The cambio di stagione, or change of season, is upon us all in Italy. If you’re still wearing short-sleeved t-shirts out and about- che vergogna! You should be ashamed!
The winter jackets, hats, scarves and dark clothing resurfaced out of wardrobes and suitcases, signifying a change, but less so in temperature and more so in mind-set. Italians are extremely susceptible to catching raffreddore, or a bit of a sniffle, during all changes of season; if someone sneezes in public during these times -never a set period on the calendar, rather a publicly agreed time frame- they will receive knowing looks and occasional murmurs of ‘cambio di stagione’ sweep through the crowds.
The transition from summer to autumn, autumn to winter, winter to spring and spring back to summer are considered rather hazardous to one’s health in Italy. Without a doubt, Italians wouldn’t survive two hours in Scotland…a time frame of a couple of hours in Scotland is more than enough to accommodate some snow, soaring temperatures of 20 odd degrees followed by a heavy downpour, possibly topped off with hailstones and fog. Therefore, it would be most illogical to store away your summer clothes for half the year -you might miss that one day of summer in mid December, causing your vitamin D levels to plummet.
On the other hand, this Italian ritual decides for you, that as soon as say November rolls around, you should be kitted out in your winter-wear. Even if one day a mini heat-wave reaches il bel paese, I doubt it would change much. The hats and scarves are already out. It is November after all.
It is also at these times of year that the cultural divide widens…foreigners, I feel, tend to link their dress habits to temperature, yet the sight of someone in flip flops in December in Italy, even on a warm day, will most likely be a mortifying sight for the locals. They may catch a cold just watching them.
The adherence to this cambio di stagione became very apparent this morning on the bus. As usual, it was jam packed, so I squished myself in amongst puffer jackets, bobble hats and woolly scarves. The windows had steamed up to the extent that condensation was rolling down them. After a couple of stops, the bus gradually emptied, so I reached out to pull down a window. Opening it a fraction, my hand was met by a stranger’s who forced the window back up, looking at me as if to say, ‘You’re opening a window in November? Macchè! The refreshing air on the bus might kill people during this hazardous time of year…’
Life lessons learnt: If you’d like to be considered a local, don your hat, scarf and gloves and deal with the unbearable heat.