August 15, 2011
It is August in Italy and the Romans have again invaded Sarnano. Some are visiting family, having left Sarnano for better paying jobs in the capital. Others are just seeking a bit of relief from the heat, since Sarnano runs about 3ºC cooler than Rome at this time of year. The affitasi (for rent) signs that adorn many windows throughout the year have all disappeared–everything has been taken. There are over 20 camper-vans in the community parking lot. Hotels are filled to capacity, Sarnano is brimming. I haven’t driven my car for over a week since I wouldn’t be able to find a parking place close to my apartment after I returned.
I have commented on the phenomenon of Ferragosto and August in Italy in previous essays (L’Estate, Agosto). Nothing gets done in Italy during the month since Italians flock lemming-like either to the beach or the mountains. Those few workers who are left behind use Ferragosto as an excuse to do as little as possible.
Most first-time foreign travelers should probably avoid Italy at this time of year, since the Big Three destinations of Rome, Florence and Venice are hot, overcrowded with tourists, and devoid of any Italians who are not involved with the tourist trade. But because of their location equidistant between the mountains and the beach, Sarnano and the other Medieval Hill Towns in Le Marche come alive in August, offering festivals and other diversions for visitors. Sarnano had its Sagra (festival) della Polentina last weekend. (Polentina is another word for polenta, which is a form of corn meal mush.) Nearby Vecciola will host its Sagra della Pancetta (bacon) next weekend. Last year one town just cut to the chase and hosted a Sagra della Pizza e Birra. I guess you can say they will use any excuse to get together and have a good time, and maybe entice a visitor or two to come join the fun.
There has been one difference this year: It has been cooler, much cooler this year than in the past. Since my apartment is not air conditioned I am usually careful to open the windows at night during the summer and then close them in the morning to keep the indoor temps as low as possible. This year I actually had to close down the house and sleep under a blanket for ten nights in July–outside temperatures of 57ºF will do that.
Since it is normal for temperatures to start trending downward after August 15 here in Sarnano, I may have seen the last of the hot weather for the year. But what is “normal” now? While I have been cool and comfy for the most part, Texas is stuck in a severe heat wave and drought that may go on for years. Meanwhile in Seattle, Sara and Charlie had to turn on the heat for a couple of days. New York City was hotter than Phoenix for several days last month. The central US was hit by massive flooding this spring, and central California is threatened by devastation if the record snowpack in the Sierra suddenly melts. Are we seeing the effects of man-induced climate change? Dunno. But clearly, something is going on.
Perhaps it is all an anomaly and the anti-science climate change skeptics are right. And maybe Texas Governor Perry’s very public prayers for rain will finally be answered and the current Texas drought will be history. But even if the latter does happen, please pray that he doesn’t win the presidency. One former Texas Governor as President has been more than enough.
Until next time, (back)