Rome, Italy is sweltering hot during the summer. When I arrived for my semester abroad in late August, I underestimated the difficulty of managing the heat. Since then, I have learned copious strategies for dealing with the temperature. Here are my favorite, and sometimes desperate, ways of staying cool.
The best way to get water is by filling up a water bottle at one of Rome’s street fountains, called nasone (plural nasoni) in Italian. There’s a high chance of finding Nasoni when walking around Rome, but they can be found on Google Maps as well. The water is constantly running, cool, and safe to drink. The best part? It’s completely free! Plastic water bottles can replace reusable ones, and they are available at mini-markets or larger grocery stores (I would recommend Conad and Carrefour). A full water bottle is a must-have going-out item in Rome’s hotter months.
Another great way to stay cool and hydrated is by purchasing water at a restaurant. Although water comes at a cost, usually 2-3 euros, it arrives in a large glass bottle, making refills easy. While the water doesn’t come with ice, it consistently arrives cold. Some may find this adjustment challenging. I get it, the water can’t possibly be cold enough without ice. However, while asking for ice is often looked down upon, it’s not unreasonable, and most waiters will bring ice to your table.
Fans and Air Conditioning
Air conditioning is the most obvious solution to the heat. However, it is much harder to find than in the United States, and much less consistent. One of the easiest solutions is to carry around a handheld folding fan. They are a portable, effective, and fashionable way to keep cool.
Sitting down for a meal in the shade is a nice way to take a break from the sun, but don’t expect freezing interiors. Sometimes inside the restaurant is only a few degrees cooler than outside. Fans are occasionally set up in outdoor seating areas, which is a nice alternative to sitting inside while still staying cool. Restaurants are a fantastic way to cool off, but they might not reach the low temperatures one might expect.
Hotels with guaranteed cooling systems are harder to find than in America. Luckily, I was able to stay in a hotel with air conditioning; however, it was spotty and often shut off at night. My apartment has an air-conditioning unit as well. I was ecstatic to find this out, especially after the 100-degree days. Unfortunately, our electricity shuts off when too many appliances run simultaneously, including the air conditioners and the washer. Air conditioning is not a given in Rome, so I was fortunate. Even so, air conditioning isn’t always the most consistent solution.
Any chilled food will suffice, but Gelato is the most common and famous. In case you’re not familiar, gelato is Italy’s version of ice cream. Gelatarias are conveniently scattered throughout the city and they are a fantastic way to enjoy Roman culture while staying cool. The best gelato is not usually the flashiest; dull colors and flat gelato tubs usually lead back to fresh, organic ingredients.
Stay Inside, Stay in the Shade
It’s best to stay inside during the hottest part of the day when the sun is highest in the sky. Riposo, aka Italian siesta, is Italy’s designated time to go inside, eat lunch, and nap. Don’t be surprised when restaurants, stores, museums, and churches close from 1 to around 4 p.m. Riposo is best spent inside, resting and waiting out the heatwave.
Don’t Forget the Heat when doing Cool Things
This might seem obvious, but as I was planning my Vacation in Italy while in the U.S., I did not think about this at all. Tours lose a bit of their charm when trying to ignore sweat trickling down your back and the smell of the crowd you’re corralled into, while desperately seeking out fans and air-conditioned areas. My tour of Vatican City (beautiful, truly) was significantly marred by the scorching heat inside and outside. Toward the end, I was merely counting down the minutes until the tour ended so I could schedule a taxi and get out of the sun and strangers’ body heat. To make the most of sweltering days like these, it’s best to schedule early in the morning, or past sunset. The views are just as pretty, if not more so, after dark. I took a night tour of Central Rome, seeing many of Rome’s most famous landmarks. Did you know the Colosseum lights up at night? It’s magical, and so, so worth it. These times are also less crowded, making a more enjoyable experience altogether.
Packing light for tours is a must because everything brought must be trudged through the heat (a backpack feels much heavier under the sun). Bring water, sunscreen (don’t forget to reapply), and a handheld fan if you have one. Sunglasses are also incredibly popular in Italy, and a useful accessory to make walking under the sun more pleasant.
Rome is a beautiful city full of stores, restaurants, unique activities, and beautiful architecture. Staying cool during the summer months is essential to make the most of your stay. Happy traveling!
Written by: Lucy, Fall 2023 student from Saint Mary’s College of California, studying in Rome