Tuesday, August 18, 2009


Summer here in our part of Italy means hot and dry. Usually there’s no rain at all during July, even much of August. I think the mountain that separates us from Orvieto, Monte Peglia, has a big effect on our weather, and we still have a hard time figuring out what the weather on any given day will be. When we lived in Louisville it was pretty easy: look at the weather in St. Louis, and that’s what we’d have the next day. If there happened to be a big cold front swooping down from Canada or the remains of a hurricane in the Gulf that would of course alter the pattern, but that was the exception rather than the norm.

Italy of course has oceans on three sides, bringing us a variety of air currents. The Alps in the north and the Apennines running the length of the country also have a big effect, and the hot winds from Africa often blow our way, or we can get a cold blast of Arctic air from Russia. The weather forecasts online do us little good – we’re too far south of Perugia to depend on their forecast, too far north of Terni, and Monte Peglia usually makes the forecast for Orvieto inapplicable for us.

Yes we’re retired, and no, for the most part it doesn’t really matter what the forecast is, except on hot days like yesterday, when we’d planned to go out for the evening and wanted to leave all the windows open to catch the cooler evening air – and the difference in the night air has been significant – great for sleeping!

Throughout the day yesterday we’d heard the rumble of thunder far off in the distance, and although it was cloudy, we never saw rain clouds and weren’t expecting any rain at all. Just as we were getting ready to leave for the festa though, there was a loud KABOOM of thunder much, much closer. Our neighbors, who’d been sitting outside began gathering their seat cushions to head inside. I called down to them to ask if it was really going to rain, and was told yes, we can see it coming! We dutifully, but regretfully closed all the windows before we headed down to Fratta Todina for another festa. Because the rain here is so localized we knew there was a chance it would rain in San Venanzo but not in Fratta, or that it wouldn’t rain anywhere around us, just somehow dissipate or blow over.

As we drove down to Fratta Todina we could see a narrow band of showers moving in, but it looked liked we’d stay dry at the festa. Once we arrived down in the valley the wind was still blowing, but we didn’t see any rain or even rain clouds. After waiting a few minutes to see if the rain would arrive, we decided we were safe so we walked into town.

We’d agreed to meet our friends at the far gate to the city, and as we stood there, under the portico studying the menu, we heard a crack of thunder so loud and so close that we, and everyone around us, jumped a mile! Just a few minutes later as we walked towards a table under the cover of a tent, we saw a lot of smoke in a nearby field, and realized that yes, the lightning strike really had been THAT close!

A few minutes later we were ushered out of the tent, but I’m not sure why. Perhaps it was just because of the smoke, or because of the proximity, or maybe it was to make way for the fire trucks. Fratta Todina Festa 2009 002We found a table in the centro where we were more protected from the wind and from the smoke. After we ordered I walked back towards the fire to take a few pictures. All I’d seen earlier was the smoke, but now I was able to see that there was quite a fire burning. Everything is so dry and I think the remains of the cut hay, or whatever had been growing in the field had simply caught on fire. The smoke was so thick, and the wind was blowing it right towards me, so it was almost dark!

Fratta Todina Festa 2009 010As I walked further down I could see that another section of field was burning; this section not one large fire, but rather a long line of low flames. The fire trucks arrived via a back road, and I was told they were pumper trucks with their own water supply. After taking a few more pictures I left, and I’m sure it didn’t take the firemen long to put out the fires.

Unfortunately the area where the fire occurred was quite near to the area where the entertainment was held, and since we never heard any music I’m guessing that it might have been cancelled for the night. I don’t know who was scheduled to play, but we had to make it an early night anyway since our guest was heading to Rome at 6 a.m. the next morning.

Anyway, the lightning and subsequent fires certainly made the festa in Fratta Todina one to remember!

Fratta Todina Festa 2009 006


At 8/22/2009 08:16:00 AM , Blogger Bryan said...

Sounds like a bit of excitement and that yes you will remember this festa for years to come. No doubt the talk of town for many days to come. I recall in 2007 the rash of large fires all around Italy and especially near Ascoli Piceno.


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