Free water and cool churches: fighting the heat in Rome
So it’s official: the Copernicus satellite system has declared this month of June the hottest ever recorded. Tourists who were in Rome in the past few weeks probably don’t need that kind of validation – they felt it on their skin!
Everywhere we looked we saw visitors fanning themselves with maps of the city, resorting to use cheap umbrellas to shield themselves from the sun or even dipping their toes into fountains (which, as per our previous posts on the subject, is a serious offence in Rome: read all about it here!).
Because it doesn’t look like the weather is going to cooperate and let up anytime soon, we came up with a list of tried and true tips for handling the “solleone” (a wonderful word in Italian, as it mixes the word for sun with the viciousness of an attacking lion! Talk about being descriptive!). Use them to survive your next few days in Rome!
Drink lots of water: it’s free!
Keeping hydrated is of the essence in this weather, but stay away from alcohol or fizzy drinks in the hottest times of the day. Instead, go for water. You don’t even have to spend for it (which is why we get mad when we hear about street hawkers selling water bottles at a premium!) because Rome has an extended network of public water fountains, the world-known nasoni, to provide fresh, clean water for free.
You might have seen a 21st century model right outside the subway station at the Colosseum, but for the most part they look like this:
Need to locate a nasone? Here’s a handy map!
Pennichella is our siesta (and your friend)
No, we don’t call the afternoon nap “siesta”. That’s Spanish (although universally recognizable!), not Italian! Our corresponding term for it would be “pisolino” (pee-soh-lee-noh) or “pennichella” (pay-nee-keh-lah).
But don’t worry about the words, focus on what they do entail: if you’re still walking outdoors at 2 or 3 in the early afternoon, try to locate the Italians. Are they around you in droves? Or are they a minority? That’s because if they’re visiting as you are, they make sure get indoors during the hottest hours in the day.
A pennichella, or a siesta, doesn’t necessarily mean that you will have to lie down and sleep, but it’s a pause that your body needs – taking a shower, lounging on a sofa, watching TV, writing postcards… these are all activities you can do as you wait for temperatures to lower a bit. And if you fall asleep for 10 minutes or so… so be it: you will find yourself recharged, and that’s exactly what this break is for.
Stay in the shade
Our grandmas used to give us plenty of advice for surviving the heat. One of them is, when indoors, to close the blinds and create a draft of air by slightly leaving the windows ajar. And know what is constantly in twilight and has open doors and windows? Churches! You don’t have to be a believer to wander in – you will find that the many churches of Rome offer a welcome respite from the temperature outside. Plus, they are the home to spectacular works of art – always welcome in our books!
If you’re not the type to go into churches but still need the need to hit the pause button on your wandering around the city, all stores you encounter will offer A/C. And if you feel self-conscious about entering a small shop, try department stores (OVS, La Rinascente, Coin and, of course, international brands like Zara or H&M are popular ones and are close enough to the main landmarks, including Trevi Fountain, the Spanish Steps or the Vatican).
While proper malls are too far away from the city center and reaching them would be counter-intuitive, an alternative could be the food court at Eataly, easily reachable by subway (“Piramide”) or city train (“Roma Ostiense”), or a big enough train station (Termini, for example, has many stores and can be considered a sort of mall).
Finally, reach a park – Villa Borghese is close enough to the main sights and can help you cool down in no time. As are catacombs or anything that it’s underground. This includes such sites as the Capuchin Crypt or Basilica di San Clemente (see here for more information on both).
Plan activities after dark
True, many museums won’t be open after the sunset, but so many landmarks don’t even need a ticket to be accessed and enjoyed when it’s colder outside. Think the Spanish Steps, Trevi Fountain, Piazza Navona, Campo de’ Fiori or the whole of the Trastevere district.
Some museums and monuments do program some of their special openings at night, too, so that’s also something you could be looking into: the Vatican Museum, for instance, is open on Friday evenings, and the Colosseum offers visits at night: we have talked about it in a previous post!
Plus, many reputable tour companies offer night tours of Rome: this one uses Segways, but you can also go with more traditional walks or bus rides.
Equally recommended is to have your meals as late as possible in the evening – you will feel lighter and not as exhausted if it’s less hot as you eat.
Speaking of meals, this is the part of the post where we need to remind you to eat lots of gelato (as if you need reminding!) to fight the heatwave.
If all else fails… go to a pool or flee the city!
If nothing we suggested helped, it’s time to program your daytrip outside of Rome, preferably on the coast.
As an alternative to the alternative (eh!), the city is the home to many hotels who offer daily or weekly passes allowing you access to their exclusive pools… and that’s what we call spending a holiday in style!