In Italy the end of summer is often heralded by thunderstorms. A storm had been forecast but we were not prepared for the ferocity that was to be unleashed by the turbulent air.
A huge accumulation of heavy, marauding clouds rapidly transformed the serene blue sky to a sinister battleship grey. As the high winds sped the ominous dark mass toward us, the natural light progressively failed, it seemed that the light of day had suddenly been transformed into night. Jagged streaks of blinding white lightening discharged down to earth, quickly followed by startling cracks and deep, booming rumbles of thunder that reverberated around the mountains.
Then great splatters of rain commenced to splash onto the terrace, quickly combining forces to create a spectacular cloudburst. As the storm built to a crescendo a simultaneous flash of lightening and a resounding boom of thunder shook our exposed villa to its foundations. The electric supply was abruptly cut off. The storm continued to rage, with numerous simultaneous flashes and cracks, seemingly directly overhead. We were suddenly distracted by a deluge of water that had begun to cascade from under the window frames into the bedroom and bathroom. We dashed to find towels to try to stem the flow, however they very quickly became saturated and thus we set to work with mops and buckets. We were concerned that the ferocity of the hailstones battering the windows might in fact shatter the glass panes. It became evident that we had made the blunder of not closing the outer protective shutters.
Soon the upstairs terrace resembled a paddling pool, and the deluge formed an improviso water feature as it cascaded down the external staircase. Normally tall, sturdy trees were being relentlessly lashed back and forth by the immense force of the wind and our washing that was pegged out on the line to dry was flung riotously around the garden. Mercifully eventually the storm abated, however we were left without an electricity supply for some hours. Our poor dog Barney, who had a phobia of thunderstorms, was so traumatised that he found himself inextricably wedged under our bed.
It was not until the next day that we learned that the storm, had in fact been a violent tornado, which had caused considerable damage throughout the Latina area: many power lines were down, traffic lights were put out of action and motorists, finding it impossible to see the way ahead, had been compelled to halt and take shelter in their vehicles and ride the storm out. In addition a helicopter had been forced to make an emergency landing. A number of local villas had suffered lightening strikes and had their electrics circuits blown to a frazzle. Certain cafes and beach establishments had had their chairs and umbrellas swept away.
A few nights later we awoke abruptly to the sound of shutters boisterously clattering, and doors and windows noisily slamming shut, as a forceful, tempestuous wind sucked and blowed its way throughout the rooms. Hastily we leaped from our beds and fought to batten down the hatches. The ferocious gusts continued to buffet the exposed villa. I questioned – Just why do Italians like to build their houses high on hilltops or ridges, at the mercy of the elements, especially as thunderstorms are frequent in this mountainous region. Startling flashes of lightening eerily illuminated the night sky creating a weird form of virtual daylight and the sound of rumbles of thunder were strangely distorted by the furious gales.
When we awoke the next morning, the air was much fresher. We discovered that numerous trees had been uprooted, and that the torrential downpour had caused flooding in some low lying areas, including in the town of Itri, which is situated in a basin surrounded by the neighbouring Aurunci mountains. Country roads had been transformed into torrents and were strewn with stones, mud and sand.
We drove down towards the coast to see our friends with the “orto” at Sant’ Agostino. They were reeling from the effects of the savage weather and were hard at work trying to salvage what little they could of their crops, there were broken stems and leaves everywhere.
Thankfully the weather subsequently quietened down to the comfortably warm days of the Autumn, a refreshing relief from the sizzling heat of summer.