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  • Writer's pictureAlex Subrizi

Weird weather

Updated: Oct 22, 2023

As most of the news-watching world knows by now, the US is about to default on its debts and it's been a very wet spring in northern Italy. Heavy rains this past month in the region of Emilia-Romagna have resulted in rivers breaking banks and flooding, property damage, even some loss of life. Italy's infrastructure is not as advanced as that of most other western European nations and this makes the country especially vulnerable to extreme weather. And yet, as the summer of 2021 showed, even advanced countries like Germany and Belgium can struggle to cope with heavy rain when mother nature really gets going. Lately especially, it seems mother nature has even more to tell us than Kevin McCarthy.

April and May yielded welcome amounts of rainfall at Poggiosole, with memories of last summer's drought (the effects of which were felt well beyond Tuscany) still fresh in our minds. The problem 200 km to the northeast of us was five times our May rainfall figures in just 10 days. Topography plays a part too. We're situated on a hill about 370 meters (1200 ft) above sea level, so even very heavy rains won't lead to flooding on our land, but overwhelmed infrastructure in nearby valleys and in Florence would surely impact our lives and livelihood. Older locals used to speak of a marzo pazzo (crazy March) for what concerned uneven weather, but those same old-timers now say May is the new weather wildcard, and this year's string of storms would seem to confirm this. With sole baked into our name, we were relived, this past Sunday, when the sun finally showed its face again.

And yet... as if to keep us on our toes, yesterday afternoon, out of the blue, bright sun shining on our terracotta patios, the sky to the north suddenly turned ominously dark and, shortly after, another couple of millimeters of water came down. "Don't turn your back" seemed to be the message, one that has been received all too grimly in the towns of Forlì-Cesena, Ravenna, and Rimini. Extreme weather leaves one feeling helpless. In the rich world especially, we've become accustomed to thinking that our ingenuity and our advanced technologies can overcome all adversity. Most adversity. Some adversity? Kevin would know.

Postscript, May 25: Just like the deadlock in DC, the weather in central Tuscany continues to confound. This morning's clear blue skies gave way to hail and pounding rain between noon and 3pm: another 17mm added to our May tally. Quite a show. And soggy shoes.

Post-postscript, June 3: The US, as widely expected, has averted default, but local weather in our neck of the woods continues to defy expectations. Since early May we're seeing a pattern more subtropical than Mediterranean: dramatic changes in cloud cover with relatively clear morning skies giving way to humid, windy, stormy afternoons, with highly-localized heavy rainfall.

Here's a photo made yesterday looking from the northern side of our sunlit fienile towards Greve in Chianti, where it was surely raining fiercely. Florence also got hammered. At Poggiosole we felt some strong wind, but saw hardly a drop. Instead we were hit the next day (today) with a spectacular late-afternoon electrical storm and 13mm of rain in the space of two hours. Both days the same pattern though: mild, sunny morning followed by stormy skies from mid-afternoon. A very different start to June compared with 2022 and, so far, better for it.

Post-post-postscript, June 23: Abdu and Vittorio, my main men for what concerns Poggiosole's outer olive grove, have remarked repeatedly on the "extended spring" of 2023. May's rainfall was odd enough, but even June's, at 54mm, has exceeded April's, and that's nutty. June in central Tuscany is typically dry

and hot, and now that we've rounded the solstice, the weather does seem to have reverted to type. As I write this, the 10-day forecast for Tavarnelle, a town just down the road, is solid sun except for a chance of thunderstorms six days from now. In contrast to last June, temps are tolerable, peaking below 30°C most days. July will almost surely bring higher highs and drier days, but the signs of the additional rain we've received are plain to see. Grass is greener and taller than usual, the ground is ever so slightly softer under one's feet, and there is more fruit on our apricot, peach and fig trees. The suffering of towns to the northeast of us in May notwithstanding, the first half of 2023 has brought our area more balanced weather relative to the same period in recent years.

Final update, October 14: Mr. McCarthy is no longer Speaker, we have the makings of a new war in the Middle East and weather-wise this beleaguered world of ours is setting new records. Poggiosole is no exception. Up until a few days ago it's felt like summer here, with highs grazing 30°C everyday. Guests were delighted but 30°C is great and good in July, not September (let alone October). Worse, we've seen just 11mm of rain since August, all of which fell in the space of a week about one month ago. I'd hoped it was the beginning of a spate of wetter days; it was not. With our wells still dry, for the past few weeks I've been watering our flower beds and smaller trees with bucketfuls of municipal water. The forecast now calls for rain most of next week. Our olive grove could use a drink before the harvest.

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