Thursday, February 19, 2004

North of Verona are the Appenines, an extension of the Alps. To the west and south, albeit at further distance, are the Dolomites, the mountain range that runs from north-western Italy all the way down the middle of the boot. And to the east is Venice and the northern end of the Adriatic Sea, well-protected in a sea - the Med - known for being placid and quiet. Consequently we’re shielded in all directions; I’ve seen vitually no wind since I arrived (do you ‘see’ wind?). Rain is similarly rare, although I don’t yet know the exact reasons why. So last night’s storm was all the more surprising, and it showed me why we don’t have those lovely wooden shutters in the UK: they make an absolute racket in the wind.

It was a real storm too: cycling around this morning, with tree branches scattered all over the place, was even more hazardous than usual. There was even the odd fallen tree and collapsed fence; unused to proper wind, the locals don’t pin down temporary structures quite as well as they might.

But most people are welcoming it. A few weeks ago, because of excessive pollution, the authorities implemented a scheme banning half the cars in Verona from driving for two days a week: every Thursday and Friday you may only drive if the odd- or even-ness of your number plate is the same as the date’s. So, for example, today – Thursday 19th – only cars with odd-numbered plates are allowed on the road and tomorrow it will be even-numbered plates. Furthermore on Sundays nobody (with a few exceptions) is allowed to drive in town at all, which, like today’s air after the storm, is rather refreshing.

Verona wouldn’t be the first place you think of when excessive pollution levels are mentioned, but because of its geography there is no wind or rain to sweep away the gases; instead they just sit above the town, gradually getting thicker. Hence why this English weather has been so welcomed, and the air is indeed fresher today. Of course, rain down here also means snow in the mountains and that, as I’m going skiing on Sunday, is another reason to be pleased. It’s just a pity it’s so grey down here, especially as this weekend is Carnevale time.

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