Posted by: roamingolivia | September 22, 2010

Annual ode to autumn

I really love autumn (fall). Everyone who has read my blog for any period of time is almost certainly aware of that. Italy is a great place to love autumn, not because it has a particularly good autumn, but because season definitions appear to be religiously followed.

For several days before 21 September, the hint of autumn was in the air. Or, to use another phrase, on everyone’s lips. The leaves in the park I used to run in (I am too far away and lazy to go there now) were starting to turn, and I loved it. I mentioned this to my Italian teacher. He said, “No, but it is summer. Autumn starts 21 September.”

That was my first hint that the changing of the seasons is something to be strictly observed – like the rules about when you can stop wearing tights in the spring/summer, and about avoiding milky coffee at certain times of day. Not like the traffic rules or tax code or rules about shipping explosives from Iran to Syria.

For the next week, sadness about the impending End of Summer grew – not to such a fever pitch as the expectations about summer itself in late July (everyone periodically sighed and said, “vacanze” dreamily under their breath every time they got an email). But it increased to a noticeable peak on 20 September, when my cleaning lady brought over thick blankets, noting how cold it was becoming (because of autumn) and quite seriously concerned about my health. It is actually cold in my room, but that is only because I don’t think I can turn off my AC, not because the season has fundamentally changed.

The same day, my  Italian colleagues were distraught. “Tomorrow, summer is over,” one fake-whined (with a hint of authenticity). I laughed, saying that the weather forecast did not show any noticeable change from the previous week, through to the technical change to autumn.

I have never been anywhere that the seasons appear to be so strictly observed, and in a way I like it. I have long wondered about the point of these technical seasonal divisions. In Texas, there is only kind of coolish winter, then summer, then really summer, then summer, and then kind of coolish winter again. In London, it’s basically always a rainy northern autumn, with a week of relative warmth (read: cooler than “autumn” in Milan) and the rain coming down in icy form in short-lived colder periods.

I sometimes quote the rhymes we learned in school,  which seem to be from a mythical world, in which months come in like lions and out like lambs, and others I can only recall when something triggers them. In away, although I mock the repetitions and ritual morning of seasons by my Italian colleagues, I would like to institute it as well – to savor the seasons and mark their passing with the strictest of ceremony.

So today it is 22 September, and it is as warm as it’s been since I got back in early September, but it is now autumn. I dressed like Meg Ryan in You’ve Got Mail because I can, and because I should. I don’t want to know the kinds of looks I’d get on the Metro if I went out without tights on.

(Note: I am being hyperbolic here, since Italians are also great sun- and summer-lovers, meaning that lots of them are still walking around in summer dresses, which I also appreciate, but I’ve packed my summer stuff away to take to London this weekend in preparation for the next move. Plus, I like to invoke You’ve Got Mail and all the lines about fall – bouquet of sharpened pencils etc. – whenever possible.)

(And yes, I know this is a cliche but I spend so much of my time avoiding cliches, so I can probably have just this one.)


  1. I like this post. I for one am very much looking forward to fall because my nicest clothes right now are sweaters and jackets/coats. This despite the fact that I’ve been told Pristina has only two seasons: the ‘dust season’and the ‘mud season.’

  2. It can be hard to discern the seasons in London…but as long as it’s dry and sunny, I don’t care about the cold. I prefer the frosted grounds of winter thoufgh

  3. !Estas loca!

    Seriously, though, this evokes memories of you reading all those children’s encyclopedia/ enrichment books. I used the poem about 30 days hath September, April, June and November today in class. 🙂

    Te quiero mucho, m’ija

  4. Its so funny that Italians are like Chinese in this way! The hottest months where we live are April, May, and September (because it rains all summer), but if you wear shorts or really if your KID wears shorts in 90 degree weather you’ll get a tsk tsk, “She needs to wear more clothes! It is Spring/Fall, you know!” And if ANYTHING weird happens on an equinox, like you get sick or something breaks or you get bad news, well it is clearly the equinox that caused that event!

  5. hey, this morning i felt a little bit of a change in the wind and thought autumn was finally maybe sorta kind of on its way here, and i thought about you.

    i also like any sort of “you’ve got mail” reference — lately i’ve been thinking about how i’m never going to be the greatest living expert on julius and ethel rosenberg, but i’d like to be an expert on something besides cloth diapers. also, i often wonder if that butterfly did end up at bloomingdale’s and bought a hat it later regretted.

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