|Photo by Flavia Pesciatini|
Rome has been paralyzed this week by a rare snowstorm. Usually when it snows here, the flakes melt before they hit the ground. Even if snow makes it all the way to earth, it disappears in a few minutes. But three days after the snow began falling here, it’s still clinging to the roadways and rooftops alike.
It’s not that Italy doesn’t have snow. In February, people often celebrate “White Week” by taking a ski vacation to one Italy’s many mountains. It’s just that snow is so rare in Rome that most people don’t even own an ice scraper for clearing wind screens.
From my window, I see many cars still covered with snow, which isn’t really surprising since it’s illegal to drive on Rome streets now without snow tires or chains—things most people don’t have unless they routinely drive in the mountains in winter.
Rome’s mayor, Gianni Alemanno, is taking it on the chin for not being prepared. The civil protection service apparently warned him that the severity of the forecast warranted a plan, but he discounted it. He’s now being ridiculed for having 5,000 snow shovels distributed to the public and asking people to go out and shovel the sidewalks!
|Photo by Carol Markino|
Hardly anybody’s doing that because snow shoveling isn’t in Roman job descriptions. At many apartment buildings, for example, where a porter sweeps up litter from the sidewalk, snow and ice remain packed down from pedestrian traffic.
A fake Tweet, supposedly from the mayor, read, “Snow emergency. Abandon the city. I’m already in Milan.” An enraged Alemanno is vowing an investigation and legal action. That is, if he isn’t forced to resign before he can initiate it.
Shelves at grocery stores are empty. At a chain store near my home Sunday, there was not a single piece of fruit. Just a couple of wilted heads of lettuce. People are comparing it to bread lines during World War II. A bit of an exaggeration, perhaps, but it does reveal Italy’s weak infrastructure.
Things are much worse in other parts of Italy. There have been a number of deaths. People have been stranded on trains. Power is out some places.
Me? I'm worried about the serious threats to several agricultural crops, including wine and olive oil. That doesn’t bode well for my dining table next year.