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How to Stay Cool in the Summer in Rome

Updated on August 7, 2017
adelebarattelli profile image

I am an English-speaking, freelance food writer based in Rome and love writing articles on various aspects of Italian culture.

As a visiting tourist one may feel that one is on a schedule but when the temperature hits 35 'C and higher one should take things slowly, here are a few ideas to cope with the heat.

Keeping Cool: Here are some ideas when visiting Rome.

Having a plan will help to make the daily heat more bearable. It helps if you space out your activities during the day and have an understanding of how your body can cool down.

The early morning, when the city is cool, one has two hours before the temperature gauge creeps up. Shopping in the market is more easily done early as is traveling to the beach. During the intense midday heat, ideally one needs to find shade by resting in a park, a shopping center or steping into a local bar for lunch, cooling down with air-conditioning and an iced drink. Of course in the evening the temperature drops at sundown and it's a great opportunity to head out until very late and cool off ready for the next day.

Knowing where your body's pulse-points are will help one cool down with access to cool water and a wet hanky.

Mediterranean sun
Mediterranean sun | Source

The Mediterranean Sun.

In this part of the Mediterranean in July and August, the hottest time of the day is between 2-4pm. The idea of a Spanish style Siesta, sleeping during the afternoon heat, is not really part of the culture in Rome but it's not uncommon to take a little nap in the afternoon in the high summer or at least wait out this part of the day in a shady spot away from the reflected heat of asphalt covered roads and pavements.

Ferragosto which is a 15th August public holiday marks the hottest point of the summer and is the time when most services stop in Rome for a two-day break.

Fontanella
Fontanella | Source

Water

In 30+ degrees to stay well-hydrated one needs to be drinking at least 2 liters of water a day and drinking water will help the body stay cool.

Various options to transport portable drinking water, but carrying a plastic mineral water bottle works well or a water bottle as refill options are numerous at characteristic drinking fountains or, Fontanelle dotted around the city. The bad news is the current Rome mayor has recently started turning off the water due to short supplies. Most bars will refill your water bottle if you ask politely after drinking a small coffee.

Sun Hat
Sun Hat | Source

Clothes

Your simplist option is to get a large floppy sun hat, keeping the sun off your head will protect the back of your neck from the risk of sunburn or worse heat stroke if the temperature is above 36-37 degrees C.

Clothing should be loose and light, open shoes the kind where you can wiggle your free toes help, don't forget suntan on your exposed white feet!.

For ladies having a light loose easy fold shawl will be useful when visiting any religious sites where a covered arms and legs dress code is observed if you have chosen to wear short pants.

Skin Type Fitzpatrick scale
Skin Type Fitzpatrick scale | Source

Skin type.

It might sound simple but staying out of the sun midday helps one stay cool the sun warms the skin which is felt by the nerve endings. Sunburnt skin stimulates the body to open the blood vessels to the damaged dermal layer. It's fairly easy to work out your skin type based on the 1975 Fitzpatrick scale, but if you are skin type 1 or 2 you need to be careful in the midday sun as within 20 minutes of direct exposure damage to skin will occur, in fact whatever skin type you are you will feel the heat and suffer skin damage in direct sun, DNA damage from exposure to the sun’s harmful UV radiation.

Time in the Sun: Incidental Exposure vs Intense Exposure

SP Factor
Time in the sun
UV Radiation Filtered
SPF of 15
under 30 mins
93
SPF of 30
over 30 mins
97
SPF of 50
over 30 mins
98
Skin protection based on Sun Lotion SPF. Sun lotion needs reapplying throughout the day to be effective.
A good source of essential minerals you body needs to stay cool.
A good source of essential minerals you body needs to stay cool. | Source

Fruit and essential minerals

What you eat has an effect on your body's ability to keep cool. In more serious cases excessive sweating can cause a deficiency of potassium and magnesium making one feel tired and run down. The problem with the intense heat is that for some travellers it's difficult to sustain an appetite indeed eating large meals during the heat can be unhealthy. One way around this problem is to just eat more fruit and reduce your normal lunch portion. It's useful to pick up a few peaches daily in the local market to eat throughout the day. Mineral supplements are available from pharmacies and solve the problem quickly.

Alla fonte doro Grattachecca kiosk
Alla fonte doro Grattachecca kiosk | Source

Ice cream, Sorbet, Granita and Grattachecca

Of course, the odd Sorbet or Gelato will do wonders to help one stay cool and hydrated. Granita is crushed ice made from water and syrup, coffee, mint, lemon are popular flavours. Coffee bars do various iced coffee options including the popular Shakerato for early morning starts.

Dotted around the city of Rome one also can still find in the summer months Grattachecca kiosks. They are easy to spot as they look a bit like newspaper kiosks except with a queue of people outside waiting at the serving window. They serve cups of shaved ice mixed with fruit syrups and various toppings complete with a plastic spoon. Lemon coco is a classic and very refreshing in the heat. It's also a great way to relax in the cool of the evening without drinking alcohol.


Small Size Lemon Sorbet for 2 Euros
Small Size Lemon Sorbet for 2 Euros
Cool your feet
Cool your feet | Source
Pulse Points on the Body
Pulse Points on the Body

Fountains and pulse-points

It is against the law to climb into any of Rome's fountains located in the city or in the cool of the local parks. No matter how tempting, the fragile stone carvings just cannot support the weight of those who risk a large fine for a soak. The large fountain in Piazza Repubblica is now especially well guarded after a recent spate of summer skinny dippers.

However you are allowed to soak a neckerchief and tie it around your neck to cool down, this works because the veins in the neck are close to the surface and putting a cool wet cloth on the pulse point cools the blood down.

Some fountains also have a level where you can allow the cool water to gently lap at one's feet or a ledge where one can scoop up cool water before splashing one's face.

If you are unlucky enough to faint from the heat sitting down quickly will allow the blood to flow back to the head.

The church in trastevere.
The church in trastevere. | Source

Visit a church or museum

If you are on a sightseeing route during the intense heat of the midday, you can always break your journey and drop into a local church or museum space.

Sit and allow your eyes to adjust to the low light within. Staying in the shade during the midday heat will help one to stay cool latter on in the day during the afternoon lull. Flat smooth marble feels a cold in the winter but in the summer the stone works as a reservoir of stored cold, left over from the previous nights lower temperatures.

Sitting in the shade of a monument and carrying a sun umbrella or Parasol helps on a walk through the city.

Finally if you are sight seeing and want to get away from sunlight, one has a number of options to view sights bellow ground. The most famous are Rome's Catacombs which are a series of ancient tunnels that can be seen with a guided tour and are cool and dark.

mediterranean winds
mediterranean winds | Source

Air Conditioning and Rome's Regional Winds.

It's worth checking if your hotel has air conditioning before you book your stay. Many Italians view the dry cold of artificially cooled air as unhealthy. Checking to see if your hotel has a roof terrace or swimming pool might be a better option. However Rome is the recipient of a compass wheel of various cooling winds blowing in different directions.

The Ponentino is the fresh wind that flows across Rome from the sea in the summer months. Sadly this wind was reduced by the building of high rise flats on the outskirts of the city in the 1970's but up high on the upper floors one can still feel the cooling "Brezza".

For ladies holding a hand held fan is a common sight and works well on public transport.

Romes main beach
Romes main beach | Source

The Beach and the cool of the sea

It might seem an obvious option but from Rome, one has a number of seaside venues to choose from. The easiest option is to head out of the city to Ostia, take the train from Piramide train station and just walk down to the beach. Some great fried fish restaurants too if you stay late just check for the times of the last train back to Rome.

Tevere Roma
Tevere Roma | Source

Estate Romana down by the river

The commune of Rome organises or facilitates through sponsors various events during the summer months. One that's popular and free is the collection of food, beverage and jewellery stalls set up next to Rome's Tiber river in an area called Lungotevere. Cool down with a glass of beer, wine or iced fruit drink and a fresh river breeze.

Terme di Caracalla
Terme di Caracalla | Source

Evening Concert

A different way to stay fresh at night is to go out to a music venue or full concert. Well know international touring bands seem to like playing in Rome and lots of options arte available via Rome's main sports facility and occasional concert venue near Stadio Olimpico or via Postepay Rock in Roma.

If you like classical music or Opera, you can go to a performance at the Terme di Caracalla. At this superb open air venue the audience can stay fresh while watching a show all within fantastic Illuminated scenery seated under the night sky and twinkling stars.

Cooling Off

These cooling tricks used as part of a total plan over a hot week in the city should help the traveller remain cool even when the sun is beating down.

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    • adelebarattelli profile image
      Author

      Adele Barattelli 3 months ago from Rome Italy

      Since I wrote this article in July, Rome and most of Southern Europe has experienced an extreme heat wave in August 2017. Heat Stroke is a serious condition, if anyone in your party appears disorientated, fatigued and unable to cool down, seek medical help or call 118 in emergency.