“There are no more middle seasons” is the Italian equivalent of “Things ain’t what they used to be” – more than a truism, it’s a cliché of people complaining about the modern world, and resistance to change in general.
Taking it at face value, I don’t think the “middle seasons” have disappeared: I’ve rarely seen an abrupt transition from winter to spring to summer to fall anywhere in the world. However, though it is also a clichÃ© to marvel about the strange behavior of the weather in all times and places, in the last few years the weather certainly seems to have gone crazy, at least in Italy.
The last three days of January are traditionally considered the coldest of the year and are called i giorni della merla – the days of the blackbird. This derives from an ancient legend that these birds used to be white, but one, finding herself about to freeze to death during these coldest days, took refuge in a chimney. She emerged black with soot, and her descendants have been black ever since (an example of Lamarckian inheritance).
Although this year January and February were unusually warm and dry all over Italy, everyone’s winter colds and flus seem to have been more virulent and lingering than in recent memory. This may be because there was no rain to wash away the winter smog, and the plants, confused by the warmth, started blooming early, bringing on seasonal allergies far too soon. Everyone blamed the unusual weather – blaming the weather for illness is a long-standing Italian tradition, whether that weather is averagely normal, severely normal, or completely unusual.
In late March the cold weather returned, but at least it brought rain with it. Another Italian seasonal saying is: Marzo, marzo, pazzerello – esce il sole, apri l’ombrello – “March, March, crazy little thing – the sun comes out, open your umbrella.” I suppose this refers to the phenomenon of patches of raincloud precipitating directly overhead, while the sun slants through from nearby patches of clear blue sky. (My Texan aunt used to call this “the devil beating his wife” – ?!?)
Now it’s April, with its own apposite saying: Aprile, ogni goccia un barile (“April, every drop a barrel”). Well, we haven’t quite been getting barrels of rain yet, but far more than we had during the winter; there’s even fresh snow on the peaks visible from our house.
The upcoming Easter weekend is supposed to be sunny and warm in Italy, to the delight of the over 8 million Italians who will be travelling somewhere or other for a vacation – schools are closed for up to a week, and some offices are also giving a long ponte. Myself, I plan to spend the holiday quietly at home – still trying to recover from my own lingering winter ailments.
What other sayings do you know about weather (in Italian or any other language)?