The terms “hero” and “rescue” are thrown around pretty loosely lately, and it bugs me.
Like we didn’t rescue our dogs when we got them from the pound. There was nothing heroic about it. We just plunked down some cash and brought them home.
On the other hand, maybe I am a hero for rescuing that bottle of whisky from the store last week.
What I do know is that Italian meteorologists – specifically, the ones at www.3bmeteo.it – are heroes of mine for rescuing my ass last year from almost three months of bad weather.
May to early July 2016 was one of the wettest, stormiest periods on record in the Abruzzo region of Italy, which was not great for the first months of operations at our tour company and vacation villa.
But the accuracy of these heroic weather-predicting geniuses at 3bmeteo came to the rescue.
Here’s why they are heroic.
Most of the time, the weather in Abruzzo is great. Classic Mediterranean, mostly sunny and warm all times of the year. It’s like Florida, but without all the face tattoos.
But because Abruzzo is mountainous, the weather turns quickly and when it turns, it pours and the wind howls. Then there are the micro-climates. It can be crappy in one valley, but 10 kilometres away, the sky can be completely blue.
So, like many things in Italy, crossing the street for instance, the weather can be challenging, and this results in enormously complicated sets of data the meteorologists work into detailed maps, charts and graphs.
The result is that weather maps of Abruzzo are a patch work of symbols with clouds here, sun there, sun and clouds here, and a storm there, generally divided by mountains. Hourly, they put maps out new maps for the morning, afternoon, evening, and night. The temperatures vary so much, they don’t bother with numbers. Instead, they issue separate maps with colours representing ranges of temperatures for different times that often resemble swirls of modern art. I won’t get into the radar, barometric pressure, and altitude adjustment graphics.
Here’s how the meteorologists rescued us.
We had, and still have, a set plan for tours that assume the normal good weather, but that had to be abandoned.
Instead, myself and our guide Luca Santovito improvised day trips around the weather where we literally chased the sun all day.
Luca, Lisa and I would meet in the morning and look at the predicted weather for the day across our touring area and map out the plan. We’d go up a mountain in the morning when it was clear, but get down before the clouds rolled in. Then we’d drive over two valleys for the afternoon when the sun was supposed to be shining. Other days, we would cancel our plans to visit Roman ruins and instead head to the Adriatric Coast where the sun was supposed to be shining for a couple hours in the morning. Just about every day was like that and often we would change our plans mid-day to take advantage of an improved forecast in an area or to avoid an area where it was now supposed to be crappy.
We also developed several alternative indoor-based activities for days when it was raining everywhere.
Luca became an expert at museums in the towns of Chieti and Pescara. We found several more beautiful and interesting abbeys and churches and an underground tour of the town of Lanciano. Anywhere we could take refuge in while the rain passed was also added. We found more wineries for our guests to visit. We worked with a local ceramics artist on presentations at her studio.
Some weeks, everybody had to get into the act, and our chefs Angela and Cesidia developed cooking classes at the villa that have become a staple of our packages.
It required all of us, guests included, to be flexible, but it worked out. We never got caught on top of a mountain in a big storm. When guests did get caught in the rain, it wasn’t for long. And we never had to tell a group of guests we had nothing for them to do. It was challenging, and, frankly, it was frustrating to have to string together improvised tours day after improvised day, but we did just fine.
This point was driven home for me near the end of June. It had rained every day in our area and in most of Abruzzo that week. The nearby Pescara River was bursting its banks and I hadn’t seen the sun in days.
At the end of the week, I told one of our guests I wished the weather could have been better for his stay with us.
“What are you talking about?” he said. “The weather was great. I got a sunburn on my face. I think it rained once.”
I love those meteorologists at 3bmeteo.it. They are my heroes.
Next week: People in our town get curious.