Autumn in Rome is a strange season so far. Technically, it’s been in full swing for weeks now, but it’s hard to convince myself that winter is lurking around the corner when I’m still leaving the windows in my apartment wide open all day long and when the river is lined with brilliantly green trees with their leaves very much intact. Still, despite the hot afternoons, mornings and evenings are getting cooler. I leave the apartment in the morning with a cardigan on and a scarf wrapped around my neck, but by noon I’m frantically unwrapping it and stripping off layers while cursing my decision to wear dark, heavy jeans.
The Romans seem to be dealing with this awkward mix of temperatures by pretending that they don’t notice how warm the afternoons still are – I’ve seen them walking down the street in a flurry of trench coats and leather jackets, tall boots and long scarves. I’ve been told that most Italian women pick a day – an arbitrary day, not necessarily corresponding directly with the season, because that would be too straightforward – to put their summer clothes into storage, moving their winter wardrobes into the spotlight and starting in on a rotation of wooly sweaters even when the weather is still demanding lightweight t-shirts.
Now, I’m all for cultural assimilation – after all, I came here to embrace the Italian way of life – but it appears as though my body’s very Canadian internal thermometer does not agree at all with this concept. With late October in Rome turning out to be significantly warmer than mid-July in Victoria, I can’t bring myself to even look at the stack of heavy sweaters that I immediately pushed to the back of my wardrobe when I unpacked my suitcase in September. I wore my leather jacket a few days ago and felt as though I was suffocating as soon as I had walked more than two blocks, and the thought of wearing boots – of that extra layer of material clinging to my lower legs – is positively nauseating.
The Romans, though, are starting to notice my inability to dress for the calendar rather than the thermometer. A few days ago the barista at a coffee bar eyed my short-sleeved t-shirt and asked me, incredulously, how I wasn’t cold, and last night, as I was finishing up my evening run (which I do while wearing cropped pants and a tank top), a black-robed priest driving a tiny black car pulled up next to the sidewalk, rolled down his window and actually started shaking his finger at me. I couldn’t follow the entire stream of rapid-fire Italian, but I could tell that he was warning me that I’d likely catch a horrible flu and possibly even die from not dressing warmly enough.
But frankly, that’s a risk I’m willing to take.