The worst is almost over ... or at least, it should be. July is usually the hottest and stickiest month here in Milan, with combined temperatures and humidity regularly giving a perceived temperature of over 38°C (100°F) - sometimes well over. All day you're clammy and dehydrated, and at night it becomes impossible to sleep. Despite three or four tepid showers a day, you feel devoid of energy and irritable, can't work, can't think and want do do nothing but lie in front of a fan on full blast.
Well, that's me anyway - and most of the plants on the balcony. Some people, like my husband, revel in it. I flake, my plants droop pathetically, and he decides to spring clean the house. No accounting for tastes. Perhaps I should suggest he takes on the dead-heading and the staking and the 101 other jobs that I can't find the energy for.
In comparison with other years though, this July was better than usual. Air temperatures didn't ever go above about 36°(97°F), and the humidity was only a real problem for about ten days. In between hot spells, temperatures dropped to an almost pleasant 30°C (86°C) and the hottest, most humid days usually finished with a storm which brought the nighttime temperatures down.
But what storms. The north of Italy made the national news constantly during July as hailstorms, wind and torrential rain brought down trees and scaffolding, and flooded roads, houses and railway lines. The hail was sometimes as big as small icecubes. It hit the balcony plants hard , particularly those trailing over the balcony rails like the ivy-leaved pelargoniums and surfinia, whose flowers were ripped to pieces. And several times a crash in the night announced that yet another large pot had been blown over by a wind that here is called a tromba d'aria. The literal translation is blast of air, but it's usually translated as a tornado. However, I think a more accurate term is a downburst. It's a wind which arrives suddenly with no warning, and lasts for no more than about ten minutes, but in that time reaches gale-force strengths. We have them regularly and they can do a lot of damage. One arrived last night as we were sitting watching TV (OK, OK I admit it - Brothers and Sisters. In this heat that's about the maximum my intellect can manage) and within thirty seconds half the balcony had blown into the living room through the french doors. Ten minutes later there wasn't a whiff of breeze, but for the next half hour there was a thunderstorm and torrential rain. We found out this morning that the storm had brought down six large trees around the city, injuring two people, and again causing widespread flooding..
In theory, now that we're in August things should gradually change. By the end of the month we should be looking towards autumn, with noticeably cooler temperatures. But the forecasts are for hotter than average temperatures so who knows ...