Living like Vampires in Alta Langhe
This is my second permanent summer here in the Langhe Hills of Piemonte. Last year was a rich lesson in how to cope in relentless dry heat for 3 months straight. This year another lesson, how to cope in humid hot temperatures for 3 months.
We have turned into vampires! Bram Stoker would be proud of us!
When we used to holiday in Italy in our younger, and more naive years, we were always baffled with the deadly quiet villages all shuttered up and left, at least in our minds, abandoned. We couldn’t understand why no one walked the streets between 12 and 4pm. Back then we used to sunbathe by a pool all day and eat lunch outside in the midday sun.
Now, I dream of holidaying in Scotland next year. Living permanently in a hot climate is not sustainable I fear without a good number of breaks in the summer to more temperate climates. It doesn’t help that I am fantasising about moving to Scotland having immersed myself in the ‘Outlander’ book series, of which I am now on my third read through, or more accurately listen through, as I am listening to the audio version on Audible, narrated by the wonderful Davina Porter. I really want to be in Scotland.
But back to the vampire business. We learnt the art of ‘shuttering windows’ last summer, as our Piemontese neighbours, one by one, told us off for having all our windows wide open all day during the summer. They would say, ‘Are you mad? Shut those windows at once,’ anytime they visited before 7pm. Then after 7pm it was, ‘Are you mad? Open those windows at once,’ any time after 7pm. You see, there is an art form here. Shutters are Italians air-conditioning units. If the temperature outside is hotter than the temperature inside the house all windows and shutters are closed to stop the heat entering the house. We now have a more comfortable 28 degrees inside while it is 38 degrees outside. But, with the shutters open, the heat inside was more around 32 degrees. As soon as the temperature outside goes below the internal temperature you throw all windows and shutters open to get the cooler air to enter before bed time. It is logical and effective. It just means checking the internal and external thermometers frequently.
Our paranoia about the temperature led us to a speedy return the other day from a morning appointment. Half way back I remembered we hadn’t closed the shutters for the day and the temperature was already 30 degrees. Andrew put his foot down to get home to save the day but there was a funny moment. Coming up our hill, around 12pm, there rounding a bend, was a bunch of 5 walkers, all wearing khaki shorts, linen flowing tops in a rainbow of pastel colours and the ubiquitous straw hat – tourists! It really took me back! That was us, no more than a few years ago, out strolling and taking in the view in the midday sun while locals were racing by in cars in a demented style, mouths open wide, gawking, as they passed by the lunatic people who were mad enough to be out walking in the midday sun, while they sped up the hill to get indoors and bang the shutters closed tightly.
I do truly feel like a vampire. We are working and eating indoors all day now, even a quick walk to the garage breaks me open in a full on sweat. But at night, as the sun sets, we all venture outside to water the parched plants, bring stiff sun-dried washing in and eat dinner under the stars, hopefully with an accompanying cool breeze wafting by.
This month it is Festa season. On a trip back from visiting friends in Acqui Terme, at the Brazilian festival, a couple of weeks ago, we passed by three separate Festas. Each little village has its own Festa, though there isn’t a lot to differentiate them apart from different bands. The bands are great though, as whoever seems to book these has an eclectic taste in music. Last Saturday we went to a Festa in ‘Pezzolo,’ a tiny hamlet where Ferrero was born, he who started the Ferrero company that went on to make Nutella and Ferrero Rocher! I am surprised they don’t have a day a year off in his memory for his contribution to all things chocolate, let alone all the employment he created. ‘Pezzolo’ by day sleeps. We play tennis there on its one tennis court every weekend in the morning. Barely a soul moves about the sleepy streets of ‘Pezzolo’ during the day, which is good for me, as I get very shy when anyone even glances at me playing tennis! But at its Festa, last weekend, at least 200 locals lined the streets eating, drinking, chatting and dancing to the bands. I was very impressed with a great funk ska band that played on the main stage that night.
The Festa in ‘Pezzolo’ was a sight to behold that really gladdened the heart, because, these people are just like us. They live indoors all day and only come out at night – we are all vampires of the Langhe Hills.
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