Every time I’m in Maria Pia’s shop or picking up fruits and vegetables from Loreta, the topic of today’s weather (or tomorrow’s or for the weekend) is sure to come up. That it is:
is certain. Everyone in the shop has his or her two cents to add. So these conversations, mundane and yet comforting in their sameness, are part of the fabric of Ghivizzano.
I’ve grumbled on more than one occasion about the never-ending dreary spring of 2013. Thankfully, 2014 has been anything but dreary, so far, and often has been the epitome of the Italian climate.
In March we returned from an extended visit to the United States. Though the calendar said it was still winter, we were delighted to find an early spring had taken hold in the Serchio valley. It wasn’t really surprising, since Italy really had no winter. For example, the normal temperatures for February and March are very cold. This year, however, not a single night had temperatures dropping below freezing. From the day of our return through the official arrival of spring we had higher-than-normal temperatures and only moderate rainfall. There were many sunny days and the trees and plants seemed to be on an accelerated schedule, blooming and leafing very early.
April continued the fine weather. I remember a long stretch of sunny days, with just the right amount of rain to keep the flowers in bloom. I’d awake each morning, dreading to open the windows and see the grey blanket overhead that greeted me each morning in 2013. Instead, my heart jumped for joy at the sight of the morning sun. We packed away the heavy winter clothing, retaining only light jackets and a scarf or two.
In the 1990s, I came to Italy in May and spent the better part of two weeks under an umbrella or ducking into cafes and churches to avoid the rain. One day, I was walking through a park when a sudden downpour began dumping buckets of rain. There were no buildings nearby, so I found a leafy tree and crouched beneath it, holding my umbrella overhead for a half-hour. May 2014 was truly spectacular. There were no such tragedies this year. In fact, May was a bit low on rain according to official statistics. The days were so beautiful that I dared the fates and planted geraniums early. Everyone warned me of the always-possible cold snap that would lay waste to these tender summer-loving plants. But the coldest nights never approached zero and my flowers thrived; they’re now lush and beautiful, cascading from their planters almost to the ground.
I expected June to compensate for May. Last year, June was unusually cool and soggy. The beaches were barren until late June; only pink English schoolgirls ventured near the water on the days that I visited the coast. This year, June was almost perfect in our valley. We had long stretches of sunshine and warm temperatures. Pepper’s brother and sister-in-law, along with her son, came for a two-week visit. I don’t recall an umbrella being opened during their entire visit. The warmth and sunshine of this particular June stayed with us during our visits to Genova, Siena, and day trips from Casa La Pace. I finally packed the remaining winter clothes away; a few long-sleeve shirts and a pair of jeans were enough for the cooler nights that occasionally came our wa.
The first hot days came in June, but they were few. Each year since we’ve been here, a warm week in June fools me into thinking that the long stretch of hot days has arrived. Each year, including 2014, this heat is short-lived and the cooler days and almost-cold nights return. In fact, I’m always hesitant to put away the winter comforter. Each morning, I gauged the thermometer in the early morning. I’d shake my head and postpone the decision for one more day. This year, I think I brought down the summer quilts after June 15. And I was not surprised that guests who stayed with us later in the month pulled out the additional blankets they found in the armoire.
The end of June did bring unseasonal rain. Pepper participated in a new art event at Ghivizzano Alto. ‘Corart’ was a two-day affair with artists lining the streets and Pepper positioned strategically in the heart of the old town. The sun shined brightly all day Saturday and most of Sunday. Only at the end of the day, just as the judges were announcing their favorite artwork, the skies opened up. The rain stayed with us all that night and for a couple of days after.
July has been extraordinary in more ways than one. The termperatures have been mild. Several of our friends returned from their beach-week vacation beautifully bronzed, but lamenting that they had to wear shirts on the beach, especially in the evening. Since the first of the month, we’ve also had quite a few days of rain. I was startled watching the weather last night; there have already been four ‘perturbations’ and a fifth is on its way. Unusually, we’ve even had days of dark, menacing clouds all day. It felt more like Novembre than July. Of course, we certainly need the rain – the Serchio river and Segone (stream) are very low – but perhaps not in such long stretches of sunless days.
We often get queries about the ‘best time’ to come to Casa La Pace. I’m never confident in responding to this question. In the 4 years we’ve been in Ghivizzano, each month of each year has been unique. There are of course trends of warmth and cold, but a rainy month one year has been a beautifully sunny month the following year. Some guests have ventured to Barga, Lucca, and other towns nearby mostly under an umbrella. They’re in the unfortunate minority and thankfully the ‘season’ from April to November gives us many days of golden sunshine. But with the weather, you can never tell!
Update I: The last day of July was beautiful: sunny and warm. It was unusual for this year: the newspaper on 30 July reported that 23 days of the month were cloudy or rainy!
Update II: It’s official: July was rainy beyond belief. Here are some statistics…they’re in Italian, but the numbers and graphs are easy to read. Rainy July. Most striking is the very first number: more rain by 490%!