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Jul
27

Holiday in Italy–keep your eye on the weather forecast!

The weather. Holiday in Italy. Seriously, they’re all talking about it.   My mother-in-law says, “It used to be that you’d never even have to look at the forecast to know if you could go to the beach, but now! Figurati! Piove sempre!”

italy in july

italy in july

Before you fly to Italy, know this: Here in the north, Liguria and Piemonte to be precise it has been cloudy/raining/thunderstorms since May. The first few days that we came were the only warm days they’d seen. Up here where we are staying in the wine district boasting such vineyards as Barolo and Barbaresco, it is downright chilly. Seriously, at times, up ere, over looking the perfectly manicured vineyards down below, I feel like I’m in Switzerland.

Noli

Noli

Yesterday we went to a beach club in Noli along the Ligurian coast where my in-laws and husband are from. It is beautiful, just as an Italian seaside village should be. The houses are all in pastels, the village is old and cobbles, people riding by on bikes, the sea is glassy and protected, not a wave in sight. There are two things missing though:

Tourists and Sun.

beaches

beaches

The water when it’s cloudy outside must have dropped a good five degrees, but it’s so clear my daughters snorkeled for hours seeing fish they’d never seen before, including one that was identical to a baby swordfish. But the beach club, owned by friends, was nearly empty. Italians, who are very, very habitual people, just don’t know what the hell to make of the weather. They calculate their lives by June, July being perfect, first half of August hot and crowded and the thunder storms after August 15th.   To them it feels like the end is near.

clouds overhead

clouds overhead

Last night we went out to eat a local speciality called Farinata. It ‘s like a giant-thin crust pizza, comes in two forms, flour or chickpea, and must be cooked in a wood-burning oven.  In the South of France you’ll see it being sold in town squares, they call it Socca. It’s better here I have to say, filling, wonderfully crispy and cheap. The restaurant in Albisola, a small seaside town near Savona, was packed. My in-laws say that the only places you can’t find a table anymore are pizza places and farinata places, all expensive restaurants are empty.

farinata ligure

farinata ligure

Yes, it’s true, la dolce vita is on the down-low here in small towns up and down the coast, you can feel it. I’m not sure whether the Euro is just such a downer, I know I hate it, or the impending banking crisis everyone feels is hanging over their heads waiting to explode when the country reopens in September. The performance that Berlusconi gives about everything being alright while he surrounds himself with underage girls rather than overqualified experts is beginning to wear thin in a nation where once people just didn’t care.

silvio berlusconi and his lovely girlfriend ruby

silvio berlusconi and his lovely girlfriend ruby

You see Italians are a simple bunch. As long as they get their free month of salary at Christmas and can go skiing, eat well for nothing, get their other free month in August and can afford to go to the beach, then really their complaint level is the same as it always was. They complain to pass the time, not because they’re angry, really.

But there are clouds in July. June rained. The Euro is getting stronger by the day. The cost of living is making Italians weary. Tourists are fewer and fewer, stores are struggling, employers can’t afford to shut it all down in August and continue to pay employees. Restaurants are now being run by foreigners. My father-in-law last night told me that you almost never see an Italian cooking in the kitchen anymore in the small restaurants such as the one we were eating in.

farinata wedges

farinata wedges

“Who’s cooking?” I asked.

“Moroccans, Poles, Africans,” he said. “No more waitresses, either.”

a new italy

a new italy

He wasn’t being racist, for him, this change was huge. He has lived in the town for 75 years and it had changed. Even in the 10 years since I’d been back, I’d seen that the Italy that I had known, was no longer.  You see Italy was never a France, here there were few foreigners, practically no foreign restaurants and every waitress and cook was certainly some old person form the town, disgruntled and ready to put up his feet and have a drink.

But now they don’t even speak Italian.

Our friend who owns the beach club we went to yesterday continued to ask me if we live better in America. There we were, two women the same age, standing with our feet in clear, clean shark-free water, our children playing in front of us, the pastel towers in front of them. It was so beautiful here, and yet I could see so much longing in her, I could feel it just by the way she looked at me.

‘Well,” I said, “look how lucky you are, it’s perfect.”

liguria

liguria

“Si,” she said. “But it’s changed.”

At her children’s preschool, for example, they take immigrants before Italians because most Italians make more than the refugees so they’re given the available spots and Italian people have to go to private preschools now.

the future ahead

the future ahead

Their world is changing slowly but surely. The Euro, the borders and now the increasing number of immigrants/refugees that flood their streets. On the outside it is as beautiful as it has always been, indeed if you drive this country you are floored by it’s beauty, but if you know this country, than you can see in the faces, hear in their voices that they are increasingly worried about their future.

italy in july

italy in july

But I guess we all are. We Americans are terrified too.  Will these black clouds ever go away?

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