Warm colours seem to be recurrent in Spanish cities. Santander is an orange city with a darker terra di Siena background. When I arrived it was drizzling; chirimiri is the name for it up here – an ethereal layer of wetness that covers everything with an insubstantial film of damp and renders visible the fluid movements of the wind.
The third morning the chirimiri abruptly stopped, the sky opened and a strong, hostile sun hit every surface. The smell was overwhelming: humidity saturated the air, together with the dank salty smell of the Ocean and I was compelled to open the window. I had never smelt anything like this hot, drenching sensation that made me lean out for more. Walking towards the water, the sun beating on my back, I was amazed by the view: cool mountains floated over the bay while behind me cavernous mansions braced the steep hills, enclosed by lush greenery gone wild. Some of the houses had resisted throughout the decades and memories of the civil war seemed to seep out of the walls like the evaporating rain.
I strolled along the walkway from the Sardinero to the center and was surprised when suddenly dark, thick clouds swept over the sun. The warmth was gone, the refreshing breeze immediately slicing across my skin, the humidity turning into slick chirimiri again.The stroll became a brisk walk and I felt relief in seeing the four raqueros, similar in colour to the overcast sky, gazing into the clear water, eternally searching for coins.
I touched the last one’s shoulder, for luck, then headed towards my already favourite bodega for a machado: the glass of feathery white wine “stained” with a splash of velvety Mistela and the warmth of the bodega, contained by the layers of bottles stacked on the walls soon dried my skin and clothes that were once again glistening with Santander’s most typical feature: chirimiri.
I haven’t been to the most famous Spanish cities but… I have visited Santander and I have to say it, I loved it! And it’s true, it really has a Terra di Siena tinge.