Italian cities and towns can be hot in the summer. AC is not standard in most Italian homes. Central air conditioning as we know it is rare although many tourist hotels in the larger cities do have accommodations with air. However because of the intricacies of Italian law and the high cost of energy there may be some restrictions for usage.
Architectural regulations for historic buildings often prohibit alterations for air conditioning making it difficult to retro-fit. Ancient villas and farmhouses were constructed to beat the heat with thick stone walls, overhangs and external shutters. Italians may complain about the weather but without the luxury of air conditioning they’ve learned to keep their cool and not sweat the small stuff. They accept the summer heat in typical che sara’ sara’ style knowing that it’s part of a seasonal cycle.
The best way to cope during the summer is to do as the Italians do. Begin your day early, wear clothes made of lightweight, breathable materials (cotton or linen). Keep the shades or curtains in your home closed, stay out of the mid-day sun and re-emerge in the evening for a stroll and light dinner. Leave the cities during the month of August (notoriously hot in Italy) and travel to the seashore or mountains. Many Italians traditionally take off the month of August (Ferragosto) and many shops and offices in Italy are closed.
US tolerance for the temperature seems to have lessened over the years as our parents and grandparents remind us that mass- produced window air conditioning units in the United States only became available in 1947. In 1969 only 54% of all new US cars had air conditioning and new homes had just begun to be built with central air conditioning.
Summer in the city can be uncomfortable but once again Italians have mastered the summer heat with typical Italian sprezzatura. So enjoy a spritz, sorbetto, granita or gelato. Eat cold salads (my favorite is panzanella) and most of all be fashionably cool!