“Io sono Settembre” (I am September), a classic Italian filastrocca (children’s rhyme) begins. “Ai poverelli rifaccio le spese” (I do the grocery shopping for the poor) by leaving fruit on the trees, “bagno le botti” (I wash, or fill, the barrels) and “porto le mele, i fichi, l’uva ed ogni piacere” (I bring apples, figs, grapes and every pleasure). September is also the time for the vendemmia (grape harvest): Agosto prepara la cucina, settembre la cantina (August prepares the larder, September the wine cellar).
One summer night on the island of Capri some friends told us to meet them at a popular restaurant at precisely 9:35 p.m. When we arrived at the bustling eatery, they escorted us away from the crowded main dining room to a quiet alcove and insisted that Bob and I take the two chairs looking toward the sea. As if on command, una luna rossa (a red moon) rose majestically from the sea to shine upon the faraglioni, the mammoth rock formations that heave out of the water like relics of a primeval ruin. Scientists explain this dazzling sight as un’illusione ottica (an optical illusion) that occurs when the moon is low on the horizon–the same reason that the sun may appear red as it sets into the horizon.
few years ago while I was sitting on a beach in Southern Italy, I noticed a man kicking a soccer ball down the shoreline. He kicked it a few feet at a time, nothing too strenuous, just a nice bit of play in the middle of a glorious sunny afternoon. It struck me as unusual that this man would take the time to do this. It was as if he had all the time in the world at his disposal and the only thing he cared about at that moment was kicking that soccer ball.
The explanation for his behaviour then occurred to me. He had developed the abilty to practice l’arte di non fare niente. This is an Italian expression which translates as the art of doing nothing. Ah, dolce far niente! It is also known as the sweetness of doing nothing.
Years ago I celebrated my first Italian Ferragosto in Capri, a most fitting (though crowded) place to be on August 15. The Roman emperor Augustus, so enjoyed late summer that he claimed as his own the month we now call by his name.
Italy goes on vacation in August. Even in not-yet-normal times, shops are shuttered, restaurants closed, streets quiet. Cities empty as residents joins the esodo estivo (the summer exodus), the mass departure of Italians heading off for their ferie estive (summer holidays).
They buzz, bite, sting — and shatter the serenity of a summer day in Italy. Many of the insects (gli insetti) you might encounter in Italy are familiar foes. The fly (mosca), mosquito (zanzara), gnat (moscerino), wasp (vespa), bumble bee (calabrone) and tick (zecca ) are blood-thirsty predators. Others, such as the ant (formica) and beetle (scarafaggio) may be more interested in what’s on your table.