A different kind of winter

Spending the winter in Rome

For many years, I only knew Italy in the summertime: beaches, bike rides, the smell of damp napkins when walking by a gelateria in the evening, sun screen and the fresh pages of a magazine by the pool.

At a later point in time, I experienced this wonderful country during the golden period of autumn, when the leaves ever so reluctantly turn yellow and the air starts getting a bit cooler after the violent heat of August – and during springtime: opulent chocolate eggs, lavish landscapes and a flowery breeze.

But wintertime? No connection had ever been established between my  “Nordic” concept of winter and my concept of Italy – and it wasn’t until November 25th 2017 that it was created.

I had taken a bus to the city center on a Saturday afternoon and did what I do best: walk and occasionally trip over Roman cobblestones.

Just a few days before, Christmas decorations had been put up, and randomly, I ended up in a beautifully decorated quartiere near the Pantheon.

There was something deeply familiar, consoling and pleasing about the Christmas lights: snowflakes, fireballs and stars. Yet, as I stepped out of a supermarket after randomly grabbing overpriced instant coffee, it hit me that this was an entirely different kind of winter I was experiencing.

It was late November, yet I wore my jacket open and I could still feel my fingers. There was the unexpected smell of cotton candy and roasted almonds as people were eating ice cream around me. Festive wraths fastened on doors, but the buildings were sandy beige and somewhat delicate, not greyish and squat. No snow, just the occasional alluvione. Just cold enough to get you in a Christmassy mood. I watched a glorious sunset with a freezing face, but there was still a palm tree sneaking into my field of vision.

My obsession with the Italian winter developed alongside my obsession with Italian Christmas lights … and I dread the moment in which they will get taken down.

Let’s enjoy them while they’re there — the kitschier, the better, right?