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Spring: Mar to May

Devotees of sun-bathing are most likely to be weaned off August by spring, the season closest in character to summer.

Italian spring doesn't begin, as its English cousin does, with a heroic push of leaves through freezing days and colder nights. Instead, Italian spring begins with heat.

In the last weeks of February, a strong sun (for which the English would be grateful in June) is applied to bare branches. One can eat outdoors immediately -- even breakfast by the pool -- wearing a sunhat beside the skeletal boughs. When one's back is turned, blossom appears and the bees wake from their Arthurian winter sleep.

The rains, when they come, are short-lived and gratifyingly violent: to watch lightning from the Torre loggia with some cups of tea is one of life's great treats.

March, as in Northern Europe, brings the new grass -- too green to be true, so that it looks artificial. Now is the time to walk from Le Radicchie in the noonday sun, down the river Pesa to Sambuca's Roman bridge or up the facing hill to the rare steaks of Cantinetta di Rignana.

Now the cover comes off the swimming pool and, although the water remains too cold to swim in, it is nice to release its colour and to catch the house's reflection there at dusk.

In April, since the nights are still crisp, sleep comes easily and deeply -- no need for fans or mosquito nets, or for a cold shower before bed. Instead (how much more civilised) the down duvets are thick and shutters are closed.

Now is a good time to devote oneself to art: Trecento, Quattrocento, Cinquecento. Spring Florence is still peaceful and fresh, the green Arno high, the steep Oltrarno gardens scenting the city and the sunny pavements of less busy piazze dotted with clumps of grass. Still more spectacular is the view from Siena, its steep, Y-shaped valley ablaze with blossom and wild-flowers.

In May, Le Radicchie is without doubt at its most lovely. Three sides of the house are radiant with climbing flowers; the white roses in the lane are particularly good, weeping petals over the kitchen door. In the cypress trees are little purple stars and the sun, ever hotter, beats a thick scent from the herbs. The bees are out in force and, at noon, bare-footed humans seek the coolness of the pool.