on Italy's east coast - is swollen and murky, a thick cappuccino brown. The explanation, I suppose, can be found in the mountains to the north of Verona, where the high temperatures are rapidly melting the snow that feeds the city's ubiquitous river.
This year we seem to have skipped that mild, variable spring period (during which Italians stubbornly cling on to their scarfs, sweaters and jackets, even as the temperature rises well into the 20s) and proceeded directly to that latter phase of early summer, typically around the beginning of June, when the locals transition into their summer wardrobe and it becomes socially acceptable to wear short sleeves, shorts and sandals (for women at least).
Unlike our concerned neighbours, I wasn't complaining about the early onset of summer, especially as it conveniently coincides with that joyful period in which it seems that every week has a public holiday, often elongated into what the Italians call a ponte [bridge]. May Day this year, for example, falls on a Tuesday, and when this happens, the authorities, in their infinite wisdom, see fit to grant a further days holiday, in this case the Monday, creating a "bridge" between the weekend and the public holiday.
Coming from Glasgow, one of the things I appreciate most about life in Verona is the climate and, in particular, the four distinct seasons. A warm, bright spring, where an occasional sudden downpour may catch you by surprise. A long hot summer during which the city becomes virtually uninhabitable and it's residents flee to the mountains, beach or lake. A late autumn in which temperatures gradually fall and the days shorten, but without the constant wind and rain and gloom that is generally associated with the season. And finally, a bitterly cold, but mercifully short winter.
Perhaps because of its distinct climate, Italians tend to live in greater harmony with the seasons. The dominance of supermarkets is less pronounced here and people are, for example, much more likely to eat fresh, seasonal and locally produced fruit and vegetables.
Anecdotally, most Italians recognise that their climate is changing and are concerned about the consequences. In a more mild and variable climate, like central Scotland for example, it's perhaps harder to detect, on a day-to-day basis, that something is happening. But here in Verona, most people seem to instinctively understand that the climate is changing. This is born out by the statistics. A 2008 Gallup Poll found that, despite lower level of awareness of global warming and climate change in the Italy compared to the UK (84% and 97% respectively), the proportion of people who view climate change as a threat is higher in Italy (76%) than it is in the UK (69%).
As I said, one of the things I love most about living in Verona is the weather, and the wealth of opportunity and choice that each season provides. This year, the transition from winter to summer, skipping spring, was a bit of a shock. Hopefully normal service will be resumed in the autumn.
Richard Hough writes about history, football, wine, whisky, culture + travel and is currently working on a trilogy about wartime Verona.