Yipee…it’s summertime in Italy! Roman Summer, that is! Otherwise also known as Saint Martin’s Summer. A delight autumn warm spell that often goes through mid November!
The Roman Summer legend
Roman Summer is also known as St. Martin’s Summer. Because according to Catholic lore, one cold and windy November 11th Saint Martin, warmly wrapped in his mantle, met a ragged beggar freezing in the rain. Moved by compassion he removed his ample wrap, split it in two, and gave half to the poor man. Then continued on his way.
But both wind and rain soon subsided, until it became so warm that he soon had to remove the cape altogether. Folklore has it that the unseasonable warm spell, which continues to this day, was sent by God to reward him for his kindness.
The science behind it
According to scientists, it’s more likely that the unusual wamth is caused by dust from a meteor making its annual journey around the earth. Dust that creates a thicker cloud covering, keeping the warm air on the earth’s surface.
Creating our Roman Summer. Or similar versions of it which many nations of the world experience as well.
Roman Summer around the world
The USA has what has always been known as Indian Summers – although I’m sure that is no longer a politically correct name. But it seems to derive from the fact that the extra warmth gave Native Americans more time to complete their harvests.
Rather a good thing for them! Just as it undoubtedly was for the gypsies of Bulgaria, where it’s known as Gypsy Summer. While in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Lithuania, Hungary, Finland, and most Slavic nations, they call it, because it also gave them extra harvest time!
The Medieval St. Martin’s Day
In Medieval times, Roman Summer was still known as Saint Martin’s Day. An important day of the year. For it was on that day that the lords of the manor decided which of their poor tenant farmers would stay on and which had to move on.
And I’m sure those forced to leave their homes and jobs were just grateful for the warm weather. No matter what is was called, or who or what brought it about – either saints or metors!
They just hoped to find new lodgings before the cold set in. Because fantastic as it is, Saint Martin’s Day doesn’t last forever. A fact clearly illustrated by the following Italian proverb.
“L’Estate di San Martino dura tre giorni e un pochinino.
Saint Martin’s Summer lingers just a bit more than three days.“
In other words, after St. Martin’s Day winter is on its way. Although according to my experience, it usually lasts a good while longer than 3 days. A saying that will most surely hold true again this year. (Though I wish it wouldn’t!)
Its importance to farmers
St. Martin’s Day is also an important day on the Italian farming calendar. Italians have several sayings about the day, most of them referring to farmers. Things like:
- “On St. Martin’s Day don’t be lax – remember to plant your beans and flax.”
- “If you want a fine wine, prune and hoe at St. Martin’s time.”
- “At St. Martin’s Time forget the water and just drink wine!”
In any case we’re glad to have summertime in November, which in the past has even made our strawberry plants bloom again! So we’ll just enjoy the balmy weather while it lasts. With a glass of fine vino, of course! Care to join me?
Images are my own.