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August in Italy: The Things You’ll Need

Don’t go to Italy in August!

The prevailing travel wisdom about Italy has always been to avoid going to the country in August as it’s hot, many shops and restaurants are closed, and the cities are emptied out of residents and replaced by other tourists. All of this is quite true. But if August is the only time you can take time off to see Florence, Venice, Rome, or any number of cities or villages, then you should go.

Visiting Italy in August is better than not visiting Italy at all.

But you are going to need things to make your August jaunt to Italy a successful one. Here are a few that I suggest.

1) Church appropriate clothing. The time that you really run into the strict dress code in Italian churches — that of covering bare arms and legs for the sake of modesty — is in August, when it’s too hot to want to wear anything more than a tank top and shorts. If your itinerary includes lots of time visiting churches, make sure you pack a longer-sleeved shirt (linen shirts are ideal) or a wrap/pashmina and bring a pair of lightweight pants or a long skirt. My recommendations here are for women, but men, too, need to be considerate of the dress code.

2) A friend with a beach house. You are going to ask yourself, “Self, where are all the Italians?” Well, the Italians are likely at the beach or in the mountains (but mostly the beach) during August in order to escape the heat and also, dear traveler, you. While it’s hard to score an Italian friend with a beach-side home, you would do well to find out which beaches are closest to your preferred destinations. For example, Romans head to nearby Fregene for summer fun, but also to Sperlonga and to the coast of Tuscany (e.g., Ansedonia).

3) A water bottle. Pack an empty water bottle in your luggage if you haven’t thought to do so already. One of the joys of traveling around little towns in Italy is that most, if not all, have at least one “nasone” or nose-shaped faucet in their downtown which residents use for a pure source of aqueduct water. Fill up your water bottle before you leave your hotel in the morning. Then, once you have depleted your water stores, you can use a nasone to refill your bottle. Of course, you can also purchase bottled water or other beverages along the way. But this is an economic and environmentally-friendly choice.

4) Lodging with air conditioning. Air conditioning is not a given at hotels in Italy, particularly if you’re staying in budget or religious accommodations. If you prize cool air in the summer, check to make sure that your hotel has AC before you book. Be advised that some places will charge an extra supplement for air conditioning.

5) A wine key. My less obvious choice among August in Italy travel accessories is a wine key. As more restaurants and bars temporarily close or relocate to the beach in the summer (and in August especially), you may find yourself unable to wine and dine where you wish. Consider shopping in an alimentari or local markets for picnic provisions and pick up a few bottles of  vino to make your own lunch or dinner. Having a wine key, particularly one that you are comfortable using, may turn a frustrating mealtime into a memorable one. Some enoteche (wine stores) sell wine keys, too. Side note for American travelers: the TSA allows corkscrews on domestic flights, but not international ones. So you’ll have to pack a wine key in a checked bag if you wish to bring one to Italy.

6) A sense of humor. Above all, what’s important for a successful vacation to Italy in August is a sense of humor. Restaurants you have been researching for months may turn out to be closed for vacation during your stay; restaurant owners and hotel workers may be grumpy having to deal with the likes of you while their friends and family are off galavanting on the coasts; or other tourists may start to make you crazy, crowding you out in the Sistine Chapel or blocking your view on guided tours.

It may be hot in Italy in the summer. But there are many ways to take it in stride. Enjoy yourself. Eat gelato. Get lost. At last — you’re in Italy.

Read more from the Roundtable:

Writer’s Block, Italian Style

The promise of “another day” is the key to the word’s origin. It derives from the Latin verb procrastinare, combining the prefix pro- “forward” with crastinus “of tomorrow”—hence, moving something forward from one day until the next. [source]

I frequently like to joke. I love a good play on words. And a chance to match wits with someone, in person — or, more commonly, online — is great fun to me.

I write this “grab bag” post for the Italy Blogging Roundtable as a bit of an inside joke, as I am frequently the late-comer when it comes to posting my thoughts on the month’s topic. The Roundtable is a labor of love, one that we all put time into when we can. But life sometimes get in the way. We have all had to take a break at some point, whether for career, children, traveling, or something else. Still, Rebecca, Alexandra, Jessica, Gloria, Kate, and I all depend on one another each month to get our “work” done, so I hate the feeling I get each month when I inevitably have to tell the group, “I’m going to be a little bit late.”

The guilt that is hanging over me as I write this post at the eleventh hour is what has led me to write, in tongue-in-cheek fashion, about the thing I know best: writer’s block (blocco dello scrittore). Only, instead of writing a piece on how to cope with it, I’ve decided I’d provide some photos of actual blocks with writing on them. Call me lazy. Call me crazy. I call it delivering what I promised.

 

pantheon rome

The Pantheon in Rome has one of the most famous inscriptions from ancient times. Translated, it means “Marcus Agrippa, son of Lucius, Consul for the third time, built this.” What he should have had inscribed was, “Ego M. Agrippa, non ipsa struit – puerorum aedificaverat” – “I, M. Agrippa, didn’t build this – my slaves did.” (Thanks, Google Translate!)

 

Arch of Titus in Rome

Another well-known ancient ruin in Rome is the Arch of Titus, located near the Roman Forum. The inscription is dedicated to Emperor Titus (of course): “The Roman Senate and People to the Divine Titus Vespasianus Augustus, son of the divine Vespasian.” The Romans considered Titus a “good” emperor. But if you look closely at the carvings on this triumphal arch, you’ll see it depicts Titus’ role in the destruction of Jerusalem. The Arch of Titus is a good lesson in how history looks different from the eyes of the conquerors versus the conquered.

 

Pompeii Caricature

Emperor Titus ruled during the time Pompeii was destroyed by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius. But before that event, a Pompeii resident scrawled this graffiti on a wall in what is now known as the Villa of Mysteries. Odds are, the graffiti artist was illiterate. But I like to think this was his (or her!) version of writer’s block (worth 1,000 words, right?). If you’re into this kind of thing, 10 Pieces of Crazy Ancient Graffiti is a fun glimpse into the past.

 

Venice Lion

The winged lion is the symbol of Venice. It is an icon you will see everywhere, but nowhere more prominently (and beautifully) than on the facade of St. Mark’s Basilica. The lion is resting his paw on the so-called “Motto of Venice,” which has been shortened. “Pax – Evan, Tibi – Geli, Mar – Sta, Ce – Meus” is short for “Pax tibi, Marce, Evangelista meus. Hic requiescet corpus tuum” which means “Peace to you, Mark, my Evangelist. Here your body shall rest.”

And now I shall rest, too.

Read more from the Roundtable:

 

Photos: cogito ergo imago, esme, john mcl, monkeypuzzle

The Roman Spring of Tennessee Williams

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In the late winter/early spring of 1948, American playwright Tennessee Williams arrived in Rome in need of a change of scenery. Williams, of course, is known for his writing set in the American South, including “A Streetcar Named Desire” (written in 1947) and “Cat On A Hot Tin Roof” (1955), both of which earned him Pulitzer Prizes for Drama. But few people know – or, perhaps, they have forgotten – that Tennessee Williams was also inspired by his short stay in the Eternal City.

“As soon as I crossed the Italian border, my health and life seemed to be magically restored. There was the sun and there were the smiling Italians,” Williams wrote in his Memoirs.

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