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Italian Cool

Updated: Jul 21, 2023

The Mediterranean is overheating again and temperatures continue to climb as the strongest heatwave of the summer brings even higher temperatures to the Mediterranean reaching nearly +45 °C in Spain, Italy, and Greece. Temperatures continued to soar on Tuesday in Rome, Italy, with triple digits predicted for the beginning of next week leaving Romans and tourists sweltering.

Italian cities and towns can be hot in the summer however the extreme heat over the past few weeks is exceptional making the summer of 2023 the continent’s hottest year on record. AC is not standard in most Italian homes and central air conditioning as we know it is rare. Tourist hotels in the larger cities do have accommodations with air. However because of the intricacies of Italian law and the high cost of energy there may be some restrictions for usage. Architectural regulations for historic buildings often prohibit alterations for air conditioning making it difficult to retro-fit. With the extreme heat and without the luxury of universal air conditioning Italians have learned how to keep their cool. As the summer heat across most of the US has been almost as oppressive as the heat dome over Europe we found the best way to deal with a heatwave is to do what the Italians do to stay cool.

Begin your day early, wear clothes made of lightweight, breathable materials (cotton or linen). Keep the shades or curtains in your home closed, stay out of the mid-day sun and re-emerge in the evening for a stroll (passeggiata) after a light dinner. If you can, leave the cities and travel to the seashore, lake or mountains. Many Italians traditionally do this during the month of August (notoriously hot) in a mass exodus known as Ferragosto when many shops and offices in Italy are closed.

Roman Nasoni

Drink your coffee iced (caffe con ghiaccio), enjoy gelato/ice cream or an Italian granita with abandon and drink plenty of water. In Italy there are many public drinking fountains (fontanelle) with free, fresh water. Called nasoni, most are designed as a column with a thin protruding nose-like spout midway up the post. Some are decorated with intricate carvings that tourists often mistake for a monument or work of art.

The nose-like shape of the curved, downward-facing spout caused them to be called nasoni, meaning long nose or big nose. In Rome the water for these drinking fountains comes directly from the mountains above the city from an aqueduct originally built by the Romans centuries ago. Nasoni are part of the country's cultural heritage and the perfect way to stay hydrated on a hot day. You can fill bottles with chilled drinking water at any number of public fountains. In Rome alone there are about 2,500 licensed by the city. Contrary to how public drinking fountains are perceived in the States, Italian fountains contain some of the freshest water in the country.

You can find these fountains scattered around the many piazzas, streets and walls of buildings in Italian towns and villages. In Rome you can download an app to locate a Roman fontanella. In Florence and Tuscany Publiacqua, the company that manages the water supply of some of the main Tuscan provinces, provides an internet site with fontanella locations in Florence and the surrounding area. Although there are local nasoni throughout Italy (in Milan and in Turin, where they are called torreti) the most notable are in Rome where they have become a symbol of the city and a welcome source for a cool drink of water.

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