The Eternal City is Infernally Hot
Baby, it’s hot outside! On Tuesday, July 18, the mercury in Rome soared to 41.8C. It’s so hot that all I’ve been able to do is sit next to my fan and think up lyrics to a heated remake to Frank Loesser’s 1944 hit song.
In the mean time, the Eternal City has gone infernally Greek. Hades’ hound of hell Cerberus and his ferryman Charon are the nicknames for these mercury-soaring heatwaves cooking the Peninsula, Sicily and Sardegna.
How hot is it? Triple digits to the Fahrenheit world, 107.2 at the max. My everyday attire is sweaty and skimpy. It is too hot to walk the dog. It’s too hot to eat gelato. It’s too hot to go out to lunch and it’s really too hot to be sight-seeing. In fact, the Italian government issued a Red Alert telling people to avoid direct sunlight between 11:00 and 18:00 and the city of Rome has taken to placing potted saplings at bus stops.
What it is really like in Rome during the heat
What is it really like in Rome these days? It’s an odd quiet – even though the city is overflowing with tourists, many residents have left the city for cooler places. Parking vacancies are at an all time high, hurrah! Look up – almost all of the serrande (shutters) of Rome’s pretty palazzi are closed but not entirely empty.
There are many of us who haven’t (yet!) fled to beach or mountain outposts. We are just staying inside cooling down with homemade iced coffee and iced tea. And in my case, Polase (a mineral supplement for dehydration) and Gatorade which I desperately needed the other day after I walked two blocks home from my nail salon in the midday heat.
It’s so hot that our neighborhood lost power for four horrific daytime hours. This may be a hint that Romans have finally given in to air conditioning, and given up the perpetuated Nonni myth of colpa d’aria, a blast of cold air which leads to sickness. My nonna used to make us wear sweaters in July just in case there was a renegade chilly wind, and of course we never slept with the air conditioning on.
How to beat the heat in Rome
Believe it or not, those of us who remain in the Eternal City have found ways to cope with the heat and enjoy the city. Once the sun sets, we’re out for balmy evenings of late night dinners (where reservations are earliest 9pm), midnight dog walks, and much needed visits to the local Grattacheccaiao for the ultimate in Roman summer cool down- a freshly made grattachecca – shaved iced with flavored syrups.
Charon and Cerberus have put Rome into action. The Red Cross is distributing water to the city’s homeless and unhoused while the Protezione Civile has set up 28 water distribution points near our most famous monuments for visitors. Additionally, the Eternal City also has 2500 fountains and nasoni that constantly flow with delicious and cold drinkable water, so BYO water bottle.
If you’re visiting Rome in this period, you have probably planned on visiting all of the city’s amazing sites which means getting out and walking around. In that case, please take a look at my 5 essential tips to surviving the sweltering Roman heat.
Topping my list are an amarena cherry syrup grattachecca and a visit to an ancient underground site (my favourites include Domus Aurea, Case Romane, Domus Romana) where the mercury drops to 10C (50F,). Yes, Nonna, I always bring a sweater.
The Red Alert continues through the week of July 24 where we are expecting highs of 39 and 40C (102 to 104F).