by Melinda Gallo

A rainy ferragosto

I woke up to the rumblings of thunder this morning. For ferragosto (mid-August holiday), it was the most unexpected weather. Normally, it's a hot and sunny day like the past few we've had. It's the holiday many people who aren't going away for August look forward to. Everything is closed, the locals have left, and a blanket of quiet covers the city. The streets were certainly peaceful this morning, but the sound of a storm loomed close by.

My suoceri picked me up in the piazzetta (small piazza below our apartment) at 11am to go up to the montagne (mountains) for a big pranzo (lunch). Alessandro had to work and they didn't want me to be alone for the festa (holiday). They also wanted to show me the lago di Toscana (Tuscan lake) in Mugello where all the water in Florence supposedly comes from: Bilancino.

We had all assumed that it would be a hot and sunny day that we could enjoy more in the montagne with fresher and cooler air. Instead of the usual 34°C (93°F) that we've been having, the temperatures dropped to around 20°C (68°F). Instead of the light summer clothing I had planned to wear, I had to bring not only a maglia (sweater), but also a giubbottino (light jacket).

When we drove close to the lago, my suoceri pointed out where the ombrelloni (beach umbrellas) were. Because of the rainy and cold weather, no one was outside sunbathing or swimming in the lago, but the ombrelloni were still standing.

We had a difficult time finding a spot to park near the trattoria because there was also a sagra (festival) being held right next door. We arrived a little before 1pm and the trattoria was packed with people seated at long tables. The groups never had less than six people.

For once, there were two women who were of my age. The last two times I've gone with my suoceri, I'm the only one in my generation. One of the other couples brought their figliuola (daughter) and one of the men brought his nuora (daughter-in-law) and her one-year-old bambina (female child).

We sat down to the table where a plate with antipasti (appetizers) were waiting for us. We began immediately after everyone was seated. I ate all the crostini (slices of bread with different toppings) and affettati (sliced cold meats) except for the prosciutto (cured ham), which I gave to my suocero.

The cameriera (waitress) came to tell us what primi (first course dishes) they had. We all nodded to each other as we decided on getting a mix of everything. For the secondo (second course), we opted for a bistecca (steak) along with pollo e coniglio (chicken and rabbit). For the contorni (side dishes), we chose the verdura fritta (fried vegetables).

The food came quickly and we ate every last bite: no vassoio (tray/serving dish) had a drop of sauce on it when it was picked up by the cameriera.

The cameriera told us about the dolci (desserts) that they had, but by the time it was our turn to order the two that I had hoped to try were already done: the tiramisł and the crostata con frutta da bosco (tart with wild berries on top).

The nuora who came was from the Ivory Coast and spoke French. She told me how odd it is that Italians love children, but no one has any babies. She looked at me and asked me if I had any and when I said no, she said, "See!"

It's true that her bambina was the hit among the other tables around ours. Everyone said how beautiful she was and smiled the second she would walk up to someone else. It was rather sweet how no one ever got upset at the bambina even though she got in the way of the camerieri and intruded on other people's conversations. The Italians love children and especially bambini.

We walked back out to the parking lot after pranzo to talk, but had to say our goodbyes quickly because it began to rain.

We drove by the lago on our way back, but weren't able to stop due to the cold and wet weather. We drove through the Mugello, which I find spectacularly beautiful, and back to Florence.

By the time I got home it was almost 6pm. I stayed in for the rest of the day because another storm came through the city. By the end of the night when I climbed into bed, the rumblings of thunder could be heard again. It was surprising that the day that marks the middle of the summer started and ended with thunder. I did enjoy my ferragosto with my suoceri and I hope to go and visit the lago again when the sun comes out again. It looked like a nice place to get away from the city for a day.

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