Rome under the Snow: What it's Really Like!

The last time it snowed in Rome was back in 1986! So Romans are unprepared, and what happened is what I want to show you here. No photos of the Colosseum or St Peter's under the snow, I'm sure you've seen them on TV. What you're getting is an insider's view!

It all started around 1 pm Friday February 3rd. Looking out the window of my living room, this is what I saw:

Giuseppe (my husband) and I wanted to go to a museum - forget it! We decided to stay home and console ourselves with good food:

Yes, for those of you who think I'm a die-hard beer drinker (because of my post on beer-drinking in Rome), you're in for a surprise! I love wine and this was a fantastic bottle - the last one in our cellar: a Brunello di Montalcino 1981. Yes, that's not a typo... ok, we drank it because it was so old: it needed drinking before going off (actually it was perfect). We had it with a little foie-gras followed by two scrumptious Italian cheeses: an aged Gorgonzola and a moist Taleggio. And with that, a perfect pear:

There's an old saying in Italy: "al contadino non far sapere quant'è buono il formaggio con le pere" (roughly: "don't tell peasants how well cheese goes with pears"). To me, it smacks of a historical example of the 1% showing disdain for the 99%!

By 3 pm, it began snowing real hard:

We heard on TV that people going home that night had been blocked for hours - up to 8 hours on the beltway ("raccordo annulare") circling Rome. Imagine, 8 hours trapped in your car! Many are said to have walked away, abandoning their car and creating a yet bigger traffic jam. That event actually marked the beginning of a wave of protests against the authorities, in particular the Mayor for not having listened to weather forecasts and not heeded the warnings issued by the "Protezione Civile" (the Italian State Agency for Emergency Aid/Protection of Civilians).

That night, that's how our street looked like as we went to bed:

Next morning, our geraniums were buried under some 50 cm of snow and Rome looked like it had moved to Finland:

I ran down to the street and this is what I discovered:

Yes, it was already 11 am, and there had been no attempt to clear the street. No salt, no sand, no shovels, nothing. Some people tried (uselessly) to free their cars:

Motorcycles? Forget them! Here's one girl busy recording with her camera what must be her scooter. Nice color lady!

When I got to Piazza San Giovanni, people stood there waiting for a bus that wasn't coming (they said they'd been there for 45 minutes) and the taxi stand - usually filled with a dozen cabs - was empty except for one daredevil:

He told me he had wrapped a "sock" around his front tires - it's that yellow stuff:

He said it was easy to put on, that it gripped the road pretty well as long as the snow didn't turn to slush. If it did (and now it certainly looked like it would as the day wore on and temperatures went up), it would become ineffective as the slush insinuated itself in the "sock". He assured me he planned to drive very very slowly...

Walking further into Piazza San Giovanni, I was taken by the beauty:

Note that most people walked around in ski outfits. I only saw one lady in a fur coat...And of course snowmen were made left and right, including this one which shows that in Italy, art is never far away:

The young man kneeling behind is (I presume) the artist. And here's a truly spectacular view of the old Roman walls - first built by the ancient Romans and expanded through the Middle Ages:

Walking back home, I noticed the milk truck in front of our neighborhood supermarket:

It got there three hours late! As did the bread. And when I walked in, I discovered empty shelves: no meat, no milk, no eggs. People were assaulting the "gastronomia" counter where they sell select hams, cheese, pasta sauces and the like:

It felt like World War III. Everyone was buying huge amounts, acting as if no truck would ever reach Rome again. Of course, the truck drivers strike last week had already put everyone on edge. And the media later reported that dozens of villages in the mountains were cut off. Actually tens of thousands of people in Italy are going without electricity and water, sometimes up to three days...So Romans are (as always) rather privileged people...

But there's little doubt that the city authorities did nothing to clear up the streets...except for distributing free shovels to the citizens, expecting them to do the work themselves! Here's a neighbor who got one of those plastic shovels, proudly showing off:

And then - this being Italy - he is happy like a kid playing with it, throwing snow at his friends:

Not too much clearing of the sidewalks (though the next day he told me he had helped free several cars)...We had a late lunch and once again resorted to our favorite defense strategy: good food. This time it was sautéed shrimp in a white wine sauce with black olives and cherry tomatoes (if you'd like to have the recipe, click here):

By 3 pm, because this is Rome, the sun was back shining again on the trees in front of our windows:

Emergency over? No, the media warned us that temperatures would drop and we could expect ice. The next morning, Sunday 5 February, some snow had melted away, but much remained and all very icy and slippery:

This guy (holding the yellow shovel and walking away) tried to clear the sidewalk but it was iced over and hard and he gave up before finishing the job.

When I walked in the supermarket to get some bread and potatoes, I was in for a big surprise:

Empty shelves, worse than the day before! No fruits and vegetables, no bread, no milk, no water, nothing. The media are reassuring: trucks should reach Rome by Monday - the only people in trouble (as always) are those in the mountains, without road access, electricity or water...

Meantime, the streets around us continued to be covered with snow and ice with no sign of any help coming from the city authorities. And small wonder: on the 12 o'clock news, I heard a special team of 400 people had been sent out with heavy equipment to clear the football stadium and area around it because of the big Roma-Inter match coming up in the afternoon.

In Italy, your best bet is to be a soccer fan!

For more pictures, go to my Picasa Album: click here.

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