Rome is situated on the 42nd parallel, along with Buffalo, Boston, Detroit, Chicago, and Cheyenne, Wyoming, so you’d think snow would be a common occurrence. But you would be wrong. Because it’s on the Mediterranean Sea, Rome’s winter temperatures are generally mild, as I told you two weeks ago in my blog post about Rome in winter. I must have jinxed Rome with my blog post, because at about noon Friday, snow began falling and fell all day and night, leaving Rome with its largest snow accumulation in 26 years—2 to 3 inches in the center of Rome, more to the north, and less to the south! To hardened snow veterans, that undoubtedly seems pretty puny, but the people in Rome, who rarely see snow, were so excited! If the temperature hadn’t stayed above freezing Friday, we could have had a couple of feet.
We ate dinner at the home of a colleague of Michael’s on Friday evening. The colleague and his wife live near the Appian Way east and south of us, and southern Rome still hadn’t had any snow when we left at 11 p.m. But the closer we got to home, the more snow we saw. The Baths of Caracalla, Circus Maximus, Pallatine Hill, churches, trees, and walls were outlined with snow, making Rome ghostly and romantic. No cars or buses were on the street, but people were out walking and having fun.
Just after we got home, the snow began to fall heavily. Michael loves snow, and he went for a long walk through the winter night. The next morning he went back out to take more pictures for me so I could see Rome in the snow. Such a good guy!
Here’s our summary of snow in Rome:
- After Friday afternoon few cars and buses were on the street. I called Friday evening to get a cab to meet Michael. I finally got through after about 20 attempts and was told that no cabs were available. Few cars in Rome have all-weather tires or chains, and no one knows how to drive in snow, so it was probably a no-brainer for taxi drivers to just stay home, although that wasn’t so convenient for me.
- Romans don’t have snow equipment. I read a news account that the city gave citizens 4,000 shovels to use to help clean the streets and sidewalks. Michael saw shopkeepers trying to use brooms and long-handled dustpans to clear the snow in front of their shops. For the most part the sidewalks of Rome are still a mess and likely to remain so until the snow finally melts. The heavily traveled streets are fine, but the tiny, winding streets that never see the sun will have snow (or ice) for a while.
- In the wee small hours of Saturday morning, Michael watched a lighthearted snowball fight among the guards in front of the French Embassy in deserted Piazza Farnese.
- One woman fabricated chains for her bicycle out of plastic cable ties! I wonder how that worked.
- My beloved trash brigade was not to be seen, except for a couple of people trying to clear the Spanish Steps. Rome doesn’t have snow removal equipment for the streets either. One good snow every 26 years hardly justifies that kind of expenditure.
- Motorinos were forbidden to drive in Rome, as were cars without all-weather tires or chains, until noon today, which made our busy street unusually quiet all weekend. We didn’t know about that rule and went for a drive yesterday. We wondered why the streets were so empty!
Despite the inconvenience, the Romans were thrilled to have snow (unless they lost power, of course, which we never did, thank goodness). Huge smiles lit up their faces, and they were busy, busy, busy throwing snowballs and building hundreds of snowmen, including the cutest 8-inch snowman sitting on the wall above the Tevere. Romans acted like tourists in their own city, ooohing and aaahing over beautiful snow-covered monuments and taking photos and movies of the rare event. The viewpoint on Giancolo Hill west of Trastevere was mobbed with locals playing in the snow and snapping photos of the Rome snowscape.
I appreciate their enthusiasm. Snow rarely fell where I grew up, and to this day I love a good snowfall. I certainly enjoyed this one, thanks to my resident photographer!