Hot town: summer in the city

4 Aug
4 August 2016. There is a hush over Rome that arrived earlier this year than in the past. Since our return from the Dolomites we’ve noticed traffic is already lighter. We cross the street almost without looking. Motorini do not disturb our sleep even with windows ajar.There are many empty parking spots on our street, although double-parking still plagues the commercial streets. Some stores are closed for the entire month. Are the Romans already off to the beach for their summer holidays?
Sure sign of August: closures everywhere. This on a cellular service storein our neighborhood. They'll be back AUgust 29.

Sure sign of August: closures everywhere. This on a cellular service store in our neighborhood. They’ll be back August 29.

It’s dreadfully hot: 35C/95F today. We pity the workers pouring concrete in the courtyard of our apartment building after replacing a gas line, as well as the guys doing construction on ritzy apartments whose dwellers have gone off to the beach during the renovation. But there are heat lovers: the sadistic bus drivers who do not turn on the A/C until afternoon. The 1940s-era trams that have no A/C are to be avoided after 10:00. 
How to survive in a city of bricks and pavement that retains more heat day-after-day, full of Italians who think air conditioning is the devil’s work? It’s all about taking advantage of the (relatively) cool morning and evening hours. We do not have A/C in the apartment or we’d turn it on full blast and wear sweaters to compensate. We had such great exercise in the Dolomites last month we do not want to backslide. But walking in 90-plus degree (Fahrenheit) heat is not an option. (The highs in Ortisei were lower than the lows in Rome right now.)
So here is how we structure our days.
October in Portland? No, it is August in Rome. The big trees on Viale Parioli have not had significant rain for awhile. Still they offer a welcome canopy as we shop.

October in Portland? No, it is August in Rome. The big trees on Viale Parioli have not had significant rain for awhile. Still, they offer a welcome canopy as we shop.

Up at 5:00AM, we open the house and allow the cooler air in, lighting citronella candles to keep the mosquitoes out while we have coffee and feed the cats. Only our bedroom has screens and we had to pay to have those installed. It’s about 22 Celsius in the morning. That’s 72 F. When we hit the sack at 10:30 or so, it’s still 29C/84F. We do our errands and appointments — always walking an hour at least — as early as possible so we can be out and back before 11:00. Or, as we did this morning with no big errands to run, we might take a purposeful walk of 90 minutes, leaving at 6:15-or-so, when the city is quiet and walking is tolerable. Home by 8:00 (stopping for cappuccino, of course!) we shower and then run to the store for any fresh food we might need. By 8:45, as the sun creeps up over the building next door, we have to close the windows and the heavy Italian serrande that hold the heat out. We become cave dwellers, leaving only a small cat-height opening onto the terrace as the girls still like to bake themselves. It is so dark with the serrande down, we have to use lights all day.
New on the street this year: motorino sharing from ZigZag. Three-wheelers.

New on the street this year: motorino-sharing from ZigZag. Three-wheelers.

Fans are on high, and we sit around the dining room table with laptops, both fans aimed for maximum air-blast. If we had Italian mothers they would be shocked. Air blowing on you can cause an illness called colpa d’aria. Or we may move a fan with us to a different part of the apartment to facilitate a chore: chopping up ingredients for dinner in the kitchen, for example. Use the oven? Certainly not, at least not after 7:00AM. We use the crockpot, but even that generates some heat. Salads are our friends these hot days and nights. We watch some TV, we read, write, manage finances, shop online, plan trips.
About dinner time (20:00) we can think about opening a couple of windows as we do not face west. Is there a breeze to catch so we can cool off the house a bit before bedtime? We light the citronella candles again against the dreaded mosquitoes. (Why don’t Italians do screens? Instead, they close the shutters tight and sleep in the hot rooms, fearful of killer night breezes and mosquitoes.) After dinner, we might take a stroll just to get some air and stretch our legs.
This store decided to only be open from 16:00-20:00 for 3 weeks.

This store decided to only be open from 16:00-20:00 for 3 weeks.

One evening we bravely took a bus at 17:00 (the street was shady at least, in the 31C/88F temp) to a movie theatre, where we basked in air-conditioned comfort for two hours. Then we walked an hour home in the relative comfort after 20:00. Another night we ventured to the opera at the Baths of Caracalla; starting time, 21:00. There is a lot that goes on after dark in summer and people come alive embracing the night time for socializing and getting out. Dinners run past midnight in many restaurants.
At bedtime,  we have to close up everything except the bedroom (so happy to have screens on the terrace doors!) and aim the best fan right at the bed. We sleep like the dead as with a diminished number of people in the city the motorini passing on our street are also miraculously few.
The beauty of Rome in summer is that it is eerily quiet and it’s kind of fun to wander around in the crepuscular hours.  We will live this way until September 7 when we head off on another trip. Somehow, magically, when we turn the page to September the heat is not so intolerable. The Roman sun follows the order of the universe and nights will mercifully drop below 20C/68F. We might even turn off the fans.
Not to be outdone, Enjoy, a cooperative effort with the national train service and ENI a fuel supplier, adds motorini to their car-sharing fleet.

Not to be outdone, Enjoy, a cooperative effort with the national train service and ENI a fuel supplier, added motorini to their car-sharing fleet.

If you’d like to read about past impressions of life-in-Rome in August, here are links to 2012, 2013, and 2014. (2015 we were in the U.S. lapping up the air conditioning.)
August 2014
August 2013
August 2012

9 Responses to “Hot town: summer in the city”

  1. Chloe Erkenbrecher August 5, 2016 at 09:57 #

    I do envy you, at least a little. I would say that we have had perhaps one week of warm weather this year and are thoroughly fed up with this lack of summer temperatures. I do remember how hot it can get in Rome however, when riding a bus was torture and a good nights sleep was impossible. I have no idea why the Europeans object to screens and insist on closing their windows at night, even if they are on the highest floor and have little possibility of robbers breaking into their apartments. I believe that we are the only people in our town who sleep with our windows open.


    • gooddayrome August 5, 2016 at 10:04 #

      I had no idea it had been cold in France. I have to say, at least this summer doesn’t seem quite as oppressive as 2015 was, but then we had our month in the mountains. It’s looking to be more 30-31 degree days coming, and it may dip below 20 at night which helps a lot.

      Isn’t it interesting that we blow fans on ourselves, sleep with windows open, fail to wear scarves in the warm weather, and are seldom sick? What will they do about Zika if they have no screens?


  2. Rachel Marie August 4, 2016 at 17:12 #

    I sympathize with you, we have the same situation in Milan. Although it’s a nice change to have some peace and quiet on our usually congested streets, the heat is unbearable and I find myself waking up every morning at 6am with the sun.


    • gooddayrome August 5, 2016 at 06:39 #

      I am not a late sleeper so it’s OK with me to get up in the cool hours! I love the peace in the mornings!


  3. Christine August 4, 2016 at 16:18 #

    Oh, Laurel, I do not envy you in August, although I would dearly love to hear Puccini at the Baths of Caracalla someday. My first visit to Rome was in the month of September and the heat was pretty awful then–like you said, all that stone is an incredible thermal mass. In celebration of August, however, I’ve again rented the movie Pranzo di Ferragosto. Love it. Hope all goes well for you throughout the month.


    • gooddayrome August 5, 2016 at 06:38 #

      It was Rossini, but it was magnificent! We saw “Il Barbiere di Siviglia” and it was staged as a 1940s Hollywood musical. Very creative. I’d blog about it but no photos were allowed. I almost felt cold in the night breeze that came up as the temps dropped below 80. :-0

      I have “Pranzo” queued up on Amazon. Will watch it soon, too!


  4. Marcia Kakiuchi August 4, 2016 at 15:11 #

    It is so interesting and intriguing to me that it sounds pretty much, the city is ‘closed’ except for workers in August. Sure, Americans take holiday in the summer but a lot of schools now start in August especially in the warm weather states (like here in Florida where we are for 6 weeks). I bet your cats absolutely LOVE the heat as our little beagle likes to go outside and lay in the grass when it’s like 100 degrees outsides and we can’t stand it. haha.


    • gooddayrome August 5, 2016 at 06:36 #

      We know it is too hot for the cats when they come inside and lay on the marble floor!

      Starting school in August is such a shame, especially in hot climates! I liked the old days of day-after-Labor-Day.



  1. Siciliainbocca, Roma, August 13, 2016 | Our Weekly Pizza - August 19, 2016

    […] This was our fourth or fifth trip to Siciliainbocca. Mostly we visit as a couple, but one night a few months ago, The Rome Dining Club, consisting of 3 couples from the embassy, enjoyed a convivial meal here. The place attracts a lot of large groups: families out with Nonna as well as groups of friends. Unlike many Roman eateries, it fills up early. By 20:15 on this particular Saturday night the place was half-full while most of Rome was vacant due to the August ferie.  […]


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