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Temperature in Rome

This time last year (July 2006), the temperature in Italy was hot, but after the record heat of June 2006, it was not surprising for many. However, August, (the month of the year where 99% of Italian's take their holidays), is supposed to be the hottest month of the year in Italy. Yet, over the last couple of years, (apparently as a result of Global Warming), the increase in temperature of the months June and July has seen a levelling out of the August heat and all three months receiving similar, to equal, record temperatures. This of course, can cause a somewhat adverse effect on tourism and may also lead to other problems for both Italians and foreign residents, including British expats like myself.

The effects upon tourism and the tourist industry could be numerous, though I will only mention a couple. Many people complain about hotel and apartment rates increasing, not only during the summer months, but throughout the whole year. And quite right I say, when there are 300 rooms with air-conditioning systems set to -5 degrees Celsius all day, (whilst the guests themselves are stripping off beside the pool trying to soak up every last heat ray that the sun exudes). Add to that, the fact that the hotter countries, including Italy, often experience troubles such as water shortages during the summer months. One cannot travel more than 20-30 kilometers outside of the center of Rome, without spotting a water tower; ready and waiting for such emergencies.

Then again, as a frequent traveller myself, I have to admit that I am amongst those who whinge about the cost of holidays and the annoying chamber maid that turned off my air-con again. I also complain after 3 days of staying in an air-conditioned room that my asthma is playing up and find myself, throughout the remainder of my holiday, popping anti-histamine tablets and taking my inhalers to counter the side-effects of my “cutting-my-nose-off-to-spite-my-own-face” overindulgence. (But that's part of being on holiday is it not?) I am of course trying my best to play devils advocate. But, again in favour of hotels, the hotter the weather, the more washing of sheets and towels the hotels are required to do as people sweat and consequentially shower/bathe more, (affecting the volume of water).

As far as the industry its self is concerned, yes; people do flock in their thousands, from the colder parts of the world to the heat, as soon as the summer months arrive, BUT, when you feel like the core of your body has turned into volcanic lava, are you really going to want a 10oz Sirloin Steak and all the trimmings for your dinner; or (to use Italy as an example) a 4-5 course dinner of starter, pasta dish, meat dish, dessert and coffee/spirit? I know that I personally lose 90% of my appetite for large and hot meals in the heat. Then again I do drink more, so do the restaurants and bars rely on this to make their money?

For residents, the temperatures can cause several problems. People taking time of work due to problems such as heat/sun stroke, problems with dehydration or people generally taking days off to go to the beach. Add to that, everything in Italy slows down. The Italians are well-known for being “laid-back” and “easy with time”, but the truth is that in the summer months, it's hard to get anything done. I know that I personally find it difficult to move some days without finding myself “glowing”. Older people in Italy are told to visit supermarkets and shopping centers to help them cool down. Last year I found myself looking forward to going to a well-known Italian meat supermarket, simply because the entire store is a freezer. The only problem was, I'd feel sick as soon as I stepped outdoors, as it was like jumping from Scotland to Italy. The heat, after the extreme cool, was thick and choking. Driving your car can be a nightmare, anywhere from not being able to plug in your seat belt or touch the steering wheel because they have been heated to melting point; to getting stuck in hot, sticky, airless traffic jams. Weeds and bushes on the sides of the road have been known to set on fire, by a combination of the sun drying them out and the heat from the tarred roads setting them alight. Occasionally there are problems with power-outages in homes and shops, because the generators, wires or transition boxes have overheated. Or how do you feel about brushing your teeth in hot water? The pros of course... if like me you are to tight-pursed that you refuse to fork out for air-conditioning, your power bill in the summer months can decrease to almost nothing in Italy. Unlike the old cold summers I used to endure when I lived in Scotland, there's no need to have your water heater on all day to take a shower or wash the dishes. No need for heating or lights on all day thanks to the light and heat of the sun. And finally, my personal favourites, you can put away your winter duvet at nights and enjoy the reduced quantity of laundry, thanks to the fact you wear less clothes and used less bed linen.

Now in 2007. This year, June was HOT. Very hot. By far, warmer than last year, but it followed a very wet April and May. July has been up and down. I am lucky to live north of Italy in the mountains where we get some breeze; but on a trip to the south of Rome (where I used to live also), to visit friends a few weeks ago, I realised just how lucky I really am. The change in temperature from the north to the south was uncanny. There was literally a 5-10 degree drop that day between my home in the north and my friends in the south. More shocking to me, was the change in air. Being situated in the countryside here in the north, higher up and surrounded by fields and trees etc. our air is fresh and soft on the nose and throat (terrible for any one with Hay-fever, but none the less a good clean air. In the south however; my friends live in a reasonably built up area, even the countryside full of houses and small repair garages and abandoned buildings. The air is thick, smoggy and hot. My father, on a trip to visit, once described it as holding a hair dryer in front of your face and I cannot think of a better explanation.

I cannot determine whether the increase in the temperature within Italy, or the effects; are caused by Global warming, or if we are quite simply receiving a freak weather change; but as an expat in Rome, I can say that the weather change is certainly noticeable. As for the effects, well I could be right I could be wrong, I cannot know, but I would like to hope that tourism and peoples desires to visit hotter countries such as Italy will not be affected too much, as Italy is a truly beautiful country to visit and with so much to enjoy and such easy access to low cost flights and airports and with the ease of self-booking thanks to teletext and the Internet; it would be a shame for the weather to spoil it all.