Sun-kissed Italy has become sun-cursed. With temperatures in recent days regularly rising north of 100 degrees, a nationwide drought leaving rivers and mouths dry and countryside kindling and arsonists combining to ignite the landscape, Italians are, well, boiling.
Farmers are lamenting more than $1 billion in revenue lost to drought and singed fields. Firefighters are busy. Packs of gum are melting in their wrappers.
In Rome, the heat wave has coincided with a meltdown of public services, including public transport. The city’s older residents bunch together in the narrow shade of bus stop signs waiting for buses that are late or out of service.
On trams without air-conditioning, women fanned themselves and children, slicked with sweat, across the aisle.
(In Italy, air-conditioning is viewed, even by doctors in offices without air-conditioning, as a malevolent, unnatural force responsible for stiff necks, respiratory ailments and anything else not easily diagnosable. Taxi drivers refuse to turn it on as a public health service.)
Credit Giorgio Onorati/European Pressphoto Agency
In Venice, tourists are cramming with their suitcases onto the city’s water buses, their arms squeezed clammily together. Tempers are running as high as the temperatures. On a recent afternoon, a water bus driver instructed a woman to carry her suitcase to the lower deck.
“I can’t,” the woman, visibly sweating, snapped. “I’m old!”
Italians who can do it have escaped to the seaside, where they have summer houses or apartments or spots in camping ports. The beaches on the western coast of Tuscany are packed with Italians wading up to their knees and splashing their shoulders.