Feeling the Seasons in Italy

First week in August, and most of Italy is shutting down, except the beaches and some mountain resorts, which are booming with Italian vacationers. The cities will be largely left to foreign tourists and those who serve them. Kids are off school from mid-June to mid-September, and many adults take off all or most of August.

You might think this an example of “typical” Italian laziness, but the situation down here on the ground makes it clear: it’s too darn hot. In the afternoons, when it’s muggy and even the air is too hot to move, it’s simply impossible to concentrate, and all you want to do is sleep. No one can be expected to be productive; you might as well give in to Mother Nature and go on vacation.

It used to be that way in the US as well, until the invention of air-conditioning. I read somewhere that the pace of government picked up amazingly when A/C was introduced to muggy, swampy Washington.

But most of Italy is not air-conditioned. Except in some offices, I’ve never seen central A/C here the way it’s done in the US. Due to the high cost of electricity, not many families even have room air conditioners. During this June’s heat wave, so many rushed out to buy air conditioners that the national power grid couldn’t cope, and there were rolling blackouts.

Ourselves, we make do with fans, and I’ve become so unaccustomed to A/C that I’m always cold in the US. I prefer not being insulated away from the seasons, no matter how uncomfortable they sometimes get. Here in Lecco I’ve learned that there’s a wonderful breeze off the lake in the morning, so I get up early and open all the windows on the windward side of the house, cooling down and airing out the stuffiness of the night (when windows and shutters on the balcony side have to be closed, for fear of burglars). Around noon I’ll close it all up, to retain the cool when the sun moves around to that side and only hot air blows in. And then I’ll take a nap.

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