For two days in late July, the northeastern region of Lazio province was hit with torrential downpours during a couple of major tempesta di tuono, thunder storms. One crack of thunder on the 24th surpassed the takeoff decibels of 10 passenger jets. It blasted forth just overhead as I waited on a bus for the driver to return. Unleashed simultaneous to the thunder was a cascade of water too massive to qualify as rain. It would be like calling the Niagra Falls rain, or the flow of the Columbia River.
Similar to a pressure cooker that isn’t vented, these storms exploded on a region that has suffered its worst drought in 60 years, along with near record high temperatures. So, instead of bemoaning the lost internet, fried electrical systems (My own being one of them.), and spoiled outdoor party or concert plans, jubilation arose in the market places, coffee shops, and municipal offices, even as people ran for cover, searched out their long-stored umbrella’s, battened down the open windows, and ruined their new Italian leather sandals.
Rain means as much for the region as it does for the farms and vineyards, both of which find this an optimum time for thoroughly soaked soil. Since the wine harvest is over a month away, grapes should continue to sugar up and reach harvest plump and happy. The Mottura family, whose dozens of hectars grow some of the best grapes around, including Procanico, Verdello, and Grechetto varieties in the area around Orvieto, expressed quiet joy at the bounteous precipitation.
The farmers’ gain is also a boost for the overall water resources — the rivers, lakes, and reservoirs. Lake Bracciano, which serves Rome and provides water for summer’s swelling tourist population, year-around citizens, and all the city’s myriad fountains, is set to actually go off-line on July 28th. Pumping from the lake will stop, so low has its level dropped. According to the authorities, taking any more water from the lake would put its entire ecosystem at risk. In solidarity with the strictures about to hit Rome, Pope Francis, the ruling authority of the Vatican, an autonomous city state within Rome itself, has had several major fountains shut down and has called for conservation by all persons.
Even the Trevi Fountain, famed scene of millions of romantic moments and hoped-for wishes, may find itself a dry hole in the amour department as officials calculate the water loss across its wide expanse and myriad spouts. One source calculates 2,824,800 cubic feet of water spilled per day. That’s a lot of acqua frizzante! Naturally, the Trevi has been shut down before, during restoration in 2015 and as recently as May, 2017 when it was closed in response to illegal swimming — young people participating in copy-cat aquatics made famous in the movie La Dolce Vita circa 1960. Those who are part of this retro fandom might instead try to picture Anita Ekberg, the original siren of the fountain, as a grandmother, or even great-grandmother. Or not. If the shut down occurs, the city loses more than just good will, since an average of 3000 € a day is thrown into the fountain by optimistic tourists, for a total of $1.3 million per year in the city’s coffers.
So while there is gratitude for the recent 3 inches in rainfall in select areas of Lazio, the deluge has merely shone a great wattage of interest on the overall dearth of desperately needed rain across this southern European nation. From the Trevi Fountain to hotel showers, the pinch and pain of scarcity has hit a country where abondanza is the norm.