Rome in Spring 2013: Don’t Breathe the Air

Pollen only - no sirocco

Pollen only – no sirocco

Rome has been extra noisy the past few weeks with people coughing, sneezing, and blowing their noses. Tissues and handkerchiefs flap in the breeze, and people shake their heads and mutter, “I polline!” I guess with all that rain last winter, we should have expected a fecund spring, complete with vast quantities of pollen. I left our apartment at 9 a.m. today and immediately began weeping and sneezing, and I take allergy pills! I’m home now and it’s 4:30 p.m., and my eyes still ache. Abbastanza!

To make matters worse, a couple of weeks ago North Africa suffered a sirocco. Unfortunately for Rome, the wind blew from the south that week and it rained here, so not only did we suffer from pollen, we also had gooey North African sand all over everything. Every car in Rome was filthy that weekend.

Talk about a bad weekend: sirocco grime AND a parking ticket!

Talk about a bad weekend: sirocco grime AND a parking ticket!

Here’s what the web says about siroccos: “A sirocco is a southeasterly to southwesterly wind over the Mediterranean Sea originating over North Africa. Because the wind originates over the desert, a sirocco is extremely dry initially, warm in the winter and hot in the spring and summer. A sirocco can occur during any season but is most frequent in spring and early summer (March through June). Wind speed and terrain determine the amount of dust present. Dense clouds of dust may reduce visibility to a few yards during a gale force sirocco, especially along the coast of North Africa. Even with low wind speeds, dust haze is very common during a sirocco outbreak. Dust causes radar ground clutter and can hamper aircraft operations. Also, dust can blow into the smallest of openings in protective coverings and affect sensitive equipment. When rain is present during a sirocco, it coats everything red – often called the ‘red rain.’”

Not even this Maserati escaped, but the owner had obviously washed the car before I took the photo

This Maserati was covered with pollen and sirocco grim the day before I took this photo, but it had been washed just before I got back with my camera.

Thanks, North Africa! So here’s a tip: Spring in Rome offers glorious days with lovely warm temperatures and pleasant, cool nights, but if you venture outside, don’t forget tissues and your allergy meds.


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