“Who has seen the wind? Neither you nor I…” But we can marvel nonetheless, and call it by name. Actually, we can call them by name, as the winds—at least in Italy—are plural, and go by first names only. And what beautiful names they are. Poetic, evocative, mythic. I love living in a country where you can seasonally blame your headache on something as exotic as the “Scirocco.”
Here are the names of the winds. Try them on for size. Roll them on your tongue. Open your window and see if they respond to your call:
Tramontana. The polar wind that blows from—where else?—the north, bringing frigid, dry air to the Italian peninsula. The ancient Romans called it Borea.
Greco, Grecale. A cold, dry wind coming from the Northeast, bringing good weather and serene skies with its sometimes gusty blasts.
Levante. A weak winter wind coming from the East, bringing rain and storms to the Mediterranean. The ancients called it Euro.
Scirocco. A hot, Saharan wind, arriving from the Southeast, filling itself with moisture as it travels north over the Sea, causing prolonged periods of fog by the time it reaches Milan.
Austro, Ostro, Mezzogiorno. A weak wind coming from the South. Hardly felt at sea, it can nonetheless bring rains and storms. The ancient Romans called it Noto.
Libeccio, Garbin. The powerful Southwestern wind that blows itself in and out of existence with impressive speed, usually bringing high pressure and calm skies.
Ponente, Espero. The summer wind coming from the West, breathed into life by the warming of the Earth and the seas. The ancient Romans called it Zefiro. I love it that the name “Espero” contains the word spero, “I hope.”
Maestrale or Maestro. The bratty wind from the Northwest that harbingers the arrival of winter. It blows hard bringing cold, dry and calm weather.
These winds—these forces of nature, these personalities—inhabit the space we live in, moving through at their own speed and in their own time. They change our moods—lifting our spirits or filling us with foreboding. Who can resist a change in the wind? We are subject to these forces, though often we pay little attention to them. That is why I love knowing their names. It gives them their rightful place in the scheme of things. They require our respect.
Who has seen the wind?
Neither I nor you:
But when the leaves hang trembling,
The wind is passing through.
Who has seen the wind?
Neither you nor I:
But when the trees bow down their heads,
The wind is passing by.