It’s been a funny old week. Something’s not quite right and I’ve struggled to pin down exactly what’s been niggling me. I’ve not been drawn too much to introspection since we arrived here in March. Our lives have become a blank canvas for us to paint as we wish. True Freedom. There’s still so much to be discovered and places already found, that we long to return to and delve deeper inside. Forests that we’ve stumbled across as we’ve sat side by side with locals on trestle tables at Porcini Festivals – and parks in Frascati that have revealed themselves immeasurably more pleasurable as the weather has cooled.
A lot has changed over the last few weeks. I’m adapting, we’re all adapting to Mimi starting school. My days are now free and with freedom comes an abundance of choice that often leaves me feeling overwhelmed. But I know how lucky I am. Especially when I think back to this time last year. A four hour commute to London three times a week and a job so demanding that I had little left to give to anybody outside of work.
So why this nagging feeling? Some might put it down to the changing seasons. The slow drop in temperature as Lago Albano moves from hero to zero and the locals slowly bring out their winter wardrobe despite the near constant 24 degrees. I know many people – including most of my family – who hate saying goodbye to summer. Bright, breezy and carefree, the summer months, especially here just south of Rome, are full of possibility. There’s heat and happiness at every turn. We drive to the lake early on a Saturday as by mid-morning the stretch of road that runs parallel offers up no parking. It’s never too early for a gelato in this weather. Clothes are discarded easily and the din of the crickets creates an incessant backdrop to a climate that demands we seek shade and an aperol spritz.
But I am and always will be, an autumn girl. The catch your breath chill in the morning, the move towards jumpers, tights and boots and a clear path through October to Christmas, punctuated by Halloween and Bonfire Night. Both Nights that require a cold, black sky and the unmistakable smell of wood smoke. By now the leaves carpet the pavements, thick enough for a toddler’s (or an adult’s) wellies to send them scattered, as the branches above reveal themselves black and bare against the twilight. I remember Bonfire nights as a child in the eighties, stamping my feet to get rid of the cold despite my thick woollen tights. Numb fingers and toes, chilli potatoes and parkin. The adult me has lost none of the childish excitement that accompanies these four magical months as the days get shorter and the smell of cold trees and damp leaves gradually gives way to pinecones, mince pies and mulled wine.
And there it is. I’ve spent the whole summer marvelling at all the things we’ve been able to do here because of the warmer weather. And now here we are, the last day of September, and I’m thinking of everything I’d be doing in the UK right now. Comparison is most definitely the thief of joy.
As challenges of moving abroad go, it’s a far cry from navigating the mountain of practicalities and bureaucracy we faced in the early months. But it’s often the most trivial of things that floor us. I miss being in the UK at this time of year. I miss the slow run up to Christmas, made all the more special by our daughter’s arrival on Christmas Eve. I miss making sloe gin and seeing the leaves change colour to rich red, yellows and browns. I miss our family and friends. Of course, that’s not just confined to the cooler months – but there is something very powerful about coming in from the cold to the warm embrace of familiarity and friendship.
So I will spend the next few months discovering all the new and different ways I can enjoy Autumn in Italy. I’ve already found an upcoming Festa di Cioccolato in the nearby town of Marino and we are planning a December weekend away in Abruzzo to see the Christmas markets. The trees may lose their leaves much later here but we get to find all of this out for the first time. And so I will celebrate our first October here by making the traditional English Christmas cakes and mincemeat that I do each year – but I will also search out local recipes and traditions. Nostalgia is so deeply embedded within the memories of our own childhood, it’s hard not to be blinded by it. Mimi is at the age where these next few years will create her own nostalgia and so I am going to get to work, making sure these experiences feed her adult years and give her as much joy as my autumns in the UK have given to me.