In English we say that March comes in like a lion and leaves like a lamb. Italians say the same: "Marzo pazzerello (crazy March) arriva da leone e se ne va come un agnello." Marzo (named for Mars, the god of war) has always had a reputation for being pazzo (crazy). Italians caution, “Arriva marzo pazzerello; esce il sole e prendi l’ombrello!” (Here comes crazy March; the sun comes out, and you grab your umbrella!)
Many a March day fa brutto (literally, “makes” ugly weather). On some days piove (it rains). On others fa freddo (it’s cold). How cold? “Il freddo di marzo penetra nel corno del bue,” the saying goes. (The cold of March pierces the ox’s horns—or more colloquially, when it’s cold in March, you freeze your bum off.)
The following weather previsione (forecast) from an Italian newspaper captures the craziness of March's cattivo tempo (bad weather): “Piogge in arrivo!” (Rains are coming!) “Forte maltempo e anche neve da mercoledì a venerdì.“ (Strong bad weather and also snow from Wednesday to Friday.) Residents of northeastern Italy are warned to watch out for “acqua alta a Venezia" (high water in Venice) and a “scirocco eccezionale” (exceptional southeast wind).
According to folk lore, the last three days of March are called "i giorni della vecchia" (the old lady's days) or "giorni imprestati" (borrowed days). Way back in the time when March had only 28 days, an old woman decided to take her sheep into the fields because, as she declared, March was over and could not torment her with cold any more. Offended by these words, March "borrowed" three days from April and made sure that they chilled the old woman to the bone.
My favorite March saying transmits a happier thought: Vento di marzo, odore di primavera! (Wind of March, smell of Spring!)
Words and Expressions
Non c'è marzo così bello senza neve sul cappello — March is not so beautiful without snow on your hat
Marzo: un sole e un guazzo — March: a sun and a shower
Sole di marzo, onda di mare, pianto di donna: non ti fidare — March sun, sea wave, crying of a woman: don't trust any of them.
Fine di marzo, primi di aprile, ancora freddo può venire — End of March, first days of April, more cold can still come
Dianne Hales is the author of MONA LISA: A Life Discovered and LA BELLA LINGUA: My Love Affair with Italian, the World's Most Enchanting Language.