Different Summers

It’s been surprisingly hot in my part of Wales these last few days. Well, in the UK in general. And by surprisingly hot I mean about TWENTY SIX DEGREES. Everyone has lost their minds, obviously. I mean, the whole of the UK in general goes crazy even at 5 minutes of sunshine in March, never mind 30-odd degrees in some places in June. This morning I woke up to find the hashtag #TooHotToSleep trending on Twitter. I couldn’t help but laugh. Yes, I’d left my window open overnight, but by morning I was happily sleeping under my duvet. I didn’t see much of the sun over the weekend, as I spent most of it inside, reading, making jewellery… But I did go outside for an hour or so yesterday morning, to get a couple of things from the shops, but being outside in hot weather (though, let’s face it, this wasn’t hot for Italian summer standards) has lost its appeal for me. I much prefer cooler weather, being able to sleep under a duvet, being able to wear clothes that don’t show off far too much of my arms or legs, and not falling victim to my low blood pressure.

I wasn’t much of a fan of Italian summers. And I’ll probably get criticised for saying that, but it’s how I felt. There is SO much hype in Italy in the run-up to the hot weather’s arrival, people talking about the beach, holidays, evenings outside… But it’s just SO HOT. Two summers ago was the worst one I’d experienced, it must’ve been a period of 10 days, or something around that, where the temperature reached over 35 degrees every day. I couldn’t even go outside in the middle of the day to go and have my lunch, it was horrible. I’d walk home, and the heat around me felt like a heavy weight on my back, making it hard to move, hard to breathe. Every night during that extra-hot period I’d make myself a cold bath, and just lie there until my over-baked body temperature made the water uncomfortably warm. It was difficult sleeping, and in the morning I’d wake up dripping with sweat, with a headache, and finding it difficult to breathe.

I always felt so out of place during the summer. I kept comparing myself to the many tanned, thin Italian women that I saw out and about, or worked with. Even though I was no bigger than a UK size 10 during most of my time in Italy, I felt very self-conscious. My bingo wings were on show, I had trouble finding skirts that suited me, sandals that didn’t cut my feet, and was worried that my dresses clung to my too-wide hips. I eventually made peace with my pale skin, but initially I felt the pressure to try and be as tanned as possible – even though my typically Celtic skin would never tan as dark as your typical Mediterranean person. I was always too glad to see the return of the cooler weather, and to be able to wear jeans and Converse and hide my body again.

I did have a few holidays on the Italian coast, weekends mostly, but in 2014 I went to Riccione on the Adriatic coast for six days. It was such an interesting experience! I was staying in a bed and breakfast on the corner of what was pretty much the main street in the town, and people would be walking up and down the street, talking and having fun until the early hours. I went to a MASSIVE water park, unlike anything I’d seen before, and spent time on the beach. The beach is really the only place where the heat is tolerable. Where you can just lie there on your rented lounger, and do nothing. I’ll never forget the first time I went into the sea in Italy. I was on the other side of the country, it was during the period when I was in Pisa, 10 years ago this summer. The water was so warm! I knew it would be, but I couldn’t believe just how warm it was! It was SUCH a strange feeling, it was like everything I’d experienced about the sea in my life up to that point had been wrong. I always found it fascinating watching the difference between two countries when it came to something so universal such as the sea. How the Italians would walk up and down the shore, how they’d stand in the sea talking… Not to mention how you had to rent a lounger on the beach – unless you went to a spiaggia libera, a free beach, then it was like what we have in the UK, you just pop your towel down where you want. I loved observing the cultural differences at the seaside during my summers in Italy, it was like a completely different world to what I’d grown up with – the cold Atlantic, running back from having been in the sea to get wrapped up in a big towel, still shivering. Here, the sand was too hot to walk on, and the last thing you’d want to do in 30+ degree heat was wrap yourself up in a towel!

Obviously, being in the UK, the hot weather isn’t set to last. I was watching the forecast this morning, which warned of the chance of thunderstorms overnight. For someone who claims to be scared of thunder and lightning, I loved the Italian summer thunderstorms. Especially if they showed up during the evening, the air the following morning would be so much cooler and fresher. Tomorrow should still be nice and warm in my neck of the woods, and then it’s supposed to cool down on Thursday. And after that, knowing the good old British summer, that’ll probably be it for the hot weather this year!

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