July is worst time to be in Rome — or anywhere else


Tourists recovering from Wednesday's 93-degree heat and 50 percent humidity in Piazza del Popolo.

Tourists recovering from Wednesday’s 93-degree heat and 50 percent humidity in Piazza del Popolo.


Everybody talks about their favorite month. All the reasons are interesting, and they tell a lot about people. My favorite is September. Soccer season is in full gear, American football season begins, baseball pennant races are heating up, the weather is heating down and for another September I’m reminded that I’m no longer in school. Your favorite month is easy.

But what about your worst?

No one talks about that one. The late great sports columnist at The Denver Post, Dick Connor, used to say, “February kills columnists.” He had a point. The Super Bowl has ended and all you have are the dog days of college and NBA basketball. I live in Rome so my perspective should have changed. It hasn’t. There is no doubt in mind — and there never HAS been a doubt — as my most hated month of the year.

July.

Now. I’m dying. Rome rarely sucks. It sucks now. But nearly every place in the world sucks. Sucks. Sucks. Sucks. I travel. A lot. Yet there is nary a place in the world that isn’t awful in July. Think about it. Europe is too crowded, Asia is too hot, the Southern Hemisphere is too cold and the Caribbean is too rainy. The only places nice in July are Scandinavia, Colorado, Alaska/Canada and Mongolia. And only go to Mongolia if you have an addiction to mutton.

But don’t EVER come to Rome in July. Ever. Every day this month has been 90-95 with 45-50 percent humidity. It’s not as bad as Houston where today it will reach 94 with humidity at 64 percent. But add a good chunk of the 10 million tourists Rome receives every year and put them on a subway system too small to serve Des Moines, Iowa, and La Dolce Vita turns into a puddle of melted flesh.

My subway car Wednesday. Rome gets about 10 million tourists a year, a good many of them coming in July.

My subway car Wednesday. Rome gets about 10 million tourists a year, a good many of them coming in July.


I take pride in handling extreme weather conditions. I grew up in the Pacific Northwest so rain, cold and eight months without seeing the sun don’t faze me. Neither does searing heat. I lived in Las Vegas for 10 years. Ice and snow? I love them. I lived in Denver for 23 years. But I may have met my match with humidity. It affects me more than I’m willing to admit. Sweat stains are the ultimate in tackiness. I don’t care if we can’t help it. I hate them. I don’t naturally sweat much. Still, I only wear black or white shirts during the day in Rome. I once would rather go out naked than wear shorts in Rome like a common tourist. Now I wouldn’t wear long pants in this heat if threatened by armed gladiators.

These days in Rome remind me of the heat I experienced in South India in March. In the beach town of Varkala, I hardly noticed the gorgeous women walking around in bikinis and sheer sarongs because I couldn’t get my eyes off my extra-large bottles of beer. This month in Rome, even the hottest women walking the sidewalks look like melted cake frosting as their mascara runs like jelly and their blouses stain as if hit by broken bottles of wine.

How do I beat the heat? I sit on my terrace and eat fruit. I’ve eaten more fruit than an orangutan. I’ve eaten so many bananas, a birthmark is starting to look like a Chiquita sticker. Every day I drink three liters of tap water from big glass bottles in the refrigerator which doesn’t quite chill anything quite like it does every other month.

Cooking pasta in Rome in July is like shoveling coal in the Sahara. My top-floor apartment is well ventilated with plenty of windows on both sides, but tending a steaming tomato sauce beats the appetite right out of you. I’m thinking about starting the morning by pouring my cold cereal down my shorts. (I don’t know what that means, but it sounds refreshing.)

Last night I went to a modern wine bar near the Colosseum where my Wine Enthusiasts in Rome Meetup group had a wine tasting. The bar’s lone air conditioner unit was a mere decoration. It was hot enough inside to grow African violets. But the wines were good and they were cold and when I walked outside later that night, Rome returned the cool, comfortable embrace I’ve learned to love.

But during the afternoons, Rome is a beast. Stay away.

Categories: Europe, General Travel, Travel StoriesTags:

8 comments

  1. Hi John. We thought we escaped the heat by heading north, but it was terrible here, too, when we arrived in the Val Gardena. Not Rome terrible, but terrible for HERE. Even the Alpe di Siusi, usually a bastion of coolness, is suffering in 33-34-35 degree heat. Luckily today it cooled off magnificently in parts of the area and we were able to embrace the outdoor activities we love.

    I feel bad that I left our cat sitter/ house sitter in the Roman heat. At least she is not suffering alone. :-)

  2. It’s likely worse in Sicilia and Calabria than in Lazio but that didn’t make me feel better roaming all through Prati this afternoon looking for a Bancomat that would take an international cash card. How’s your cat handling it? Did he/she do like me and get a haircut, too?

    • I think the cats are OK. They lay around on the terrace in a dream-like trance until about 17:00 then come wandering in looking exhausted. It’s the human cat-sitter I worry about. But it is as hot in her hometown of Portland, OR, this week as it is in Rome. At least in Rome one expects hot.

  3. Hail My very very funny Roman!!
    You are just a riot to read. I love the air conditioner ‘decoration’.
    Let us know when you are back in Denver.
    Bev

  4. ok, now THAT was funny ! And I promise not to go to Rome in July!

  5. Yup Yup Yup! I not only agree but I KNOW, I have LIVED IT. Same damn thing in Florence. Back when I lived in Florence, the summer of 2003 was HORRENDOUS! It was that summer when people were dying in French & Italian cities from the heat. My apartment had no air conditioning and was filled with vicious tiger mosquitoes. The withering tourists tried to stand bravely in long lines for the museums while those of us who lived there wouldn’t dare go out mid-day. We stayed in with shutters closed, as if in a mole hole for the day. Only venturing out after 8:00pm. If you wanted a swim all you had to go was get on a bus (also non air conditioned) and even someone like me who doesn’t sweat easily, was DRIPPING just from the temp inside the local bus. It was honestly as hot and humid and uncomfortable as when I lived in India.

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