January saw heavy snowfall in the Alps, where some ski resorts were closed off temporarily due to avalanche risk, and strong winds battered the country towards the middle of the month. But globally, the month was one of the hottest January's ever, and Italy was no exception.
The first half of the month was the hottest in at least 250 years in Italy, according to Meteoweb, and the meteorology website said that during the entire month, average temperatures were around 4C higher than the seasonal average.
Rainfall was significantly lower than the average for the time of year, with water reaching extremely low levels in the country's lakes. In Venice, where the carnival season has just begun, exceptionally low tides and record low water at around 70 cm have caused problems for water traffic, with gondolas and other boats unable to use certain canals.
A gondola tied up in a Venice canal. Photo: Marco Sabbadin/AFP
However, it's not quite time to celebrate the end of winter, with weather experts warning of a blast of bad weather on the way for Italy in the coming days.
After rain in Liguria and Friuli Venezia Giulia on Wednesday, the wintery spell is expected to intensify and spread across much of the rest of the country this week. Rain is expected across the north-east and Tuscany on Thursday morning, and by the afternoon Umbria and Lazio will also likely be affected, with some showers further south in Campania and Sardinia too.
Italy's Civil Protection Department has issued an orange weather warning for Thursday in Veneto, due to “hydrogeological risk”, while on Friday a yellow alert will be in place across most of Molise and northern Tuscany.
In the Alps, snow was falling on Thursday morning at altitudes between 700 and 1000 metres. Up to 20 centimetres of the white stuff is expected to accumulate at altitudes over 1500 metres in the central Alps and western Dolomites, 3bmeteo reported.
On Friday, the rain is predicted to reach the centre-south of the country, while snow is likely to fall in the eastern Alps at altitudes as low as 500 metres. All of this will be accompanied by a drop in temperatures in the north, particularly in mountainous regions where the mercury could drop by around 6-8C.
Though the situation should improve slightly over the weekend, the entire month of February will be characterized by cold and rain, with a cold air front on the way from Russia towards the middle of the month, where the capital Moscow has just been hit by the heaviest snowfall in 50 years.
This comes after a year which was the driest ever and the sixth warmest on record in Italy, according to Coldiretti figures. Widespread drought throughout the summer led to water shortages, forest fires, and poor harvests.
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