ne of my favorite things about autumn is watching how Italians respond to it. Yes, it’s the famous cambio di stagione. Fall is right up there with soccer and politics when it comes to typical morning banter at the bar.
Allow me to explain. I’m from Miami. The only season I knew about growing up was hurricanes. For Italians, the cambio di stagione, literally “the change of season,” means much more than forecasts or leaves.
As it gets cooler, Italians basically lug all their fall/winter “drobe” (short for wardrobe) from underneath a bed or closet or garage and make “the switch.” They officially say goodbye to summer by putting their skimpy summer and swimwear into storage.
Out of sight. Out of mind. Even when it’s hot. Even very hot. Even if they’re sweating bullets. In fact, temperature plays only a small role in the autumn-wear scheme. What matters is that it’s fall.
Clothing-wise, Italians are conditioned by the calendar. You can always tell the difference between an Italian and a foreigner when the cambio di stagione rolls around.
Out come the scarves and wool jackets. Foreigners on the other hand link their dress habits to temperature. On a hot day in November the Italian is covered head-to-toe while the foreigner wears a t-shirt and sandals. This difference mortifies Italians.
On the bus I recently overheard an elderly woman who was bothered by someone who’d just boarded in short sleeves. “Aaoo, ma hai visto quel ragazzo? Sta con le maniche corte. Mica siamo al mare. Poi, è ottobre.”
Short sleeves not only shouldn’t be worn in October, she said, but not even in the city. The kid should head to the beach. Che vergogna. How shameful. A bunch of people standing nearby nodded in agreement.
A quick look around made the majority opinion clear. Not a single window was open and just about everyone was covered in scarves even though the humidity on the bus was so bad as to fog the windows.
Of course no one dared ask the bus driver to turn on the AC. It’s fall. Fall means cold. Period. Aria condizionata? In October? Macchè! Who’s ever heard of such a thing? People could get sick.
Cambio di stagione takes no prisoner.