Italy: A Lesson Learned From Global Warming

When deciding on the European destination for my semester abroad, I did not consider climate to be the most important factor in my decision making. The climate that I ended up in—temperate, Mediterranean Rome—was an added bonus that became clear only when my corner of the world became covered with snow, merely a few weeks before leaving home in New York City. I packed for a Roman spring semester in the midst of this “running towards the sun” elation, filling my three (which turned out to be too many to physically transport, by the way) suitcases with plenty of gladiator sandals, sun dresses, and tanks. I even remember my mom entering my room while I was packing to kindly remind me that I’m “not studying abroad in Mykonos,” but I didn’t care. I was ready to take in all the palm trees and warm sunsets.

Low and behold, Italy made history that semester; Rome experienced snow for the first time in 26 years…

Historical snowfall at the Coliseum in Rome, February 2012

Historical snowfall at the Coliseum in Rome, February 2012

It certainly was not a time for sundresses. For the Italians, it was a time to whip out their umbrellas from the wet season. While my own frame of reference insists on salting all snow-covered roads, Romans patiently wait it out knowing that salting the streets would ruin their 2,000+ year old cobblestone roads. Appropriately for Rome, time had no choice but to stop. No one came to open private or state-owned businesses, drive the taxis, or operate the busses and trams. I was a cold, hungry lost soul that week. And I learned my lesson. While studying abroad, always expect the unexpected.

Just like the saying that warns not to make decisions when you’re angry or promises when you’re happy, don’t pack for a study abroad in extreme temperature excitement!

Historical snowfall at Via del Corso in Rome, February 2012

Historical snowfall at Via del Corso in Rome, February 2012

Taryn Baum

American University of Rome

Rome, Italy

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