july is burning

I’ve waited to write July’s Monthly Musing until the very end of the month–hoping that I would develop more positive feelings about it as July marched on.

Unfortunately with each passing day, more and more of our gorgeous rolling hills have gone from green and brown to charred black, and there’s not much positive I can take from that.

You may have read about the fires throughout central and southern Italy (as well as Greece), and believe me, the stories are not exaggerated.

Some say that many of the fires have been set deliberately but to be honest with you, I don’t really buy into that. Sure people burn off their land here all the time, but they’re pretty good about controlling it, and not many are doing it in 120Β°F–most of that was done in June when temps were reasonable.

They say the motive is to clear the way for new hotels, villas, and pastures
but from where I’m sitting, it’s just a whole lot of beautiful olive trees that have been taking the hit around here–and if any hotels or villas sprout up on the hillside, I’ll let you know.

I’m sure that there *are* some pyromaniacs around, but I personally feel that blaming arsonists for the rash of fires is just another way for the powers-that-be to shake their heads in derision toward central and especially southern Italy and to draw attention away from the fact that they haven’t been very successful in managing the fires.

But maybe that’s just me.

Anyway, we have been lucky to escape any damage up until now, but the hill just across the road from us wasn’t so lucky; yesterday afternoon it went up in flames as I was down at the beach swimming near where a helicopter was dipping into the sea for water to take up there. A couple weeks ago, our neighboring village lost two houses, although no one was injured.

forest fire in santa caterina, calabria, southern italy

I posted here about the planes fighting the fires, but things have gotten so much worse since then. Tourists have been killed in Puglia and one of our pilots died in Abruzzo when his Canadair crashed into a mountain near L’Aquila.

Greece lost two of its own in a similar way.

And so I sit here on another scorcher, although it’s certainly cooler than it has been, waiting for the wind to pick up as it normally does at this time of day and then continues to increase until it reaches what feels like hurricane force.

And I’m sorry to say that I smell smoke.

Smoke, flames, blackened earth
July two-thousand seven
I’ll never forget.

forest fires in calabria, southern italy

On a different, more cheerful note, do check out my post entitled “What’s the Deal with Lycopene?: Health Benefits of Tomatoes” on TomatoCasual.com.

And let’s hope for a better August.


[tags]july, fires, forest fires, italy, southern italy, calabria, haiku[/tags]

30 Beans of Wisdom to “july is burning”
  1. Paolo

    Yeah, anti-Southern prejudice was my reaction, too (two generations down the line from Calabria and I still have a chip on my shoulder).

    The Western U.S. is burning, too – with a bunch of arsons – not to mention a couple fires the size of Basilicata caused by some a*****e throwing a cigarette out of the window of his SUV….

  2. Sara

    So sorry. We used to have a lot of fires in Southern California where I grew up, but some years were — and still are — definitely worse than others. I’m just glad your own place is safe so far, and hope that continues.

  3. Wanderlust Scarlett

    Oh Sognatrice,

    How awful, I’m so sorry. There are fires all over the midwest too… Utah, Idaho… not good.
    It’s the season for it, I’m afraid.

    I’m sick to see that beautiful countryside blackened and burned.

    Wish I could send the rain to you.

  4. sognatrice

    Paolo, good to know I’m not the only one; I suppose I just get tired of that stuff after a while. The highest up in whatever group it is that fights these fires (name is escaping me at the moment) actually said “most” of the fires were deliberately set. How could he possibly even know that? I’ve yet to see anyone official-looking around the fires in my neighborhood.

    Sara, yes, some years do take its toll; we’ve had them here every year since I’ve been around (and I’m sure way before that), but this year is the worst anyone can remember. Could be because we’ve had two July heatwaves, when usually the hottest weather arrives in mid-August. Can’t wait πŸ™

    Scarlett, I keep checking the forecast hoping for a few drops, but no such luck. I saw that Abruzzo got some rain recently, though, so I still have hope. I’m just grateful that for us, unlike in the western US, it’s mostly just land that’s being destroyed.

    Yesterday around noon, we got in the car and it was 39Β°C in the shade–102Β°F. Today was much cooler, thank goodness, and the forecast looks promising. Tomorrow’s supposed to only be around 90Β° πŸ™‚

  5. Kathy

    We’ve had many fires around Reno/Tahoe this summer as well. One was started by a campfire, one by a spark from a construction worksite.

    I’ve seen reports of the Southern Italian fires on the news here. So sad.

    I always think of the poor animals who have lost their homes. πŸ™

  6. Giulia

    That’s so sad about the people who have lost lives because of these fires! The air is a bit cooler today and just when it seemed like we were going to get some rain, (it started to drizzle) it stopped suddenly! UGH What a tease.

  7. Italian Woman

    I had noticed you hadn’t done your report and wondered what was up with you. Sorry about the fires and the people who died. Hopefully, you are over the worst of it.

    Remember, gelato always helps.

  8. somepinkflowers

    normally i am so smiley
    when i read your blogs
    but this one…
    Oh, I am so sorry you have these fires!

    i understand only too well
    what the sight of all that smoke can mean,
    how it can make your stomach churn…

    just a few months ago–this past May–
    i was writing about the very same thing here in my florida…

    waking up to smoke in your bedroom
    from never-ending fires 200 miles away.
    near my home one area burned for weeks,
    smoldering & spreading.

    i pray your beautiful countryside gets much needed relief…

    when our rains finally came,
    they brought lightening,
    which started more fires.
    it was terrible.

    always be prepared to leave.
    things matter so little really,
    back up your writings
    and photos on discs,
    know how to grab your dog,
    your hunny & some snacks
    and how to evacuate,
    how get out of town quick…

    learn all about this…
    go on with your life!
    be smart,
    be prepared,
    and love your wonderful life…


    i have lived with hurricanes all my life
    and have learned some lessons…

  9. sognatrice

    Kathy, same here about the animals πŸ™ Sorry to hear you’re experiencing much of the same.

    Giulia, we haven’t even had a tease, which I guess is actually better. The air is definitely cooler now as I type this at 9.40 pm–just hoping that when I wake up tomorrow it’s similar.

    Italian woman, I truly hope we’re over the worst of it too, thank you. And how did you know I was eating excessive amounts of gelato the past few days?!

    SPF, sorry for the downer post–just couldn’t work up any semblance of cheer today. Probably doesn’t help that my visiting friends left today πŸ™

    We’re actually at the top of the hill with little to no brush immediately nearby, so we shouldn’t have a problem–actually luckily haven’t even had a problem with dense smoke as of this writing. Fingers crossed, again, that we’re over the worst of it.

    Thank you for your kind words, as always πŸ™‚

  10. Jen

    Very tragic. In the U.S. we’ve had some forest fires burning for over a month. It’s a scary time for the earth.

  11. sognatrice

    Completely agreed Jen–scary indeed πŸ™

  12. The (Mis)Adventures of a Single City Chick

    That’s so awful! So sorry to see such beautiful land destroyed, regardless of the real reason. Stay safe!


  13. sognatrice

    Thanks Christina; I feel the same way about the reason–doesn’t really matter as much as trying to save life of all kinds, IMHO.

  14. Ally Bean

    Fires are scary and depressing. Not at all the way I envision Italy (or Greece) to be. Still the proof is in the photos.

    I’m glad that you’re safe and that you’re thinking happy August thoughts. Not much more that you can do, is there?

  15. Calabrisella

    chΓ© triste! mi dispiace…
    ChΓ© situazione difficile…
    qualcosa che possiamo fare di qui?

  16. Nora

    My parents are from Greece (now living in Sydney, Australia) so we’ve been following the int’l news daily. I hope relief comes soon. Stay cool. x

  17. somepinkflowers

    just checked back to see how things are going there…

    one reason we have blogs
    is so we can all share
    the good,
    the bad AND even the ugly
    from time-to-time!

    fires are certainly bad & ugly.

    how wonderful you have elevation!

    if i want elevation,
    i have to visit my attic!

    except for the smoke,
    it was interesting to see
    the photos around your home.
    such a great view!


  18. Rebecca

    Reminds me of fire season when I used to live way up in Northern Canada. If they can ‘put off’ building new hotels, the new growth is lovely….even if it is slow to come.

  19. Shan

    So sorry to hear this.

  20. KC

    There was a strong fresh wind last night and this morning a lovely cool breeze. Maybe August will be different than July, less extreme and less oppressive. Last August was around here a bit cool, cloudy, and even a little rainy too. I’m hoping for same this time!

    I hadn’t thought of the anti-southern prejudice in the reports about fires as arsons, but now that both you and paolo mention it, I have to say that I fear it’s probably so. BTW, none of the fires around here have been on land that looks as though it’s destined for development either.

  21. sognatrice

    Ally, those were actually pretty mild photos; if my camera wasn’t broken, you’d see a lot of actual flames and thick smoke from the most recent one across the way from me πŸ™ And perhaps the happy thoughts have helped because today there is a *gorgeous* cool breeze!

    Calabrisella, purtroppo non c’Γ¨ niente da fare ma grazie per i tuoi pensieri πŸ™‚

    Nora, thanks; I hope if you still have any family and friends back there, they’re all safe and sound.

    SPF, yes, sharing the good, the bad, and the ugly as they say–sometimes there’s just no point in putting a pretty curtain over the pink elephant. Anyway, yes, we are relatively safe, and I’m glad you enjoyed the views. The first photo is actually from the piazza–on a normal day, you can clearly see the next village up on the mountain and it’s quite a lovely scene. When I get my camera back (or, more likely, a new one (sniff sniff) because it’s just going to take too long to get fixed), I’ll have to take more from there.

    The second photo is from my balcony, looking down on some of the old tile rooftops–if you look closely, you can see the flames at the left edge of the blackness. Glad I wasn’t driving up through there at that moment, as it’s right on the main road.

    Rebecca, the amazing thing about these fires, at least to me, is just how quickly the land bounces back; we have these every year to some extent, but things are always green by the following summer (assuming we’ve gotten a decent amount of rain in the spring). There won’t be any hotels and whatnot on the land around me that’s burned–just new olive, lemon, and orange trees, I’m guessing.

    Shan, thanks, but I have high hopes for August. I was sitting out on the balcony in the sun for a few minutes this morning–that wasn’t even possible recently, so temps are changing πŸ™‚

    KC, lovely cool breeze here too! It’s wonderful! Yes, let’s hope for another overcast August; some rain drops (minus lightning!) would be fabulous.

    About the southern Italian prejudice, you know, it’s just one of those things that I’m sure there is some truth to it (they did find incendiary devices near one fire in Italy that I know of), but to say that “most” of them were deliberately set is a bit much to me–considering there were literally thousands of them in just a few day span, how could they even know?

    Anyway, let’s just hope that this cool breeze means long term relief. I hope the next smoke I smell is coming from a grill πŸ™‚

  22. Absolute Vanilla (and Atyllah)

    Oh that’s too awful for words, Sognatrice. I always feel so sorry for all the little animals and critters that aren’t able to get away.
    Several years ago we had massive fires here – from one end of the city to the other, right across the mountains – it was devastating. The trouble is our indigenous vegetation needs fire to propagate and perpetuate (and it burns far too readily), but too often, because of the wind, the fires get out of control. Of course, careless people and soaring summer temperatures don’t do much to help either.

  23. Cherrye

    Yes – it has been really BAD around here. I think I have seen smoke every day. πŸ™ I haven’t posted about it, but I thought you might.

    When I woke up this morning it looked cloudy – for about 20 minutes…No luck!

  24. sognatrice

    AV & A, you’ve expressed my feelings perfectly; thanks so much for your comment πŸ™‚

    Cherrye, we didn’t even have a hint of cloud coverage this morning–some pretty, white, fluffy ones though, to go along with the cool breeze–perhaps August really will be better πŸ™‚

  25. J.Doe

    Fires are scary. Were there ashes i the air by you?

  26. sognatrice

    J Doe, some days yes and other days no; let’s just say I had to watch when I was hanging out clothes because they weren’t always safe.

  27. odessa

    ah, its so sad to see nature burned/burning. hope august brings you rain! take care –

  28. sognatrice

    Thanks Odessa; I hope to see some of those raindrops soon πŸ™‚

  29. JennieBoo

    This is a travesdy!

    Such beautiful scenery just being burned ALIVE.

    It’s so sad. πŸ™

    I’m so sorry….

  30. sognatrice

    Jennie, thanks; things have been much better since I first posted, so hopefully it’ll stay this way πŸ™‚

Michelle KaminskyMichelle Kaminsky is an American attorney-turned-freelance writer who lived in her family's ancestral village in Calabria, Italy for 15 years. This blog is now archived. 

Calabria Guidebook

Calabria travel guide by Michelle Fabio



Homemade apple butter
Green beans, potatoes, and pancetta
Glazed Apple Oatmeal Cinnamon Muffins
Pasta with snails alla calabrese
Onion, Oregano, and Thyme Focaccia
Oatmeal Banana Craisin Muffins
Prosciutto wrapped watermelon with bel paese cheese
Fried eggs with red onion and cheese
Calabrian sausage and fava beans
Ricotta Pound Cake