By Patricia Winton
I first moved to Rome on a bleak November day almost ten years ago. That first winter, rain pelted the city almost daily. I spent four months in a basement apartment with my only view through a small window near the ceiling where I watched feet splashing rain against the panes.
One night, around two AM, I stepped out of bed and into a pool of water that blanketed the entire floor of the apartment. It turned out that leaves had covered the storm drain in the courtyard, forcing the falling rain to rise in a virtual lake that eventually found its way under doorways and into the building. I spent hours mopping up the water and pouring it down the toilet. The resulting dampness led mold to grow on walls, enflaming my allergies. I coughed and wiped my runny nose until I moved.
When I got to my new digs that April, the sun arrived. I sat outside in a small courtyard to drink my morning coffee, to read, to study Italian, to let the sun wrap me in warmth and dry out my sodden body.
And everywhere I went, I praised the sun. “Isn’t it wonderful to see the sun?” and “What a beautiful, sunny day!” and “At last, the rain has stopped.” Italian people would shake their heads and frown. “Ogni goccia in aprile è un barile,” that is, for every drop of rain in April there will be a barrel of wine at harvest. This was my first introduction to superstitions about the weather here, and superstitions about wine productions abound.
Last year’s grape harvest produced the lowest number of barrels in about sixty years, so people have been paying careful attention to the weather this year. This April saw the highest rainfall in about thirty years, and if the first superstition holds, we should have a bumper crop this year.
Unfortunately, April was also the coldest in about thirty years; the rain and cold have continued into May. Neither situation bodes well for wine production because the extended cold and dampness lead to mildew and disease on the vines, retards blooms, and delays growth of the grapes.
But I’m going to be an optimist. Every drop of rain in April means a barrel of wine. I’m holding on to that.