Postcards from Italy
THE BLOG OF CIU TRAVEL

Keeping Cool Like an Italian

In normal times (remember those?), the lion’s share of our clients scheduled their Italy trips during the summer months. Though summer is an ideal time to visit—with long hours of sunlight for sightseeing, clear days for exploring outdoor archaeological sites and medieval villages, and balmy evenings for dinners alfresco—these torrid months also bring soaring Mediterranean temperatures and scorching sun that can be uncomfortable for much of the day, especially in the south and major cities.

men-in-tights-florence-cr-brian-dore
(Photo by CIUTravel via Flickr)

Air conditioning is slowly becoming more common in Italy, but a surprising number of sights and businesses still do not have any sort of cooling system beyond open windows and fans. Indeed, many Italians avoid air-conditioning like the plague, believing it causes all sorts of ailments from stiff necks to digestive issues. Instead, Italians tend to use a number of life hacks to combat the heat, from how they dress to how they schedule their days.

ice-cream-tower-montefalco(Photo by CIUTravel via Flickr)

You may not be headed to Italy this summer, but the Italian heat is quite probably headed to you now that we are in July. Sure, you could crank up the a/c for the next few months to stay cool, but for the sake of the environment—and as a fun cultural experiment—we suggest you try some of these tricks of the trade from the Bel Paese to make it through the dog days of summer.

Dress Chill


When the temperatures soar, Italians break out their summer duds. Where Americans tend to throw on shorts, t-shirts, and flip-flops, Italians manage to stay cool while still maintaining an impeccable sense of style. Crisp linen and cotton dominate the field, with women opting for cool skirts or palazzo pants and sandals, and men donning loose-fitting trousers and button-up shirts. Instead of reaching for your normal summer sportswear, step it up this summer with some Italian style and stay cool while looking chill.

Take a Siesta


Once considered a sign of sloth, the afternoon nap has gained popularity among everyone from industry leaders to neurology researchers over recent years. In Italy, where lunch is the main meal of the day, the tradition of a rest period for an hour or two after eating was a logical evolution. Though the larger cities have largely abandoned the afternoon “downtime”, in much of the country stores and offices close from around 1 p.m. to around 4 p.m. to allow families to gather for lunch and then rest for a bit afterward. In the summer, this siesta time is a convenient way to get through the hottest hours of the day and stay lucid until later in the evening, when cooler temperatures make it easier to fall asleep.

sleeping-cat-tuscany-cr-brian-dore(Photo by CIUTravel via Flickr)

Eat Under the Stars

dining al fresco(Photo by CIUTravel via Flickr)

Italians tend to dine later than Americans, often having lunch at around 1:30 and dinner around 8 p.m. In summer, dinner is pushed even later to take advantage of the cooler night hours, and many Italians don’t sit down at the table until 9 or 10 p.m. The two tricks to a late dinner are the siesta, of course, and a mid-afternoon snack (merenda) to tide you over. The classic summer merenda is gelato, which both cools you off and takes the edge off your hunger pangs for a few hours. Easy to make at home and with much less butterfat than classic ice cream, gelato is the perfect afternoon treat to make it through to a moonlit dinner.

Gelato(Photo by CIUTravel via Flickr)

Enjoy Seasonal Bounty



panzanella-cr-brian-dore(Photo by CIUTravel via Flickr)

Sure, Italian cuisine is heavy on the carbs, with pasta and pizza headlining, followed up by rich meat dishes. But when the temps go sky-high, Italians turn to the vegetable garden to keep it light. Dishes based on fresh tomatoes, zucchini, peppers, and other summer vegetables take center stage, as do veggie-heavy cold pasta and rice salads, cheese and charcuterie plates, and fish and seafood. Take a hint from the Italians and spend most of your time at the supermarket in the produce section for light meals for the hottest days. And don’t forget to pair your light dishes with light Italian summer wines!

Summer wines(Photo by CIUTravel via Flickr)

Go Old School


When you travel the world a bit, you realize that the US is a bit addicted to air conditioning, cranking it up so high in many cases that you have to throw on a sweater indoors. Italians, on the other hand, use it extremely parsimoniously...in part because electricity is much more expensive and in part because many Italians believe that it’s not particularly good for you (and, given that the country has one of the longest life expectancies in the world, they may be on to something). Save energy and give your body a bit of a break by going old school Italian: turn down the a/c and instead invest in shutters or blackout curtains and a fan. The best case scenario is that you’ll become more heat tolerant for your next jaunt to Italy; the worst case scenario is that you’ll fall even more head over heels with your air conditioning!

Summer in Italia!(Photo by CIUTravel via Flickr)

Related posts:
Italy's Best Frozen Treats
When is the Best Time to Visit Italy?
5 Reasons Why You Shouldn't Visit Italy

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