Winds of Liguria


Upper olive grove buffeted by the winds of Liguria

Liguria is, more than anything else, a long thin coastal stretch with mountains at its shoulders, and its entire complex of history, culture, and society is tied up to the sea and these geographical factors.  And so the winds of Liguria are of great importance.

There’s an easterly wind howling down the valley of Levanto this morning.  Of course its difficult to identify exactly which way the wind is really coming from when you live in a valley, since ultimately it either blows straight up or straight down the gap, so since the wind is chilly I’m guessing that it may be the famous Tramontane, the north wind, that has gotten channeled down our way.  Everyone in Liguria fears the Tramontane, because it brings atavistic reminders of Alps and Siberia to our otherwise timid Mediterranean skin.

The wind that most populates the dreams and nightmares though of the population is the Libeccio, the SW wind whichs rip up from Africa, often bringing yellow sand all the way from the Sahara and heavy seas.  You can tell that these are the most important winds culturally just by looking around you when you are in the Cinque Terre and counting the number of B&Bs, restaurants, shops, cafès, and products that are named after it in one form or another.  It’s a bit like the role of the Mistral in Provence.

One of the other important winds of Liguria is the Ponente,which here in Levanto rolls in directly off the water from the west.  Like the Libeccio, the Ponente has, in my mind, the great gift of spraying us all with sea spray when the surf is up, and with gentle sea smells when the sea is calm.  When the wind is really blowing and the waves are really churning, there is a hazy cloud of sea spray that rises up over the entire downtown of Levanto, old and magical.

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