Travel

It’s hot if you Travel to Italy in the Summer- Part 3- Florence & Rome

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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.

Sweating by the fountains (even when the sun has gone down)

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[25]), 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.

Travel

It’s Hot if You Travel to Italy in the Summer: How to be Hot in Venice-Part 2

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In continuing on with my “hot” stories about Italy (part 1 can be found in the recent posts menu), I’m going to break it down into two sections (with some additional stories on the side). I’m starting with Venice, since that was a little different from the other areas we visited. In reading the next few posts, I must mention that the overwhelming detail, for ALL of the places I visited, is this: there is hardly ever any relief from the heat/humidity. It is relentless, and I was sweating from the minute I walked out of our hotel until the minute I returned at the end of the day. Nighttime offered some relief, but not in Venice. Also, remember that this was during an “unusual” heat wave in June/July–I’m not sure if this was just a freak thing, or if this is representative of a normal hot summer, but this was my experience, and I have heard some similar stories.

So, Venice. On my less-than-24 hours stay, I will tell you that the humidity level there was astounding. There was a small breeze in St. Mark’s Square, sometimes on the promenade on the south side, and on the gondola, but that was about it. It was not enough to completely dry my sweat.

Catching a breeze–the best EUR 80 you’ll ever spend

When you’re not in any of those places, and you are joyfully getting lost in the alleyways (or, “streets” if you dare to call them that), there will be nothing even slightly akin to a breeze. I estimate that at least 50-70% of your time will be spent navigating alleyways, and there are hundreds/thousands of people right there with you. Let that sink in for a moment. Yes, you will be in St. Mark’s Square for some of your time (disregard this if you plan to spend all of your time there), but, depending on where you’re staying, the rest of the time will be spent in the alleyways looking for St. Mark’s Square, looking for how to get away from St. Mark’s Square, going into the shops, and looking for food/water.

When you head into the evening hours, while it is slightly “cooler,” and there are not as many tourists, and the sun is not beating down on you, there is still not a real breeze (unless you are in one of the locations mentioned earlier). At least, not when I was there. Sitting by the water helps, if only to mentally trick yourself into believing that it is cooler there. It’s probably not. And it’s also a little stinky (but not too bad, as it was in the old days, apparently).

So, let’s address some other things you might do apart from gondola riding and pigeon-feeding. During your visit to this beautiful and captivating city, you will inevitably need to rest/eat/drink/attempt to dry off. Next up:

Eating and Drinking in Venice (when it’s really hot)

We had our first “Italian” meal in a little pub-like place which looked a bit like a cellar, and it was not awful in there. It wasn’t overly hot (it was the beginning of our first day after arriving, so, maybe I’m being kind), the food was good, and I had my first of many Aperol Spritz’s. Know that if you’re trying to not be “tourist-y” and looking for a place to eat which is away from St. Mark’s Square/Rialto Bridge/Promenade, it means that you’re going to be in an “alleyway.” Remember the 50-70% of time spent there? No breeze. So, there is a trade-off, and I’ll let you decide on this. You can eat in a “tourist-y” place near the popular areas and possibly pay too much for so-so food (but there may be a chance of a breeze), or you can eat in a not-as-tourist-y place in an alley and get decent food and hopefully they have an outdoor fan with mist. Not sure how much the mist helps when you are already soaking with sweat (and I’m not exaggerating here), but I’ll leave that to you. I’m also going to quickly add here that we had no bad food in Italy, regardless of where we ate: we were trying to go native as possible and trying to avoid menus written in English, but really, sometimes you just need to sit down and eat something.

After wandering and looking around and happening upon St. Mark’s Square, and then more wandering and looking around, we were ready for a break. Our second “meal” was in an alleyway/street restaurant (a quieter alleyway, so, not as many people), where we essentially collapsed into the chairs and racked up a big drink bill. There was a misting fan there, which made us hopeful, but there was a couple hogging it up the entire time, so, unless we sat in their laps, we would not reap the benefits. The meal comprised of about 33 Aperol Spritz’s, a Campari Spritz (not as nice), and I think we ordered an appetizer because we felt like we weren’t providing a good impression of Americans. Spenser also had grappa. It was fun, but it was still hot with no breeze. It’s good to note that you don’t care as much about breezes after 33 Aperol Spritz’s.

Now I’m sure you’re wondering why we didn’t just go into a ristorante with air conditioning. Well first, many of them looked to be rather expensive, and truthfully we weren’t really wanting a full/heavy meal. Second, most of them were in the “tourist-y” areas. And third, most of them had outdoor cafe seating, and many of them had the “inside” doors wide open to the outdoor area. My father would have had a fit. What little air-conditioning they had was likely dissipated by the 145% humidity coming in from the outdoor area. Unless you are completely closed in with no outdoor area, you may not likely be much cooler at an inside dining establishment, even when you see the sign “We have A/C.”

Drinking things other than Aperol Spritz’s in Venice

As I’ve mentioned before, it is important to try to keep hydrated and to drink some water whilst traveling. While Italy is pretty glorious in the fact that one can wander around with alcoholic beverages in hand, it is probably best to try to squeeze in some water on occasion. So, on an almost final but very important note, be advised that there were no or very few public drinking fountains in Venice, akin to the ones in Rome. We did not see any that I can recall. (And truthfully, I might have been nervous about drinking it there.) This means you will have to buy your water (so your refillable water bottle, unless it’s gallon-sized and keeps the water cold, will be of no use. And on a similar note, the heat and exhaustion will make carrying a mere 1-liter bottle feel like an extra 20 pounds on your shoulder, so, be warned!). If you need to conserve your money, try to buy it in a grocery store away from the main attractions.

So, a quick run-down:

  • everywhere that is not St. Mark’s Square or on the southern promenade or in a gondola is hot with no breeze
  • if you want to eat in a place that has A/C, make sure they keep their doors closed to the outside cafe area
  • if you want to eat outside with the chance of a breeze, for food which some may consider “overpriced” and “okay,” go for something in St. Mark’s Square (or southern promenade area)
  • don’t bother bringing your refillable water bottle, buy your water from a market/store away from St. Mark’s/Rialto
  • Extra tip: buy one of those hand-held fans that you see everywhere. I didn’t, because I didn’t want to be a silly tourist, but I regretted it. Even Italians use them!

I will probably be doing a separate post on Venice (what we saw, the gondola situation, the pigeons situation, etc.), as I wanted to keep this one focused on being “hot” in Venice; that one will come up a little later. Next up, how to be hot in Florence and Rome.

“But really….It’s not the heat, it’s the humidity.”

Travel

It’s Hot if you Travel to Italy in the Summer or This is the Only Place on Earth Where You’re Surrounded by Water Everywhere but You’re Dying of Thirst and Heat Exhaustion…. (Part 1)

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So, this will be the first of a few posts regarding what “hot” means, if you’re traveling to Italy in the summer. If you have done your research and listened to stories, you will have heard that it is “hot” if you decide to go to Italy in the Summer. Most travel vlogs/blogs/etc. advise to avoid the summer and to travel in spring or autumn. This is lovely advice, but it’s not necessarily easy to follow if you have either already booked your trip, or you have no other option due to life schedules.

When Spenser and I were planning our trip, we knew we wouldn’t be able to go in the spring or fall due to his school schedule, but figured that maybe if we could go in June/early July, it wouldn’t be so horrible. Honestly, I don’t mind “hot” weather if I’m on vacation, because I’m not having to walk around in work clothes and dress shoes and all of that nonsense. Hot in your car/your un-air-conditioned home/office and wearing a full outfit of clothes with your hair and makeup done is different from hot at the beach, when you’re wearing a bathing suit and that’s about it. On my non-beach days I would be wearing all sleeveless items and breezy skirts and sandals, so, body coverings would be at a (slightly conservative) minimum. Further, I said to myself convincingly, we’d had way too much rain in our spring/early summer, and it would be blissful to have sun-filled days. So, I could handle “hot”…!

In the weeks before our trip, I was obsessing over the weather app on my phone. It always showed the weather to be generally in the mid-high 80’s during the day, 70’s at night, with not a lick of rain ever showing in the forecast. I could certainly deal with that! As we approached closer to departure day, I saw that it would be in the high 80’s in Venice, and in Florence (2nd day of trip), it was expected to be 100 degrees and in the high 90’s during our stay. I was somewhat concerned about this, but figured we would be inside for a few of our tours (2 museums and a church), and we had planned to “rest” or “picnic in a park” during the hot hours of 12-4. You know what they say about the best-laid plans……

In the many months prior to our departure, I researched a multitude of items and watched a bazillion videos. I knew I would have to keep myself hydrated on the plane and on the ground, so I bought a collapsible silicon water bottle (I didn’t buy a hard-side/stainless steel one because I couldn’t afford any extra weight in anything I was carrying). I searched for days/weeks for a purse/tote that I could carry around which wasn’t too big (more on that in a different post) or too small, wasn’t a backpack, was secure, and had a water bottle holder.

I did arm workouts every day so I wouldn’t be embarrassed to go sleeveless, and searched for dresses (didn’t happen) and skirts and shirts which were conservative enough to go into churches but didn’t make me look like a floral walking house/unfashionably fat American.

I tried to schedule tours for as early as possible so that the “unbearable” time between 12-4 would either be leisure time or time spent inside buildings where it would be cooler.

I booked hotels/B&B near city centers so we wouldn’t have to walk far from either the train station or to the local sites. Rick Steves was right about that, it’s worth paying a little extra money to be right in the “center” of the action.

All of these things were necessary, to be sure, but they still did not prepare me for the reality of the hot Italian experience. I had always heard it would be, “hot” in the summer, but I don’t think I truly understood what that meant. So, I’m going to tell you what it means, share my experiences, and this way you’ll all be forearmed. I’m going to add here that during my visit, it was considered unusually hot, even by the Italians. Most said that the type of heat we encountered was generally to be expected in late July/August, so, what we experienced may have been a rare occurrence, or it may be what you would face if you went to Italy in August…..Or maybe it’s like that, all summer long. Though I will caution you that I’m not the only one who has visited during an “unusual” heat wave, so, maybe this is a tourism trick.

In my next post I will start with Venice, how “hot” is defined there (apart from the good-looking natives), and offer some tips on navigating Summer (and/or a “rare” heat wave) in Italia.

Travel

My trip to Italy

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Well, since it’s a really big thing that has happened to me recently, apart from shockingly being laid off from a dearly-loved company, I’m going to write a series of posts surrounding my recent trip to Italy.

I’ll go through (possibly not in chronological order?) my preparations (including my endless research and attempts at learning the language), my experiences, my afterthoughts, my advice.

I will leave links to places I’ve stayed, travel items purchased, and a variety of do’s and don’t’s or at least just-so-you-know’s, and hopefully it will give you a real, clear picture of what to expect.