Italian Winter Weather

The first time we visited Milan, in January of 1991, there were about four inches of snow on the ground. It melted the next day, and in the 12 years we lived in Milan after that I only saw snow falling once or twice a year, some years not at all, and rarely enough to stick. For the last few years, February has been mild, April cold and rainy, and everyone complained about how the seasons weren’t what they used to be (a lament that has probably been heard since the australopithecines).

Today it’s snowing in Lecco. A lot. Just like it did the week before last, and the week before that, and I lose count before that. A few weeks ago we took in “refugees,” six of Ross’ classmates who had commuted up to an hour to get to school, only to find it cancelled because snow was falling and the heating system wasn’t working.

The kids weren’t a problem, but I’ve had enough of winter. I never liked cold weather in the first place. I was born in New Orleans, subsequently lived in Texas, Hawaii, and Thailand. I never saw snow actually falling out of the sky until we got to Pittsburgh, when I was 11. I hate having to dress up in layers and layers of clothing to go outside, then when you go into a shop or come home again you’re too hot and have to undress. I have no circulation in my hands and feet, so they’re always icy cold (cold hands, warm heart – I’d settle for the reverse). I even have chilblains on my toes this year, probably from wearing wimpy shoes in a misguided attempt to be fashionable, before I found a pair of decent-looking fur-lined boots in England.

One problem specific to Italian winters is that most of us have no control over home heating – condominium buildings are usually centrally-heated, and the thermostat is set according to government regulations. Heating goes on October 15th and off April 15th, regardless of actual outside temperatures. And it’s turned way down during hours that most people are out of the house, e.g. 10 am to noon, which happen to be my peak working hours in my home office. So I’m sitting at my desk wearing ski socks and fleece slippers (still going strong – thanks, Laura and Larry!), a turtleneck, corduroy trousers, and a Kashimiri shawl.

Heating also gets turned off at night when we’re all supposed to be in bed. There are few things more miserable than being wide awake at 4 am with jetlag, and you can’t even read in bed because it’s too cold to put your arms outside the covers (yes, there is another activity which could warm you up in bed, but that only works at 4 am when both of you have jetlag).

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