It’s summer now!
Because I said so!
The Italian summer may not officially be here. I still spot the occasional heavy jacket and I remain in awe of people who look so good in blazers and boots in 95 degree heat. Most Italians haven’t made it to the beach yet, though many went for the Festa della Repubblica, but didn’t swim. But for me, it feels like summer is in full force.
At the beginning of May, I was still dressing in layers and taking my café hot and with foam. The arrival of the ever present sun and heat have been both welcomed and dreaded.
A note on some interesting and lately, rather challenging elements of Italian culture. First, air conditioner is not common whatsoever and neither are window screens. Italians have this mysterious superstition called colpo d’aria which translates to “hit by the air”. Walking outside with wet hair will make you ill and air conditioner could make you sick (in your own home).
I asked my friends about screens, and they said that they’re not common because they’re expensive. The alternative to AC and screens is to keep your windows and shutters closed all day, blocking out the brightness. At night, like a choir, everyone rolls up the shutters and peels open the windows.
Opening the windows at the end of the day is such a sweet experience. It feels like a reward after the end of a long, sticky day. The night is inky and cool air and the relaxed sounds of your neighbors- walking, eating dinner, playing soccer- fills the room. And so do the mosquitos.
There’s an amazingly descriptive section in the Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan novels where the main character, Lenu is in Ischia, an island near Naples known for its charm and beaches. In a night of both emotional and heat-induced turmoil, the main character describes rolling in bed, itching her mosquito bites. But when she closes the windows, she feels like she can’t breathe. So, mosquito bites and overthinking it is for Lenu.
This is more than a metaphor. Reader, it is me every night. I have so many bites. (And, overthinking what to do with my life when my visa ends!!! Hahaha… have ideas? Let me know! Not joking!!)
My schedule, along with everyone else’s has shifted to accommodate the heat. Early mornings and after 8 pm it’s cool enough to run or hang in piazzas with friends. The piazzas in Viterbo have been flooded in the evenings with everyone- babies who sleep when their parents get drinks, school children (on a school night!) playing, teenagers, and grandparents. Fountains have become benches, church steps become soccer fields. It’s the only cool time of day, and it’s going to be this way for a long while yet. I know we haven’t hit the worst parts yet.
In Sicily, locals eat granita or gelato with brioche for breakfast. At first, I thought I could never do that. But the hotter it gets, the more I want to leave pasta behind in favor of cool foods: zucchini, peaches (they’re here!!), mozzarella and tomatoes, gelato, and granita. Cappuccino’s and cornetto’s feel too decadent to me.
Thankfully, Lake Bracciano and Bolsena are near by and refreshing as ever. I took a day trip to Santa Margherita di Liguria with some friends up north and loved it. Most beachgoers preferred tanning over swimming, but the water was the perfect antidote to l’afa: when there is no sun in the sky, but the day is stiflingly hot and humid.
At the sea, I remember why I love summer. L’estate is saturated with color, the beaches dotted with beach clubs and celebratory umbrellas. Nothing is understated: the bikinis are flashy, the gelato shops beckoning, and there was an ever-present smell of pesto-pasta and fish on the streets leading to the seaside.
In Santa Margherita, we were on a pebbly beach with clear blue waters. The waves were frequent and often, crashing on the pebbled beach, rumbling the stones, sea, glass, and forgotten ceramic pieces. It created the most buttery of melodies, beckoning you to kick off your sandals and dive in. More of this, please.
And less mosquito bites.
More soon on Sicily, Etna, Puglia, and the like.