7 tips to survive 38°C (100°F) weather in Rome, Italy

When I stumbled upon crazy cheap tickets to fly to Rome from the closest airport to my home (only a 35min drive, you guys!) my inner wanderer couldn’t be stopped! A four day citytrip in July was booked! Yay!

But then came the unpleasant realization that summer in Rome means immense heat. From mid June until mid September temperatures of over 30°C (86°F) are more a rule than an exception. Knowing that I don’t deal well with warmth, I suddenly found myself looking a bit differently at our four-day getaway.

Instead of worrying too much about it or cancelling (ha, as if!) we decided to just go with the flow and surprisingly managed to do everything we’d set out to do. We only had to adapt a little bit, but in the end, it was an amazing trip to Italy’s capital.

If you find yourselves unable to go in the cooler shoulder seasons or if you are “stuck” in the same situation as we were, here are some tips we used on how to handle the heat:

1. Take the Leonardo Express from the airport to the city center.

Setting foot on Italian ground at noon, on a scorching hot tarmac and then making your way through a sweltering airport with a backpack clinging to your body is already enough to be overheated. And then you haven’t even made it to the city center yet.

The Leonardo Express then is a perfect 32 min train ride to cool down in the air-conditioning. At 14 euros one way it may be a bit more expensive (especially if you only flew for 16 euros one way…) but it is the most comfortable and fastest way to make it to Termini Station in center of Rome. If you end up stuck on a overly crowded train – like my friends apparently did – I’d opt to wait out for the next train, as they come every fifteen minutes or so.

2. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate!

This is and has always been one of the key rules to manage hot temperatures. Drink enough water! We brought a large Tupperware water bottle from home which we carried around with us. But you don’t even need a very large one. There are many water fountains all over the city providing fresh drinking water. Perfect to fill up your bottle or splash your face for some refreshment.

The Trevi Fountain may seem like a good idea to cool down, but that would only work if you’d manage to squeeze your way through the hoards of tourists trying to get the perfect selfie ánd past the police keeping an eye out for those who might think the fountain could be a swimming pool.

And if you’re getting tired of all that water; nothing like a good Aperol Spritz or a cold beer. We found ourselves a lovely place in Trastevere neighborhood where we scored an Aperol spritz and large apero platter with meats and cheeses for only 7 euros. Heaven!

3. Do like the Italians do, take a siesta!

I’m not usually one to sleep at noon or skip on daylight hours while traveling, but with temperatures flirting with 40°C (104°F), you simply have to adapt a bit. In Rome many shops are closed between 1pm and 4pm, as Italians are then taking their siesta. Tourist attractions remain open, but only an indoor museum with aircon then seems like a good idea.

Considering I’m not that much of a museum person, we opted to do it the Italian way; take a siesta! After lunch, we retreated to our hotel room and enjoyed a nap in the aircon. We stayed at Vica Pota Guesthouse, a bit north of Vatican City. Our host, Luca, was very helpful to help us navigate through the city, so I can only warmly recommend this place if you’re looking for an affordable place to stay in Rome.

To make up for that lost time, we got up at 6am to wander the city during the cooler time of the day. And we weren’t the only ones in certain areas. At 7am there was already quite a crowd gathered at the Trevi fountain for example. The only downside to wandering around that early is that many churches or buildings such as the Pantheon aren’t open yet. But the quiet streets and nicer temperatures made it still worth it.

4. Shade is what you need!

If it’s already 38°C in the shade, stepping out into the sun kinda feels like being burned alive. So for once; the shady way is the way to go. Thankfully being in a city, there are usually lots of big buildings providing a lot of shelter from the sun. Try to stick to the sidewalks that are out of the sun. It makes a world of difference and you save yourself from getting sunburned as well. Double win!

For those places that don’t provide that precious shade; try to go as early as possible. We visited Palatine Hill and the Forum Romanum right after opening time, at 9am, as there is hardly any shelter from the burning sun on that site. Even then it was already almost too hot to handle, so we didn’t stick around for too long. But it would be a pity to miss out on because you’d ended up there around noon.

5. Take the heat into account when booking attractions in advance

Unfortunately the major sights in Rome have to be booked in advance to guarantee entry. The Vatican Museum – with the Sistine Chapel – and the Colosseum being two of those.

A couple of weeks before we left, we still weren’t fully aware of how damn hot it was going to be, so we just booked both of our visit late afternoon, to give ourselves the rest of the day to get there. I hate to schedule a visit in the middle of my day as that usually leads to some lost time as you either get there too early or have to rush to arrive on time.

For the Colosseum we had a 5:25pm slot, which was actually ideal considering the circumstances. After our siesta, we could just make our way across the city to the iconic structure for our visit. I definitely wouldn’t have wanted a slot early afternoon as it was still so hot inside late afternoon. So morning or late afternoon definitely are the better options here!

On Friday and Saturday in summer, the Vatican Museum is open until 10:30pm, so wanting to go as late as possible, I booked ourselves entry at 8pm. Great for timing, right after dinner, but it would have been a perfect place to avoid the burning sun in the early afternoon. Although I was easily getting used to that siesta as well, so all in all, no harm done!

6. A shawl or linen clothing for Vatican City

The part we struggled with the most was what to wear on the day we were visiting Vatican City. There are strict rules on entering this holy place of worship. No bare shoulders and no visible knees. When it’s that hot just about every piece of clothing feels like one too many. But I fully understand that when I want to visit a certain place, I have to stick to certain rules.

As a woman it was slightly easier. I had a long, light dress that covered both my knees and shoulders and through which the air could pass freely. But if you don’t have that option or don’t feel comfortable in that type of clothing, it’s also allowed to just cover your knees and / or shoulders with a shawl. As long as they are covered, it’s okay.

Men’s clothing proved a bit trickier but my boyfriend just opted for a liner shirt and linen trousers as he didn’t really want to wrap a shawl around his waste to cover up his knees. Too emasculating, it seems.

I must admit that I did notice a few knees once inside, but usually these people were wearing shorts that just grazed the knee. I guess that with these temperatures, they were slightly more allowing, as long at it was modest. My colleague, who visited in May, however was denied entry because she was wearing a top that had a split on the shoulder and left her shoulder slightly visible. So don’t take these rules too lightly. It seems to also depend on who’s on duty.

7. Nothing some gelato can’t fix!

Do I need to say more? Gelato all the way! One every day 😉

We ended up becoming regular customers of Manny’s Gerlateria Artisanale close to our hotel. After our siesta, it was our first stop. Some delicious Italian gelato and we were ready to conquer the rest of the day!

So while it wasn’t the ideal weather for a citytrip, I certainly am not complaining. It’s still way better than a thunder storm or a whole weekend of rain, if you’re only willing to adapt a little bit.

So, Grazie Roma, sei stata meravigliosa!

♡ Ellen


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