Last weekend was the first taste of spring here in Roma - Saturday was sunny, warm and very welcome after the damp, cold winter we've just been through. Long time inhabitants of the city complained that it had been the worst winter in decades. Torrential rains - at times almost tropical in nature - battered the city almost every day causing flooding, in one evening the Tiber rose more than 50 metres (150 ft) almost breaching its embankments. Sewers clogged with leaves left uncollected from the autumn overflowed, flooding intersections and underpasses killing at least two people.
Though the temperature only dipped below 0c on a few evenings the constant damp seeped into the buildings - all concrete and marble - and made it feel colder. So cooling in the heat of summer, marble floors can give you what we use to call chilblains in the dead of winter. And of course the heating systems in most buildings just weren't meant to deal with that sort of cold. Extra blankets were heaped on, sweaters worn and space heaters used, though sparingly because of the cost of electricity.
But last Saturday was a reminder that spring is just around the corner. And people were out doing what they do in warm weather - though many still bundled up just in case - strolling and lolling on the lawns and amongst the cherry trees in Villa Borghese. Some families were picnicking, others have family lunch in the eateries around the park. I did notice a fair number of "second bed" families - older father with young trophy wife and baby accompanied by the older off-spring of the "first bed." The young wives going to great pains to fawn over slightly wary step-children.
Many of the Nonni were out pampering favorite grandchildren - making sure that bonnets were in place, it may be sunny but a head left uncovered by a thoughtless young mother invites illness if not death. Young lovers were testing their previously housebound relationships to see if they would last in the glare of the sun. Groups of boys were practicing those shots that Roma should have played in last week's game cheered or, often jeered, by their young ladies.
And spring was evident on our balcony. Betty Jean's chamomile which has spent the winter looking like a dried up twig has begun to show tufts of fragrant green. And the first flower was a surprise. I have no idea where this little charmers came from but there are three or four stalks and this was the first to bloom.But sadly, despite a not unpleasant week with the constant promise of spring in the area, winter came back this morning. Sharp cold winds - no doubt coming in from Milano - drove the temperatures down and winter coats were dawned again. As we waited for the train to Fiumicino on exposed Platform 25 we were happy that the forecast for Barcelona was sunny and warm.
21 marzo - Sant'Elia eremita