It’s unfortunate that the time of year most people visit Rome is also one of the most uncomfortable: the height of summer. Although the city, and the entire country, look gorgeous this time of year, the heat can dishearten the most ardent Rome-fanatic. If you find yourself arriving in the city during a heat wave, like the one sweeping currently, there are a few measures you can take to make your estate romana (Roman summer) a little more pleasant.
When in doubt, do what the Romans do (this is actually good advice year-round). You’ll notice several stands located along the Tiber peddling grattachecca, or shaved flavored ice. Don’t be skeptical, they’re the perfect accompaniment for walking along the banks of the river at night. Or for an even better treat, ignore the city’s famous gelato for an even better treat: granita. It’s crushed ice, usually coffee flavored, and best enjoyed with panna sopra e sotto – whipped cream both above and below. And when you absolutely feel as if you’re about to pass out on the Number 40 bus, hop off and immediately proceed to the nearest lemon sorbetto (almost every gelateria features the flavor). Have one – you’ll feel better instantly.
Even though partaking of the city’s culinary traditions is one the most pleasurable things to do in Rome, digging into a five-course meal isn’t the most palatable activity in summer months. As an alternative, sample one of the city’s many lovely wine bars, small establishments somewhere between a bar and a restaurant, where you can drink wine by the bottle or glass, and enjoy small plates – often cold dishes – along with them. You might not have known about these places, enoteche in Italian, before coming to Rome, but they’re an essential part of the city’s eating and drinking scene. Some of the best are the famous Cul de Sac, Il Goccetto, Vino al Vino, Cavour 313, and L’Angelo Divino.
Try to modify your daily rhythms to the Romans’ own. Follow the siesta schedule, going out in the mornings and after the post-lunch nap, when the heat is least intense. Take advantage of the long Roman summer evening, when the sun doesn’t set until 9 p.m. and you can wander around the city’s small neighborhoods in twilight. Joining the enormous crowds at the Vatican in the height of July (everyone’s done it once) is a sure-fire route for exhaustion and misery. Take refuge in the city’s parks, and best of all, refuel at the city’s many water fountains. First-time visitors might be dubious about these public springs, particularly with Italy’s reputation for cleanliness or lack thereof – but they’re meticulously clean, and if possible, the water actually tastes better. To drink from them, hold one finger to block off the spout and water will pour out from a small hole on top. Best of all will be the amazed response of the tourists watching you, wondering if they should dare to do the same. They should.
What are your thoughts about Roman heat? Do you love it, or hate it? And how do you get away from it?
Sarah Geller is a writer in New York, where she grew up. She previously lived in Rome and studied Italian literature, art history and urban archeology. Read more here.Rate this article by clicking here.
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