There are several versions of the legend known as “I Tre Giorni della Merla”, the 3 days of the female blackbird, but they all center around one theme. Once upon a time, blackbirds – merli– used to be white, but during a particularly severe snowstorm, a mother blackbird – merla – , and her babies – merlottini –, took refuge from the cold in a warm chimney top. The severe cold and snow continued for 3 days, until finally, on the 1st day of February, the sun came out, and the family of merli emerged from the chimney, but were now black from smoke. From that day onwards, merli were black. And the last 3 days in January became the 3 coldest days of the year in Italy.
I first heard of this legend from Emanuele, who came shivering into the house on a blustery day in late January, complaining of the terrible cold in Tuscany. Emanuele, who is a thin-skinned southern Italian who despises winter, proclaimed this period to be the Tre Giorni della … Merda!