Village Life in Italy — Rome’s Trevi Fountain and Others in Danger — Part 5
For two days in late July, parts of Italy’s Lazio province experienced torrential downpours during a pair of major tempesta di tuono, thunder storms. One crack of thunder on the 24th surpassed the takeoff decibels of 10 passenger jets. Unleashed simultaneously was a cascade of water too massive to qualify as rain. It would have been like calling 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 a reprieve for farms and vineyards, both of which find this an optimum time for a thorough soaking. Since the wine harvest is over a month away, grapes should continue to sugar up and reach harvest plump and happy. One member of the Mottura family, whose dozens of hectars grow some of the best grapes around, including Procanico, Verdello, and Grechetto varieties, expressed quiet joy at the unexpected rain.
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. So low are reservoir levels that pumping will stop. According to the authorities, using more lake water risks the entire ecosystem. In solidarity with the strictures about to hit Rome, Pope Francis, has had several major fountains shut down and has called for conservation by everyone.
Even the famed Trevi Fountain, scene of real life and cinematic romance may find itself a dry hole in the amour department. Due to the drought, officials are calculating the water loss across its wide expanse. One source estimates 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. It seems that young people’s copy-cat aquatics reflected Anita Ekberg’s in the 1960s movie La Dolce Vita. If the closure occurs, the city loses more than just good will. Optimistic tourists throw an average of 3000 € a day into the fountain. That totals $1.3 million per year.
So, while there is gratitude for the recent 3 inches in rainfall, the deluge also reminds Italians of what is missing. From the Trevi Fountain to hotel showers, the pinch and pain of drought has hit a country where abondanza is the norm.