Updated: May 28
It's still cold outside with nighttime temps around freezing, but the days are getting warmer and the sun is bringing out the first blooms. Come see the beauty under February skies!
Some hearty flowers come out as early as January, like this bright calendula:
Mid-February, the purples come out. Most of these are tiny, some as small as a pencil eraser!
I often walk by patches of nettles, whose leaves are spiky and coated with an irritant that cause a painful sting. I never noticed the strange pulpy flower in the center! Surprisingly, people have been cooking with nettles for millennia (read more about that here, which mentions a British recipe from 6,000 BC!), and it's a common filling for ravioli here in Italy.
Some other small buds are just starting to appear: tiny clusters getting ready for the explosion of wisteria (that won't happen for another month), the first tiny buds on my favorite ivy wall, and new growth on a walnut tree.
Speaking of ivy, look at these crazy pods from a Hedera ivy plant!
They come in all colors 😍
Sometimes I have company on my walks... 😳
Wild boar are common in Tuscany but it's rare to see them out in the middle of the day, but I think these guys are used to living around humans so venture out more often. This one was behind a fence, otherwise I wouldn't have stopped to take a photo!
One of the things I love about Tuscany in the winter is that many of the trees don't lose their leaves (like the olive), so there's always some green around.
Nice to see the little bees back! Here's one enjoying a viburnum flower.
The most spectacular bloom par excellence isn't in the woods but in Piazza Beccaria, on the eastern edge of the city. This huge magnolia erupts in pink around the 3rd week of February and makes a most wonderful canopy.
It's not always sunny out, of course, and mornings often look like this:
Sometimes I go down to the Arno to see the birds. Here's a gorgeous white heron:
And in the city, a flock of rowdy seagulls:
Also on the water, the rowing club! It's a Florentine tradition that goes back centuries.
On calm days, the Arno can be a gorgeous mirror, both out of the city...
... and inside the city, where the colorful buildings make shimmering reflections.
For more green in the city, you can wander into the Giardino delle Rose (Rose Garden), it's free and is a lovely place to hang out in the late-winter sun:
My favorite surprise on my February hikes is when the flowering trees come out:
They come out in all colors, from the magenta of the Japanese Quince to the pale pink of the cherry tree to the lemon yellow of the Cornelian dogwood:
And this amazing mimosa! Though not native to Italy, they're now common in Tuscany and have become the symbol of International Women's Day, celebrated here and around the world on May 8th. It is thought that the mimosa was chosen since it's one of the rare trees that bloom this early, and is easy to find and offer to the women in your life. ❤️
Spring isn't here yet but seeing these little dots of color appear after two months of winter always makes me happy.
Many people imagine Italy as always sunny and warm, which is clearly not true. Today, for example, temps are in the single digits (C; or in the 40sF) and it's blowing 40 kph winds, but there is beauty in all seasons.
Thanks for coming along on this winter walk! The global situation is a mess right now and I take so much solace in the natural beauty around me. I just read an article about the positive power of the forest and I believe it. If you're feeling stressed or depressed, go out into nature and just breathe. Or go see what flowers are popping up near you. 🌷 I'm gearing up for what will hopefully be a busy tour season, so drop me a line if you'd like to come explore with me in person. If you can't make it over right now but would like to support me during these lean times you can toss a mimosa branch into my tip jar (click here). Grazie and see you again soon!