Is it too late to move the winter Olympics to Rome?
On Friday morning, while Vancouver was wet and foggy, I had a snowball fight with my daughter Arianna on the streets of Rome. It was an exceedingly rare treat. The last time the Eternal City had snow was 24 years ago.
Romans were astonished. They ran outside with their umbrellas to see orange trees in full bloom, palm trees and cactuses covered in snow. Kids flooded out of their schools to fling snowballs at each other. The snow was wet - perfect for making projectiles.
The snow started about 8am Rome time, but quickly turn into rain. A couple of hours later we were suprised to see fat, fluffy snowflakes turning the sky white. We ran up the Aventino hill, where we live, for a view of St. Peter's. But the snow had made the basilica's dome impossible to see. By about 11:30am, it had stopped snowing and Rome began to return to its usual wet, warmish winter self. Rome had had about three hours of true winter; as a Toronto boy who has had his fill of long, cold, Canadian winters, that was delicious enough.
It's probably a good thing the snow didn't last long. Sandra Kennedy, an Australian friend of mine who has lived in Rome since the 1960s, said some of the city's towering umbrella pines - the ones that look like they were designed by Dr. Seuss - broke under the weight of the 1986 storm. Still, she said, "it's magic when you see the ancient ruins covered in snow."
I did see snow in Rome once before, when we lived here in the early 1970s. There was a big snowstorm, the first in more than a decade and the last before the 1986 storm. We lived on the hill behind the Vatican and I remember as a kid seeing the dome of St. Peter's turned white. I thought it was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen, still do.