I notice it before I even leave the house, how the light from the window feels warmer, not only in temperature, but also in color. It may seem like the justifiable conviction of one who is tired of winter and anxiously awaiting summer, but the reality is that the quality of the images around us has indeed changed. The contrast and saturation have increased, starting with the sky, brighter and cloudless than we have seen in a while, and nature’s colors are coming alive. So, in order to understand exactly what is changing, one needs to venture outside. It’s time to say goodbye to shades of gray, which no one will miss, at least not until the scorching heat of summer has sapped even the most restless souls, who by the end of August will yearn once again for coats, snow, and turtleneck sweaters.
Every year, March marks a moment of transition, and there are always those who are caught unprepared both in terms of clothing choices and the ability to adjust their habits. It is always fun to see how such different approaches coexist among those who shed their clothes, projecting themselves into summer and those who do not want to give up their heavy attire until the last of the cold. There are also those who stay inside their home because “one swallow does not mean spring”, while others already packed their beach bag. True, it is too early to change over to a summer wardrobe, and perhaps it is also too early to spend an entire evening outdoors with the wind in your face. But the moment has finally arrived when the day can be lived out in the open air, when there is great enthusiasm in stepping out of the house and rediscovering the pleasure of walks, lunches and aperitifs in the company of others.
“The gardens of March dress in new colors” sang Lucio Battisti, leaving us with a truth unburdened by time. It is enough to look out over the first park we come across to study these new colors closely; everything is more vivid, the trees are blooming and people are as well. The grass is green and the rains infrequent, and children are back to running around like maniacs, while we return to our Sunday wanderings. And the sun, always there but almost forgotten, is warming up properly. We notice this while doing the usual things but which now feel different. We experience a collective enthusiasm, attributed perhaps to the all-Italian sensitivity that places good weather at the center of our days. Longer days that put an extra spring in our step, energizing us to stay out after work, especially now that it gets dark later and no bad weather forcing us indoors. We then find ourselves having aperitifs outside, the colors of a Spritz and Negroni matching the sunset, everything flooded by golden reflections. There is more warmth in the air, but also something more, changing our perceptions and even the music we listen to, because now we need melodies in a higher, sunnier key.
Once, in a northern village, an elderly man told me that in March the herds return to graze outdoors and that people do the same. This month is the official “break”, when Italians go back to living in our native rhythm, enabling us to look up and admire what is beautiful. We can finally stop running in the rain, bundled up in sweaters, hurrying inside to get warm. We can resume managing our days with that extra bit of calm that makes a simple walk under the sun’s rays so enjoyable. Likewise, weeks full of boring commitments become bearable, since the weekend ahead is a carefree respite for pleasant outings instead of having to stay inside. Our annual hibernation is effectively over. So let’s go out and stroll through villas, gardens and tree-lined streets, the protagonists of a time no longer cold and not yet hot. A time that every year surprises us with its light, proposing the same winning recipe: a few more degrees and a nice full sun, just enough to see smiling faces and brightly colored clothes everywhere.
March is unpredictable, and even when a sudden storm causes plans to go awry, the process has begun and the season can only move forward. Arrangements and events are back on and out of town trips and lunches are organized in town centers, farmhouses or by the seaside. The sun already burns your cheeks and forehead and, for the first time in months, you feel the strong desire to peel everything off and dive into the water. From Parco del Valentino to Villa Giulia in Palermo, passing through Boboli Gardens, Parco della Montagnola and Villa Pamphili, Italy begins composing its pastoral poem that will only be completed in June. In the hottest hours you can once again lie down on the fresh grass, a prelude to upcoming picnics.
We also rediscover benches, which were left freezing all winter. There are those who sit down to read the paper without chattering their teeth, or chat amiably after meeting up by chance, and those enjoying their coffee outside the bar sporting sunglasses not worn since November. There is no need to go far, one just needs to leave their house to see all of it. It is precisely under these circumstances that a gentleman of a certain age expressed all his wonder at the warm and sunny day that March gifted him. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky and he had even removed his jacket. I always think of his wry words, and I recall them every time the sun surprises me. “Look at this wonderful day: whoever died yesterday, regrets it today.”