Rome When It Sizzles
I’m borrowing the title from a movie about Paris (which I’ve never seen…Paris, nor the movie), but it is an apt description of Italy’s current summer conditions. The heat has settled in and made itself right at home in the bel paese, lingering languidly for about a month now. It made itself most intensely felt at the exact moment our relations arrived for a visit.
Bryan’s brother Wayne (the favorite son), his wife, Brenda (my email-pal and book supplier) and their daughter, Leann (a fun fifteen-year old) had spent over a week touring France and made a quick detour to Italy to see us. The temps soared to 39C (about 98F) with high humidity. I know, I know…I gripe a lot about humidity, but I defy any of you to spend nineteen years in the desert and then drop into 70 percent humidity without a grumbling.
Florence was teeming with tourists, and the sun on the ancient streets radiated the heat, searing our legs as we valiantly tried to see some of the famed sights. Not long after lunch, we packed it in for the air-conditioned hotel rooms, venturing out again only to bee-line the short distance to the Duomo, that gloriously pretty stone building maintaining a cool interior. Another rest in the hotel before dinner once the sun had gone away.
Rome is beautiful always – but even I, in my everlasting love for the city – couldn’t bear the heat. The Forum was like a forno (oven); Leann nearly gave it up…who needs to see the Coliseum, she began to say, when she was confronted with the Mamertine Prison. We told her it was where Peter and Paul had been confined before their deaths.
-“Peter and Paul? THE Peter and Paul? Of the BIBLE, Peter and Paul?” she exclaimed, her eyes wide with amazement.
-“Yes, that Peter. Paul wrote his second letter to Timothy from here,” I told her.
-“I want to see it!”
We went to that reverent place, which was cool and refreshing despite the bloody past. We refocused our thoughts and then emerged into the sun, making our way more quickly to the Coliseum.
Evenings were more pleasant, but there was no getting around it…it was just plain, miserably hot. They were tired but trudged along to take it all in anyway. It was great to see them, to show them around, to share meals in some wonderful restaurants, and we felt bad for them, that they had to see our beloved city in such extreme temps. It didn’t help that our favorite restaurant happened to be closed for the weekend, and our back-up restaurant was also inexplicably shuttered. We just weren’t having much luck for those poor, hot visitors!
We returned to Rome for a few hours this week, taking the train up to see a few masterpieces I’d not yet visited. This time we took a splash in the fountain in Piazza del Popolo to cool down. The train ride home was packed to the gills and steamy. Not one of my better ideas, I thought initially, but then again, how many people have the opportunity to pop up to one of the most beautiful cities in the world just to see a couple of Baroque paintings?
Through all the sizzling weather we have come to realize just how important and sensible is the afternoon siesta break. It has become a necessity this past month, to take a respite indoors.
Our current home is not air-conditioned, so we have tried various methods for keeping it cooler. Keep the windows open at night to bring in any wisp of cooler air, then close it all up to try to keep it cool once the sun starts to heat things up. Open up all the windows all day in hopes of getting a breeze from the sea. Adjust the windows and shutters to get a breeze but keep out direct sunlight. We’ve tried it all, and nothing seems to make any real difference; we feel hot and sweaty and sticky all the time.
It’s compounded by the zanzare. I hate them, because they loooove me. No mosquito in its right mind would bite someone else when I am around; I am just too tempting to them, for some reason. I have itchy welts on my legs and feet, their preferred zone of attack. Nothing wards them off; nothing helps the itchy effects after their feasts on my flesh. My legs are unattractive welt-infested trunks. Lovely in a swimsuit, the salt water dries them and makes them itchier. Again, it’s an adjustment because arid New Mexico didn’t have an issue with mosquitoes (though after all the rainfall they’ve had this month, there may be a problem now. My poor New Mexico can’t win…drought or flooding, never in between!)
These are travails of summertime in Italy. Lest you think I’m only griping, I do still have the consolations of gelato, granitas, really good food all the time, the Mediterranean to swim in, art to look at, and no stressful work to deal with. Nope, I can deal with the little annoyances after all.
copyright 2006 Valerie Schneider