To see the first two posts on this topic, refer to the “Recent Posts” section on the right.
So, as I mentioned in my Venice post, we knew that we would be arriving in Florence during a bad heat wave. 100 degree temperatures were expected. I feel like everyone I know has been in Italy when an unusual/ heat wave was occurring, so consider this your warning.
While it was extremely humid in Venice, it was a little less so in Florence-but the temperature was much higher. The good thing about Florence is that there are actual streets, and some of them have real street names (unless, of course, you are trying to find the one you need to turn down). There is a little more room to “breathe,” and potential for some air flow. Only a little more, though.
Since it was so hot, no one would walk on the sunny side of the street (awww…), so the shady side of the street was prime real estate. Now, I haven’t previously mentioned cars and sidewalks because we were in Venice prior to this–since there were no cars, you could just walk down the middle of the street or try to squish in on the “sidewalk” when attempting to look in a store window. In Florence, there are real sidewalks. And there is traffic in the street. Mainly mopeds, taxis, and black cars with tinted windows. Many of the cars parked on the side looked like they hadn’t been moved in weeks or even months: I’ve got this parking space and I’m never leaving it!
I was looking forward to the idea of closed-to-traffic/pedestrian-only areas in the big cities we were visiting. It seemed like a great thing- walking on the cobblestone streets, not worrying about getting hit. Well, it seemed to me that the areas where there is really not any kind of vehicle allowed seemed to be somewhat small areas, mainly piazza areas. Much of your time may be spent wandering around and looking for those areas, which means you are in the traffic-allowed-and-you-must-walk-on-the-sidewalk areas.
The sidewalks, my friends, are not pedestrian-friendly. At least, not when you are trying to roll your luggage (or even just walk, regular-like) on the shady side of the street. Many of them appear to be maybe 1 1/2 feet wide, and people are not concerned about you or your luggage. You can walk two-abreast, and people will do this, which means that you and your luggage (if you’re walking from the train station), or you, in a hurry, will be walking in the cobblestone streets. This would not necessarily be a bad thing, but both sides of the streets will have rows and rows of mopeds and cars parked along the side, so you will have to walk in the center of the street. Which is likely sunny. And when a car or moped approaches, there is no way to easily hop back onto the sidewalk (with luggage), because the parked mopeds are in the way. On a side note, there is not always a “slope” at the sidewalk entrance/exit, so you will be clunking (or possibly throwing) your rolling luggage every time you cross a side street.
Anyway, the only time you will feel air-conditioning while wandering around Florence is if you go into a store (clothing or grocery), an enclosed restaurant, or hopefully, your hotel. Sometimes when you walk down the street, you will pass a store where you can feel the AC breezes near the entrance, but that’s it. Many small bars (coffee) or shops will not have AC, so even if you pop in for a quick coffee (stand at the bar or you’ll pay more!), the sweat production will continue. Electric wall-mounted units seem to be very popular there, but unless you are standing right under the outflow, it doesn’t seem to be much help (again, all the doors are open…!!!). Some places will have stand-up AC units, and they will prop the vent hose through an open rear door- so you may be walking down a street and feel a blast of hot air….which oddly feels somewhat okay, because at least there is a breeze.
Another interesting quirk is that if you happen to be there during an “unusual” heat wave, many of the establishments you visit will have ice machines which are “broken,” or they will have run out of ice. I’m not joking. Since it is way too long to include here, I have a separate post on our first experience with “no ice,” so, keep an eye out for that one. Just be aware that you may only receive ice if you purchase an alcoholic drink in a glass (and it’s not a guarantee).
As I mentioned, there is a bit more room to breathe in Florence (and Rome, too!), especially in the large piazzas. There you will find many beautiful fountains with clear pools and flowing water. If you ever wondered how Tantalus felt, this is your chance. Surrounded by cool refreshing water which you had better not touch, lest ye attract the attention of the carbinierie.
There are public drinking fountains in Florence, but definitely not the quantity available in Rome. We ended up having to buy gallons of water at the grocery stores because even the cold water in our hotel sink faucet was warm (even after running the tap), and we had no refrigerator in the room (pro tip: get a room with a fridge). I know it’s gross to consider drinking water from your bathroom faucet, but if you have nothing else, and you need to take some ibuprofen, it’s better than the toilet water. So, needless to say, my refillable water bottle was not being used to its full potential. Another pro tip: if your hotel has a kitchen (and no ice machine), ask them for ice. I’m not sure what the official stance is on this, but it can’t hurt to ask. I’m not sure why we didn’t do this from the beginning, although we did get in trouble for monopolizing the one available ironing board, so we were reluctant to ask for much. But that’s another story.
Once you have survived Venice and Florence, when you move on to Rome, you will be able to blisffully re-hydrate yourself. There are public drinking fountains everywhere, and the water is cold, and glorious, and doesn’t smell weird, and doesn’t give you intestinal troubles. We drank a lot of it. Finally my water bottle got to see some action. This was an absolute necessity, because Rome is quite big. And even when your Air B&B is not “too” far from the Trevi Fountain, it’s still a very long walk home from the Piazza del Popolo.
In Rome, it was the same story with the hotness: hardly any AC, and broken ice machines. The good thing is that the streets are even better-organized than in Florence, and there are drinking fountains everywhere; definitely a huge perk because you will walk your feet off, even if you’re not getting overly lost. Also, since the streets are so big, it would take you more effort to cross to the shady side, so you will spend more time in the direct sun.
Overall, the reiteration here is that there is hardly ever any relief from the blasting heat. I recognize that if you are outside all day during the summer in any large city, walking around and seeing the sites, it is going to be hot. And there often won’t be public drinking fountains unless you’re inside a building, so Rome gets huge pluses for that. The one big difference is that, and I hate to be that person who is comparing American things to old European things, at least here you are more likely to find A/C in any number of buildings, and if there is no A/C, there will be fans. Multiple big fans. And icy drinks. I kept thinking that workers/customers would never stand for this here. That’s not necessarily a good thing, we do many many things wrong here in the good ol’ U.S. of A., but at least our basic human needs are met in most public/tourist areas.
So, To Recap:
- You will likely have to buy some water in Florence: look for a Coop, they’re usually air-conditioned
- If staying in a hotel, get a room with a refrigerator
- Ask your hotel for ice if you have no refrigerator and your tap water is too warm to drink when you’re desperate
- Don’t think you can dip your hands into the public fountains to cool off, even if you’re about to have heat stroke
- In Rome (and you can try in Florence) bring your refillable water bottle with you and use the public drinking fountains, you will not get sick (not a promise, but every video I’ve watched, and my own experience have proved this to be true )
There is additional relevant content on site-seeing/touring of Florence and Rome (when it’s hot) which I was originally going to post here, but it is a bit wordy, so I’m moving it into a separate post. Keep an eye out for that one, too!
Tantalus’s punishment for his act, now a proverbial term for temptation without satisfaction (the source of the English word tantalise), was to stand in a pool of water beneath a fruit tree with low branches. Whenever he reached for the fruit, the branches raised his intended meal from his grasp. Whenever he bent down to get a drink, the water receded before he could get any. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tantalus
At least Tantalus was able to stand in the water.