You might think you’re hot in England. You’re not, not really. How long did it last your heatwave? Maybe a couple of days moaning on Facebook and then back to a normal summer of 18 degrees in Bradford. Oooooh boiling.
Sorry if I don’t seem to have much sympathy. But a real heatwave drains your patience fairly quickly. Rome currently has a severe weather warning, predicted to hit over 40 degrees on some days this week and next. Imagine the prospect of a heat that you know isn’t really going to end until October. It might sound like heaven, but in a humid, busy city when the temperatures climb above 35 degrees, it’s more like a slow torture. You spend your days hiding in the shadows, shutting out light (people’s houses become caves), seeking out every bit of air conditioning you can find, staying inside until sundown and taking at least three showers a day. The air is like a thick, heavy curtain of soup. It’s a heat that is all encompassing, that doesn’t let up, that leaves you tired, lethargic and heavy legged. You find that you are not able to do anything more than eat crisps and drink coke (salt and liquids people). It’s a heat that can render you hysterical if you try to fight it. A tour guide in Darwin, Australia once described the delirious effects of their ferocious summer as ‘going troppo’ when the heat and humidity build to a point of madness before the rains come (I would put Rome during a heatwave on a par with the jungle, swamp-like conditions in Darwin).
Examples of hotness include:
- no air-con on the metro resulting in sweat dripping down the back of your legs and out from under your skirt,
- other people’s sweaty bodies crushed against you on the hideously overcrowded beach train with people fighting for space and air to breathe,
- clothing permanently stuck to your skin – a maxi dress is the only option and even then as soon as you sit down you’ll feel like you’re sitting in a pool of water,
- just simply bending over to put your shoes on is enough exertion to bring you out in a sweat,
- leaning towards a mirror to put on make-up and you might as well not have had that shower,
- blow-drying your hair – is it still wet or sweaty?
- you never, ever feel clean.
And yet people still come. Much as I don’t wish to undermine the Roman tourist industry (or maybe I do, but that’s a different post), Rome is not a pleasant city to visit in July and August. Rome is a city which is best enjoyed on foot, wandering around, exploring, getting lost. Days of unremitting heat are just not conducive to that. Tourists shuffle past overheated, dehydrated, mosquito bitten, stressed, with a wild look in their eyes – going troppo about to hit. This isn’t how it’s supposed to be. Save your trip for the cooler months, you’ll enjoy it so much more. Leave those of us who have to work all summer to endure it in some peace.
However, if you are determined to come, you’ll find my ideas on how to cool down in both Rome and Bradford here (just in case the heatwave returns), things to do in the cooler evenings and for practical tips see How to survive a Roman Heatwave from the lovely Gillian’s Lists and for extreme heat site-seeing Understanding Rome has some great suggestions.