Tuesday, 2 September 2014

The death of summer

My first summer in Milan is ending. I will remember it for many wonderful things. I'll try not to remember the weather. 

While England has been blessed with its best summer in years, Milan has been cursed with its worst. July was known as #lugliembre – July/December – on Twitter here because it was abysmal. August was scarcely better. 

I have learnt my lesson: never again will I hex the summer by acclaiming it at the start of June.

"This town, is comin' like a ghost town"

In August, Milan was abandoned as well as wet. 

When Augustus was Roman Emperor around 4,000 years ago, he introduced a public holiday known as Feriae Augusti (Augustus' rest). The fact that this holiday, renamed Ferragosto, still exists today gives you an idea of the pace of change in Italy. Not only does it still exist, but modern tradition also dictates that almost all Italians take their summer holidays in the weeks around the day itself.

So a few weeks ago, most shops shut down for half the month and virtually everyone in Milan headed south. The city was empty apart from foreign workers like me, a few people in the tourist industry, and the tourists themselves. 

A friend's photo, taken on a rare sunny day, shows how deserted it was. 

A tourist bus driving through a deserted Milanese street, © @AdWatcher

The abandoned streets were both eerie and comic. I walked around humming The Specials' Ghost Town and enjoying the solitude. It gave me time to think.

As the seasons are changing, so is my relationship with Italy. Last weekend I flew back to England for a stag do, but it no longer felt like home. That is not a bad thing. 

Many expats say they feel permanently displaced – their native countries have changed since they left, yet their accents always mark them as foreign in their adopted homelands. For me, that's not an issue, so far. 

I've been back to England twice since I left and I've grown fonder of it since emigrating. It now feels familiar and comforting, like an old teddy bear or a warm slice of my mother's Apple Crumble. But Italy is where I want to be. It is what excites me because it is both a source of surprises and, ultimately, a challenge to be conquered. 

I have no simile for it, but it is definitely home now.  


For those who've asked, part 2 of the guide to moving abroad is coming soon.

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