The Englishwoman survives rain in Italy (with a little help from Dante).


I love the book “The Enchanted April” by Elizabeth von Arnim, but every time I read it a little voice says to me, “In real life it would have been raining!”.

It rains a lot in Italy, and the Marches are no exception. How else did they get so green and fertile? (Same goes for Umbria.) There is something relentless about Italian rain. The climate is not so changeable as ours – forget Gerard Manley Hopkins and “fickle, freckled, adazzle, dim.” Consequently, when the rain sets in, it sets in with a vengeance. And there’s no such thing as drizzle – just steady, driving rain, filling the ditches, flooding the roads, getting in through the roof, blowing in through the shutters, rushing down the hills, spoiling everyone’s fun. It rains in summer as well, when the heat really builds up and you get a thunderstorm. And some summers are just terrible. Last July (2014) it rained all month, seriously damaging the regional economy, which relies heavily on sun, sea and sand. It was disastrous for the banini, or beach franchisees.

Dante sums it up. Not by chance did he include rain as one of the tortures of hell. He knew what he was writing about. “Io sono al terzo cerchio, de la piova Eterna, maladetta, fredda e greve; Regola e qualità mai non l’è nova. Grandine grossa, acqua tinta e neve Per l’aere tenebroso si riversa; … “.(Inferno Canto VI lines 7-11.) “I am in the third circle, of rain Eternal, accursed, cold and heavy; its law and quality are never new. Large hailstones, dark water and snow Pour down through the gloomy air; …” (Thanks to Longfellow’s translation.)

The sommo poeta doesn’t have any suggestions about surviving a rainy holiday, however, so it’s back to me. Pack a waterproof and waterproof shoes. Go to Urbino, or Ascoli Piceno, where there is a lot to see and museums and galleries tend to be open. The same goes for Ancona, but parts of the city are really run-down and depressing. Drive carefully! A two-lane highway with lorries thundering past you is no fun in the rain.

I hesitate to suggest the local art galleries and museums, because they will probably be shut whenever you want to visit them. (Don’t get me started!) Someone must visit them, though, because July was a very good month for visits to museums and galleries. Check opening hours at the beginning of your holiday.

In summer, cinema is always in the open air. All English-language films are dubbed anyway. Dubbing is an important source of income for Italian actors and actresses, so I don’t expect it to be given up any time soon. However, there are lots of concerts of all kinds of music, for which there is usually an alternative venue in case of bad weather (maltempo). Similarly, although there is no theatre season in summer, there may be the odd performance, if you understand some Italian.

You may well not want to drag your children along to enforced cultural events, and unfortunately there aren’t many wet-weather tourist attractions, apart from the Grotte (Caves) di Frasassi, which are spectacular. Luckily, there is a good blog, Marche for Kids, with an English translation, not by a native speaker, which has a useful list of attractions, including some which would be fine in the rain, such as the caves of Camerano and the Roman cisterns of Fermo. Children and grown-ups would enjoy both of these. I only wish I could have read the blog twenty years ago!

Do you have any ideas for what to do in Le Marche when it rains? I’d love to hear from you.

About An Englishwoman in Italy

I have a holiday home in Corinaldo in the province of Ancona in the Marche region of Italy. I have been going there since 1993 and would like to share my love and experience of the area. I speak Italian. Ho una casa di villeggiatura a Corinaldo nella provincia di Ancona, Regione Marche. Frequento Corinaldo da 1993 e desidero condividere i miei affetto e esperienza della zona con gli altri. Gli italiani sono sinceramente invitati a correggere gli sbagli.
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2 Responses to The Englishwoman survives rain in Italy (with a little help from Dante).

  1. Debra Kolkka says:

    Italy has had a couple of wet summers recently, but usually the summers are hot and dry. We have had a few very wet years in northern Tuscany with disastrous results. There have been landslides and ruined beach holidays, which affects many businesses.
    I am about to head back to Bagni di Lucca for some winter rain. Anything would be better than the hot, steamy days and nights here in Brisbane.


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