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DISCOVER ITALY

Six of the coolest places to go in Italy to avoid a heatwave

If you're not a fan of the heat, here are six places in Italy you can go to stay cool this summer.

Dolomites, Italy
Mountain resorts on the Dolomites are among the best locations for those looking to get away from the summer heat. Photo by Miguel MEDINA / AFP

Italy is admired all over the world for the uncontaminated beauty of its beaches and the crystal-clear water of its seas. Unsurprising, its many seaside resorts attract millions of foreign visitors every summer. 

But while the country is surely heaven on earth for hot weather lovers, is there a place for those who are less keen on basking in the scorching sun of the Italian estate? Well, take it from an Italian born and bred: there’s a place for just about anybody in Italy.

The unparalleled diversity of the country’s landscape means that those preferring temperatures in the low 20s over the 30s (and sometimes 40s) of the summer heat have a plethora of cool-weather havens to choose from.

Here are just six of the destinations that you should consider when planning your escape from the heat.

Vigo di Fassa, Trentino Alto-Adige

Summer in the Dolomites is generally fairly cool but there’s a place in Trentino Alto-Adige where temperatures are particularly brisker than elsewhere. Located around 40km east of Bolzano and sat at an elevation of 1,382m, Vigo di Fassa enjoys temperatures which are significantly lower than in the surrounding comuni (municipalities). Suffice to say that in August, the hottest month of the year, daily averages are usually below 20C.

But, Vigo di Fassa is not just your average mountain location offering reprieve from the summer heat. It is also one of the most picturesque villages in the entire country and it happens to be just a stone’s throw away from popular attractions such as Lake Carezza, the Ciampedìe plateau and Sass Pordoi, a rock summit commonly known as ‘terrazza delle Dolomiti’ (Dolomites’ terrace).

In short, this is the perfect place for nature lovers and hiking enthusiasts.

Sappada, Friuli-Venezia Giulia

Sappada is an enchanting mountain resort on the Carnic Alps, just south of the border with Austria. Located at the foot of the imposing Mount Peralba, the village offers visitors some truly breathtaking views of the surrounding Dolomite massifs as well as a magnificent natural landscape comprising extensive green pastures, thick coniferous forests and an array of alpine lakes.

Besides being a natural paradise for outdoors enthusiasts, the town is also brimming with folklore and local traditions, with a number of events and festivities occurring over the course of the summer.

Yet again, as in the case of the afore-mentioned locations, the town’s elevation (1,250m above sea level) keeps the temperatures relatively cool over the course of the summer, with the local thermometer rising above 22C only on very few occasions.

Castelluccio di Norcia, Umbria

From the heights of the Dolomites we move down across the country and stop on the Umbrian Apennines, which are home to Castelluccio di Norcia. Reaching an elevation of 1,452m above sea level, Castelluccio (literally, ‘little castle’ in Italian), is one of the coolest towns in Umbria, with temperatures hovering around 21C throughout the summer.

Besides being an unparalleled oasis of peace and tranquillity, the Umbrian town offers a variety of hiking trails to several renowned attractions, including Grotta della Sibilla (Sibyl’s Cave) and Lake Pilate.

Finally, it is advisable to visit Castelluccio between the end of May and mid-July, when the fields surrounding the town are coloured by red lentil flowers.

READ ALSO: TRAVEL: Why now’s the best time to discover Italy’s secret lakes and mountains

Vallombrosa, Tuscany

The Vallombrosa forest has long been one of the best-kept secrets of Florence residents. When the heat becomes unbearable in the city – and it often does over the summer – the locals retreat to a 1,270-hectare reserve about 30km southeast of the region’s capital.

Why? Vallombrosa is a cool and shady natural haven where the beauty of uncontaminated forest land merges with majestic man-made creations such as the Benedictine Abbey of Vallombrosa and the Castle of Sammezzano. 

The forest is also filled with trails that are granted to give hikers the time of their lives. One of them, the Setteponti trail, will even take you as far south as Arezzo!

Pescasseroli, Abruzzo

Nestled at the heart of Abruzzo’s National Park on the Marsicani Mountains, Pescasseroli is one of the most scenic small towns in Italy. With its array of traditional houses, churches and artisan shops, the burg’s centro storico is a sight for sore eyes. 

In line with the above-mentioned locations, Pescasseroli also enjoys relatively cool summers as its elevation (1,167m above sea level) rarely allows temperatures to exceed 26C, even in August. So, regardless of when you choose to visit, it’s always a good time to saddle up and discover the natural wonders the surrounding national park has to offer. 

Oh, by the way, scattered across Pescasseroli are also a number of taverns, where you’ll be able to treat yourself to the scrumptious local cuisine.

READ ALSO: How to choose a camping holiday in Italy: A guide for the uninitiated

Ulassai, Sardinia

Yes, it is indeed true. Even Sardinia, which is globally known for the beauty of its beaches and seaside resorts, has something to offer to cool weather lovers. Sat at 775m above sea level, Ulassai (province of Nuoro) is one of the ‘fresher’ spots in the island, offering an alluring way out of the summer heat domineering pretty much elsewhere. 

The village is perched atop a huge limestone massif known as Bruncu Matzeu and allows visitors to enjoy stunning views of Sardinia’s eastern coast and the Tyrrhenian Sea extending beyond it. Ulassai also offers a number of natural attractions, including the imposing Lequarci Falls and the Su Marmuri Cave. In short, this is the perfect spot for those who love nature and local history.

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HEATWAVE

Will summer 2022 be Italy’s hottest ever?

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

Will summer 2022 be Italy's hottest ever?

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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