As winter finally sputters out, Italy starts warming with softer mediterranean breezes as a thousand varieties of flowers peep out of the luscious grass of its hills and fields. Everywhere in the little country villages and seaside towns wooden green shutters are opened and fresh laundry blooms colorful against the terra-cotta colored buildings. The smell of orange blossoms wafts softly, mixed with fragrant scents of Marseilles soap.
It is now that Italians reclaim the outdoors as their natural habitat! Old wooden chairs are placed outside doorways in the alleys, as the Nonne, italian grandmothers trim basketfuls of veggies in the open air while exchanging the latest village gossip. Cute restaurants start filling sidewalks with tiny checkered tables adorned with flowers.
Everywhere birds chirp merrily as the poppies explode like crimson exclamation marks under the spring sun. It is around eleven-thirty in the morning that marvelous smells start flowing gently aloft and fill the little streets, curl upwards past the hanging laundry, and rise beyond the tiled rooves in a symphony of fragrances!
Springtime in Italy means bundles of fresh flowers adorning Easter family banquets, where from north to south, regional traditional dishes make their triumphal entrance into the sala da pranzo ( the dining room ) as mothers and grandmothers proudly present the delicious entrees in vintage porcelains passed on down generations.
Crystal decanters or traditional enameled ceramic pitchers hold different types of Vino, depending on the region. As the last bells of mid-day Mass chime out, a soft silence descends upon the little and not so little towns, punctuated by the tinkling sound of distant forks and the hum of table-side good-humored conversation… time for the Antipasti, the starters!
Swallows screech high in the blue and pigeons flap about and hop around the tiled rooves in search of a mate… as the Italian Spring blooms into growing splendor, at once, one understands a bit more of the magic behind Botticelli’s painting La Primavera…
As the breeze moves the white curtains and the nearby hills are revealed from where you sit at the table, you can take in a forkful of Rigatoni Al Forno as your mind’s ear suddenly recalls Vivaldi’s musical piece, La Primavera… (remember to leave some space for the Penne with Sicilian Broccoli!)
This is the period that opens the good season, La Bella Stagione, one longs to travel through Italy’s many and differently charming places, to dip into the Mediterranean Sea and taste the salty tang upon one’s skin.
Get ready, Italy has so much for one to see, feel, smell, taste and savor!!! And after the Italian Springs always come ITALIAN SUMMERS!