Living in (South) Italy #1 – The weather

Mmmh…the sun, always warm temperatures, an eternal summer.
If that’s what you’re looking for, then Calabria is not the place. Although there is a lot of sun going on down here, we still have something called winter. And it is everything but pleasant. But let’s have a closer look on calabrian weather and just go through it step by step…or season by season.

Spring

Spring usually starts between February and March, which is quite early compared to other, northern places. Temperatures are now between 15-20°C, but they’ll soon go up and from May onwards people start going to the beach. Yet, that doesn’t mean it’s always sunny and warm in Italy’s tip of the boot. It actually may rain, even a lot, which, after all, is not so bad, as it gives the whole landscape a beautiful green touch. However, one of the South’s major characteristics is the wind. So, whenever you come to southern Italy, but especially in spring and early summer, be prepared for a lot of wind, and, with that, a lot of sand everywhere.

Summer

The warmest season is also the longest one, ranging nearly from May to October. Of course, May and October are not the months to come here if you’re looking for hot, tropical weather. But you can still enjoy some nice warm days even this early or late in the year. The hottest days can be found, of course, during July and August. That’s the time of the year nobody is doing anything, besides going to the beach. Sure, people still have to work or study, but they’ll probably use any free minute to get some refreshing from either the sea or the A/C. In fact, Air conditioning, shutters and water are your best friends. And instead of a hot cappuccino or espresso, you can get iced coffee in most bars.

During summer, and especially August, several festivals and events take place all over the region, varying from modern pop and rock concerts, to traditional music festivals, as well as cultural and culinary events.

This is also the time of the year you’ll see a lot of fires throughout the countryside. Most of them are actually set intentionally and controlled. Others, unfortunately, are not, not only causing damage to the environment, but also costing the region a lot of money. So unlike spring, summer is a mostly dry season with brown and grey fields surrounded by the constant chirr of cicadas.

Autumn

This isn’t really a season down here. When you talk about autumn, you either talk about the end of summer, which would be October, or the beginning of winter, which would be November. And it is quite difficult to describe this time of the year, because it may be warm and sunny, but it also may not. Last year I went out in shorts and a t-shirt in the first week of November, but had to dress with my winter jacket at the end of the month.

Best thing about autumn is definitely the harvesting, which means, a lot of wine and festivals, the so-called sagre, usually celebrated around September and October.

Winter

As I mentioned above, we do have something in Calabria that one could call winter. If you’ve read another one of my articles, you probably know that this winter may even include snow, though it is limited mainly to the mountainous inland.

To describe this season, I’d like to cite a German exchange student who recently visited the south and told me “I’ve never been freezing so much like I did here”.

Now, why’s that? First of all, due to long summers and short winters, but also to the fact that a lot of the houses along the coastline are originally summer residences, Italians didn’t really invest into heating systems. Our home, too, has only an A/C, but no heating. Of course, temperatures are milder than in northern countries. Nevertheless, having only 10-15°C at home can be quite annoying from time to time (for example at 6 o’clock in the morning). In addition, the climate along the cost is obviously humid, which makes it even colder. And as if this wasn’t enough, there is also a lot of rain going on during this season, particularly in December.

Finally, one thing I really miss in South Italy is this nice warm and cozy feeling around Christmas time. Not only because it is cold, but also because Italians have some kind of aversion to coziness.

 

So, this said, you can’t but love Calabria during spring and summer. As for the winter, I think there are other places definitely more likeable than this one.

Building our own furniture

… and saving money.

I always liked drawing and crafting, although it has never been one of my full-time hobbies. But, when we moved to our new home in 2016 and eventually had so much more space, especially with the garden, a whole new world opened up to us. Not only would building stuff on our own be a fun free-time activity, but it would also make us save money. A fact that became particularly clear, when we started getting pallet wood for free from our local garden nursery.

Room divider

One of my projects is a wooden chest room divider. We already had the Ikea Kallax shelf to separate our living room from my work space and the entrance, but there still was missing something. Basically my idea was to build something that would offer a little storage space different from a library.

I started with a base made from pallet wood and a thin plywood sheet. Next, I constructed a wooden frame, which was then attached to the base, using angle joints. All that was left to do now was nailing slats to the frame to close the chest and create the back part/room divider. I preferred leaving some holes in the back part, in order to loosen up the design a little bit. The same goes for the top, where, instead of a shelf, two wooden rods will do just fine.

Of course my chest also needed a lid. I made this one from thicker boards, so one can actually sit down on the chest. I took three slats and attached them to two cleats. A fourth slat was attached to the frame of the chest. In the end, the two pieces just needed to be joint by a hinge. Note that the lid is not lying on the lateral slats, but on the frame.

The piece of furniture fits perfectly into the room while it also offers the possibilities to add more to it (like the document holder). I had a lot of fun with this project and am really happy about the outcome.

Pallet wall piece/Wardrobe

A second piece of work that I just finished is a shelf/wardrobe made from a pallet. This is a very easy project which I recommend to anybody who’d love to add a little rustic flair to their home.

So, we still had this one white empty wall, and, at the same time, we needed some more storage space for everyday items like keys, purses or headphones – you know, the stuff you usually just throw in the first available corner as soon as you enter home.

Looking at our wood and pallet stock, I saw this one pallet and came up with an easy idea. All I had to do is lighten up the whole piece by removing some of the slats. I then sanded it well, before applying a coat of impregnation. I added two little shelves, also made from pallet wood, a few hooks and little wooden pegs. And that’s it. Easy, fast, cheap, and still beautiful – as long as you like the wood flair.

Bathtub shelf

As I told above, I removed some of the slats from the pallet that I made our wall piece from. With all our tools already lying around, I spontaneously decided to use those spare slats to build a bathtub shelf. This again is a very easy and fast project.

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After cutting the slats down to the width of our bathtub and sanding them, I used a mahogany coloured impregnation to both protect and embellish the wood, so it would match the rest of our bathroom. Lastly, I fixed the slats upon to shorter cross pieces, after figuring out how they would fit together best. Slats from pallets usually are quite uneven and not perfect at all. In the end it is up to you, how and how much you like it that way. Of course, one could also straighten the sides and give the whole a more even look, but personally I prefer a more rustic version.