Benvenuta, Beatrice!

September 14, 2012 / Local Interest
Italy burned this summer and not just figuratively but literally: over twenty-thousand fires ravaged the peninsula, the result of the devilish partnership between the strong maestrale winds from the northwest, lo scirocco from the southeast, sizzling heat waves, and the heavy hand of pyromaniacs unfortunately. For example, a fire in Vieste (Puglia) in early July devoured the woods which had miraculously escaped the tragic Gargano peninsula blaze in July, 2007. Luckily, this summer’s fire was put out before it spread.

Like the world over, metereologists here too have adopted the tradition of naming storm fronts and weather systems, except the naming conventions used here are unequivocally Italian. What were some of the names given to the succession of blistering hot anti-cyclonic fronts from Africa that battered Italy this summer? Annibale l’Africano for one, after the Carthaginian general who caused such trouble to Ancient Rome. Followed by who else but Scipio Africanus, the Roman general who was even tougher than Hannibal and defeated him. Only an Emperor is stronger than a Roman general, so the following heat wave was none other than Caligola, scourge of Rome according to Suetonius. (Supposedly made his horse a priest.) And the fourth front, hotter than all the others? None other than Lucifero himself!

Phew… after all that, Italy has now cooled off, thanks to the arrival of lovely, sweet Beatrice, named after Dante’s muse. Cool weather and summer rainstorms (finalmente!) swept in from the Atlantic at the end of August, chasing away Lucifero and the other boys.

What’s next? “Dopo Lucifero e Beatrice, ora arriva Poppea”… we’re due for a clout of rainy weather with a drastic drop in temperatures, named by meterologists “Poppea“, Nero’s favorite lover who later became his empress and according to Tacitus apparently died while pregnant from another sort of clout: a kick in the stomach delivered by Nero.

After the truly difficult summer for so many, we’re not quite sure what that means weather-wise. Speriamo bene…

Anne Robichaud

by Anne Robichaud

An authorized Umbrian tour guide, Anne and her husband Pino worked the land for many years in the 1970’s so rural life, rural people, rural cuisine are una passione for her. See Umbria from “the inside”: join her May 2017 ten-day tour centered on discovering Umbria, Anne’s Umbria.

See for more on her Umbria tours. Do see for news on the Assisi apartment – and Assisi countryside guest house – she and Pino now rent out.

Anne writes frequently on Umbria and other areas of Italy. Read about her annual U.S. Feb/Mar cooking classes and lectures, as well as her numerous Italy insights on her blog.

15 Responses to “Benvenuta, Beatrice!”

  1. Giuseppe Spano
    Giuseppe Spano

    We were in Vieste and the beautiful Gargano Forrest in 2006, Puglia is one of my favorite areas of Italy. Our friends in Salento have spoken of the extreme heat this summer,yet as Italians do, they survive

  2. Paulette Carnicelli Pidcock

    Cara Anne – great to hear from you. I enjoyed the background on the names but sad to learn of the destruction. Ciao

  3. Sandra Spector

    I loved this article! We leave on the 27th for a month in Italy. I hope it rains BEFORE we arrive so we can have “perfect” & lovely weather… As all visitors wish. A presto

  4. Yes, here in Sardegna too, the fires. I had taken some photos and thought to post them as they had brought in the canadair (planes which fill their bellies with water form lakes or the sea) or helicopters, but it was too sad. It’s one thing when the fires are in open fields (after they have been cut) but sometimes there are animals, and even forests. The open land is tilled and replanted, and rumor has it that sometimes the pastore set the fires. More often than not though they are caused from humans being careless or sparks from electrical wires. It was a hot summer…but every summer in Italy this happens and it’s difficult if not impossible to control (by the police) – kudos to the corpo forestale!

  5. Suzanne and Jack

    Dear Anne,

    As always your writings evoke wonderful (if not sometimes tragic) images of Italy. Climate warming has meant that countries susceptible to risk of fire (as in parts of Italy and indeed, Australia) are at a greater risk.

    How you must have sighed with relief as the weather cooled.

  6. Anne Robichaud

    Thanks to all and yes, cool weather here now in Umbria…rains, too, for a couple days: needed
    Ah, these Italians: even the winds spiraling out from areas of high atmospheric pressure – the anticyclones – are named for protagonists of their history, literature and mythology- Caronte, Ulisse, Scipione, Nerone, Caligula….and then cooler weather tied to the refined gentility of Beatrice.

    In the US, hurricanes are named after people, starting with “A” and moving through the alphabet. Pragmatic.

    I prefer the “cultural immersion” touch! :)

  7. Hello Anne,

    It is always a pleasure to read your postings – so informative and interesting. I hope to see you at one of your dinners in the states. I so enjoyed the last one. Thank you for this “Italian Notebook” column.


  8. Colleen Simmpson

    We had a devastating blaze near Piegaro in August. Burned and burned, complicated by the existance of an old ammo dump from the war and all night the bombs went off while airplanes zoomed overhead carrying water from Lago Trasimeno. It is so sad now to drive from Piegaro to Monteleone di Orvieto and see what looks like a battle zone. Lost precious trees and vineyards and one house. The cooling rains of September are so welcome now. But our dearest friends, all farmers, have almost lost their tobacco and girasole crops this year…we had not a drop of rain in three months of summer. Worst winter in sixty years last January and worst summer in sixty years is what the old-timers tell me.

  9. Sad to hear this Colleen…lets hope it all gets replanted and fast…the Italians are so resiliant. The trees are so much more difficult to replace, but the sunflowers will come back-really strange weather here too in sardinia. lemon trees got hit by ice and did not do well this yr-other problems with crops, and of course with such a dry summer people had to spend more money on irrigation. Lets hope next year is kinder…

  10. Colleen Simmpson

    Janice: thanks for your comment. It will take a long while for the trees and the poor vineyard that was destroyed. It was a very unusual year for Italy. We had knee deep snow in Piegaro in January/February….worst in everyone’s memory. Hard freeze also. Hoping for a moderate winter with moderate summer following for sure.

  11. Colleen, I spent the month of February in Costa (Liguria) and they said it was the first snowfall in 20 yrs (lucky me) – had to buy chains for the rental car, and they had a LOT of snow, a couple of feet in some places, but about 18 inches…it lasted about 4 days before the melt. Still, its better than the fires, or the mud (have you seen the mud and sand arriving in Lipari?) which deastated Cinque Terre. Italy has been subjected to such major disasters for centuries. I hope for your zone a speedy recovery!!!

  12. Anne Robichaud

    Lower Orvieto was flooded yesterday – Nov 12 – when the Paglia River overflowed its banks..roads closed all the way to Todi….flooding all along the coast…Maremma area badly hit..che disastro.. The latest ciclone is here: Cassandra – named after the daughter of King Priam and Queen Hecuba of Troy whose beauty caused Apollo to grant her the gift of prophecy – beautiful, intelligent, charming, desirable, elegant, ………but she was considered to be insane.
    The weather has been insane the past few days: the name meteorologists have given to the latest “ciclone” certainly fits.

  13. Anne Robichaud

    Nov . 29 2012 The horrific weather is still with us – rains and floods- and the creative names of meteorologists just get better and better: Minerva was the devastating anticiclone causing flooding in Liguria and on the Tuscan coast 2 wks ago.
    This wallop has been dubbed “Medusa”: “her tentacles are wrapping around the peninsula”, today’s paper said.


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