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HEATWAVE

Will summer 2022 be Italy’s hottest ever?

As the country swelters in yet another heatwave, we look into whether summer 2022 might go down as the hottest in Italian history.

Tourists in a sunny Piazza Duomo, Milan
Summer 2022 has a chance to beat out its infamous 2003 counterpart and become the hottest summer in Italian history. Photo by Piero CRUCIATTI / AFP

August is here and, alas, the heat is back on. 

After enduring months of exceptionally hot weather, Italy’s residents are bracing for yet another heatwave as meteorologists say temperatures this month might be 10 degrees higher than seasonal averages.

READ ALSO: Heatwave: What temperatures can we expect in Italy in August?

At this point many might be wondering whether the summer we’re living through (or surviving, you decide) might be one of, if not the hottest in Italian history. 

The short answer is: it might be but it’s far too soon to tell since, from a meteorological standpoint, summers consist of June, July and August and the latter month has only just started. 

But we can already start drawing a comparison between the current summer and the hottest summer in Italian history, the sweltering estate 2003.

For those who might not have been around then, summer 2003 brought four months of far-above-average temperatures without so much as a let-up to ‘break’ the heat. As a result, summer 2003 literally smashed each and every one of the previous records and earned the title of hottest Italian summer ever.

Tourists cooling off in Rome, Italy

Italy’s mean temperature in August is expected to sway between 2 and 3°C above season average. Photo by Andreas SOLARO / AFP

So far summer 2022 appears on track to give its infamous 2003 counterpart a run for its money.

Granted, in June 2022, the national mean temperature was 2.88​​°C above average, whereas the same value was 3.44°C above average in June 2003. 

But, while the country’s mean temperature was 1.59°C above average in July 2003, July 2022 registered an impressive +2.26°C in the same category.

So, all in all, it seems like the contest is bound to go right down to the wire, with temperatures in August set to determine whether summer 2022 will eventually be crowned as the hottest summer ever. 

Michele Brunetti, Chief Researcher at the Italian Institute of Atmospheric Sciences and Climate (ISAC), tells The Local: “August 2003 registered a significant anomaly – the national mean temperature was 2.71°C above average. We’ll have to wait and see whether this month’s temperatures will exceed those recorded in August.

“It would surely be quite extraordinary [if they did].”

Difficult as it may be, forecasts project that the country’s mean temperature will sway between 2 and 3°C above average in the coming weeks, so there might be just enough margin for summer 2022 to become the hottest ever (not that we hope it does, obviously).

The dried-up banks of the Po river in Italy

Thus far, 2022 has been the driest year in Italian history. Above are the dried-up banks of Italy’s longest river, the Po. Photo by Andrea PATTARO / AFP

Meanwhile, 2022 may also be able to break another undesirable record and go down in history as the driest year ever – or, at least, since 1800, when records started.

READ ALSO: Italy’s Po Valley rations water amid worst drought in 70 years

So far this year, up until the end of July, rainfall across the country has been below average by as much as 46 percent (-52 percent in the north and -42 percent in the centre and south), making the first seven months of 2022 the driest in Italian history.

The amount of rainfall in the coming months will determine whether 2022 as a whole will beat out the current record holder, 2017 – something Brunetti says is likely to happen.

It would be no surprise given that the country is currently experiencing its worst drought in 70 years.

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CLIMATE CRISIS

Hosepipe bans and pools: your questions answered on Italy’s drought restrictions

Italy is suffering the worst drought in decades, and water restrictions remain in place in many areas until the end of summer. We answer your questions about what this means for everyday life in Italy.

Hosepipe bans and pools: your questions answered on Italy’s drought restrictions

Since the middle of June this year, many parts of Italy have been on drought alert, and a ‘state of emergency’ was declared in July in five northern regions: Friuli-Romagna, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Lombardy, Piedmont and Veneto.

But what this means for people living in or visiting Italy depends on the rules set in each region and municipality, and these vary significantly from place to place.

READ ALSO: Italy’s risotto rice fields decimated by worst drought in decades

While some areas have restricted the use of drinking water, others have switched off city fountains or asked people not to fill up their swimming pools this summer.

If your local comune (town hall) has imposed water use restrictions, notices are usually sent out to residents and you should also be able to see the rules on your local comune’s website.

Here we answer some of the most commonly-asked questions about the water use restrictions in place:

Is there a hosepipe ban?

Hosepipe bans are common in the UK during drought periods, but Italian water restrictions work differently. There is no ban on using hosepipes in particular, but many areas have limited activities such as washing cars or watering the garden that you might normally use a hosepipe for.

For example, in the Veneto region, dozens of towns and comuni including Verona, Villorba and Montebelluna have imposed restrictions on the use of potable water for anything other than domestic and hygienic purposes.

READ ALSO: Historic drought resurfaces World War II bomb in Italy’s River Po

Check local restrictions in your area, but some authorities have specifically forbidden the use of water for watering plants, or only allow them to be watered in the evening.

These rules apply whether you are using a hosepipe, watering can or any other implement.

Man waters plant

Many towns and villages across the country have now banned residents from using water for non-domestic purposes, including watering plants and gardens. Photo by Piero CRUCIATTI / AFP

Is Italy rationing tap water?

Not everywhere in the country. But in some areas, municipal authorities have placed restrictions on the supply of tap water as local supplies threaten to run dry.

This includes hundreds of towns and villages in Piedmont and Lombardy, as well as several comuni in Lunigiana, northern Tuscany.

Such a rule usually means supplies are restricted during the night only, typically between 10pm-7am, but if you have water use restrictions in place in your area check your comune‘s website for full details of what you’re allowed to do and when.

I have a well on my property, can I use water from the well to water the garden?

It’s not uncommon in rural areas for properties to have a well or similar that provides fresh but untreated water. Obviously you shouldn’t drink this as it may not be safe, but many people use it to water gardens.

Unless otherwise stated, water restrictions announced by local authorities for residents usually concern only acqua potabile (drinking water, or tap water) so you can continue to use water from the well.

Watch out for a mention of acqua di pozzo (well water). If your local restrictions mention acqua non trattata (untreated water) that includes all types of water, including water from your well.

Shut public fountain in Baveno, Milan

Many towns and cities in northern Italy, including Milan, have switched off their public fountains amid water shortages this summer. Photo by Piero CRUCIATTI / AFP

Can I fill my swimming pool?

This depends on the level of drought restriction in place in your area, but most parts of Italy now have some restrictions on private swimming pools.

For example, in some parts of Varese you may need to get permission from the water company before filling your pool, while the comune of Florence has a complete ban in place.

And it may also depend on whether you use tap water or water from your own private well.

Tap water use restrictions only apply during the day in some cases: residents of Villorba, near Treviso, are not allowed to use potable water to water gardens, wash vehicles or fill up pools between 6am and 11pm.

In some areas, local municipal swimming pools may be closed.

The bans on filling pools do not appear to apply to businesses, including hotels and resorts, but it’s always best to check the rules with your local town hall.

Marina Piceno, 64, relaxes in a hot tub in her garden that uses water from her private well. Photo by Piero CRUCIATTI / AFP

Can you really be fined for breaking the rules?

Yes. Fines again vary by local authority, but in parts of Veneto and Piedmont, for example, penalties for breaking the rules reportedly range from 25 to 500 euros.

How strictly the rules are enforced is hard to say. But if your area has water restrictions in place, it’s likely that filling the swimming pool, washing the car and watering your lawn will make you unpopular with neighbours who are following the rules – and this could be even more unpleasant than a fine.

What’s the official advice on saving water?

Even in areas where no official restrictions are in place, Italian authorities are asking everyone to make an effort to save water this summer. Guidelines released by government agency ENEA in July include the following advice:

  • Turn off taps, and don’t let them drip;
  • Limit the amount of tap water used on gardens – install containers to collect and store rainwater to use instead (some areas have more stringent measures in place on gardens)
  • Install water-saving equipment;
  • Take a shower instead of a bath;
  • Repair water leaks;
  • Don’t run your washing machine or dishwasher half empty.

We’re happy to answer questions from our members on any aspect of life in Italy. Get in touch at [email protected]

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