Monday, 25 October 2010

I can see my breath

It's a bit nippy. The cold autumn weather has arrived. It's 8c and raining. I'll be wondering what to wear today, but probably most other people in Milan will be wearing exactly the same as they usually do. The internal Italian thermostat seems to work differently to the UK thermostat. Black puffer jackets have never been so chic.

"Duh!" you say. Maybe it's obvious that in a country with hotter summers people would feel colder quicker but I think it's too simplistic an explanation. Milan is cold in the winter. The Alps are all along the northern edge of the city with their white spires in view  at all times of the year on a clear day. It snows sometimes, but mainly it doesn't. Instead the Po valley seems to act like a fridge where the cold air comes down onto the plains and sits. And sits. And sits.

In January and February there is an ever permanent freezing fog. It doesn't lift all day and it's thick enough to obscure the building in front of mine. The lack of wind means that some Sundays in Winter traffic is stopped in  Northern Italy to help everyone breath a little better. (I took my white coat to the dry cleaners this week and asked the lady to make it a little less grey. She told me not to worry and just to imagine what we breathe in everyday. Lovely.)

Unfairly Milan is just as bad in the summer as the Po valley, whilst being an excellent rice growing region that gives you the Milanese risotto with saffron, is very hot and humid. Anybody who can flee the city flees. So Spring and Autumn are much the best times of year to visit Milan. Last week in the middle of the day it was a warm 20c. A fine summer's day on the UK internal thermostat. Warranting a T-shirt and if you are a young male student most definitely flip flops and shorts. Here though everyone was wearing jackets and scarves, (including myself, I've got soft). But other people on the trams are already in full winter wear with kitted hats and polo necks and quilted coats.

I've come to an alarming conclusion. Italians don't have an internal thermostat. They just dress according to the date. It's late October so therefore I must be wearing winter gear. Likewise in May I got funny looks for wearing a strappy top on the metro when it was a sunny 25c. In England people would have been dressed as if going to the beach.

Indoors the story is no different. My boss has been complaining about the cold in the office. To me something that requires only a couple of layers in order to remain pleasantly cool. Since the heating has been turned on you would feel toasty in a T-shirt. I think this is because the Italian dream is to remain at a constant level of cosy warmth whatever the weather whereas in the UK people seem to believe they should always be slightly cool and that warm bedrooms are in some way unhealthy (especially people with large houses).

Or maybe I'm just over analysing the Italian love of black jackets. It's not sunny outside, but that doesn't stop people from wearing sunglasses when underground.

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