Month: January 2015

The Winds of Italy

Dear Dylan,

It is your second Christmas season in the Veneto and you are two and a half years old. We have been here three weeks. Once again you have acquitted yourself admirably, conquering the piazza with your charm, your easy flexibility with the two languages (with some Venetian mixed in), and even climbing with me for the first time up the 65 degree incline for almost two kilometers to the top of the Castello Superiore in Marostica.

On Sunday, January 4th, we went up the hill together (by car this time) with your Mother, sister and your Nonna to dine at the acclaimed restaurant up there. We were just working on our secondo piatti of tajarini with shaved white truffles when a strange wind began to blow. We first noticed the fire flickering in the large fire place in the main dining room. Then the smoke billowed from it and soon choked the entire room, causing some diners to flee, and the rest of us to cover our mouths with our napkins. Outside we could see trees suddenly bending in the wind and slapping against the castle wall. The cameriere rushed with a metal pail to take the logs out of the fire place and run them outside, and they opened one of the big doors and a window to allow the gale to sweep through the building in a cross wind to clear the air.

After lunch we fought the wind back down the hill and went into the piazza so you could ride the mini train they have set up under the 60 foot Christmas tree. But after only three rides the limbs began to fall from the tree and other debris clogged the tracks and I had to come and take you from the train. The wind had been gusting but soon reached a more persistent roar. We heard sirens and watched as the carabiniere and polizie locale came to close off the piazza to traffic.


The entire piazza and all of the coffee bars that line it were abuzz with discussion about the strange phenomenon. The main debate circled around which wind had come to interrupt the celebration between New Year’s and Befana and what did it portend. This is when I learned that Italians have names for all of the winds. One woman insisted that it was the Ostro wind from the Sahara and that she could feel the sand blown in from that distant land. Another was certain it was the tramontana from the North, probably originating in Siberia. Most thought it was the Bora, due to its sudden and violent nature.

Italian winds

Bora: A cold, dry, violent wind that blows from the east/ north east, from the eastern Alps to the gulf of Trieste

Ghiblli: A hot, drysouth-western wind from Libya

Greco: (Also called Grecale) a strong winter wind from the north east that typically affects the central mediterranean

Libeccio: (Also called Garbino) An often violent wind from the south west

Levante: A wind from the east

Ostro: (also austro) The generic name for the wind from the south. Winds from the Sahara often come laden with sand that is deposited on cars after rain storms that accompany the wind.

Mistral (maestro or maestrale) Dry, cold impetuous north-west wind blowing through southern France and Liguria

Ponente: A fresh wind from the west, a summer breese from the Tyrrhenian Sea

Scirocco.  A hot, wet wind from the south-east blowing from Africa across the Mediterranean.

Tramontana. A cold, generally dry and rather strong north wind


The wind howled all of that night and debris littered the courtyard of your Nonna’s house. But the next day dawned bright, still and clear. We have weathered another storm and your second stagione di natale in the Veneto. Befana arrives tomorrow, when what I still insist is a witch, rides in on a broom to fill stockings for children with coal or candy and toys, depending on their record of good behavior. You, my little man, have been very, very good.

Vive lungo e’ prospera