Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Spring Is Here, for Some...

Spring has arrived in Venice for some, not so much for others, and for others yet, not at all...

The way your neighbors react to the changing seasons suggests a lot about the people you're living among. When I lived in Manhattan I was struck every autumn by how prematurely people broke out their fall wardrobes. You'd have barely turned your calender page to September, the temperatures would still be very close to those of summer, and yet all around you'd see people in dark wool jackets and coats, set off by the nicest scarves in deep autumnal hues. They looked great, and seemed as pleased with their clothes and themselves as kids who'd finally grown into some long-promised outfit. It was bracing just to behold them and inspired a swell of seasonal sentiment ("Autumn in New York, why does it always seem so inviting?" as the song says). The only thing that ruined it was the 82 degree temperature (28 celsius) and my intimate knowledge that I was sweating in just a light cotton shirt and jeans.

Today in Venice the high was a brilliant 61 degrees fahrenheit (16 C). At the Midwestern college I attended not far from Chicago, this would've been bathing suit and beach towel weather. Here, most of my neighbors were not so willing to get anywhere close to jumping the gun--they kept safely in their winter coats and hats.

Partly it's a matter of age; Venice has the oldest population in Italy, which is saying a lot. It's understandable that for many older people 61 degrees might not seem all that much of an improvement over 51 degrees (10 C) or 45 degrees (7 C), no matter how bright the sun. And contrary to the United States where someone who is 75 often seems pressured to prove they are no less callow than someone of 20, older Italians seem less inclined to believe that life's greatest pleasures are available only to those in the throes of puberty.

And Italian kids... This is another post all its own, which could range from the 3 hours we've been told must pass between the last morsel of food to enter a child's mouth and that child's first step into a swimming pool, to the serious health hazards of a breeze on a child's tummy. Needless to say, those small kids in the company of their grandparents or mothers this afternoon were more often than not wearing something along the lines of a down parka and a wool hat.

But even in the case of those between one or the other extreme of age, most Italians I saw today were cautious not to get too carried away and recklessly start shedding layers. I saw no one nowhere "lying out"--regardless of how important a good tan seems to be to many Italians. A light merino wool sweater over a light cotton shirt was too hot for me this afternoon, but most other people I saw kept their jackets on--and buttoned. For well over 1,000 years Venetians have survived amid changing tides, threatening seas, and potential enemies on every side. They were not about to put too much faith in what the calender said, nor trust overly much in a single warm day. They were taking nothing for granted.

I'll be curious to see how they react to the next two days when the weather is supposed to be even warmer.

No comments:

Post a Comment