Barreling towards the runway on the descent into Rome, a feeling of exoticism sets in. You can’t quite feel it yet, but you can see the heat radiating from the pavement as humidity bears down on the city. Above the ancient skyline, a storm thunders to life, just like it does every summer afternoon at around 4PM. The city is full of young locals, tourists, and swarms of vespas. It becomes immediately clear why suitcases are often stuffed with impossibly thin garments; sun dresses rolled and tucked around extra camera gear–the heat demands it. While it seems the ancient architecture that lines the streets should be cracking under the intent gazes and excited feet of millions of people that visit each year, it holds fast under the low June sun.
Rome has a population of over 2.6 million people, and the narrow streets are constantly flooded by foot traffic. The city has shared over 3,000 years of incredible art, groundbreaking knowledge, and has cultivated an air of isolated romanticism, despite the density of the population. Rome feels far-removed from the rural towns that lie just beyond the city limits. These villages are caressed by the same summer storms but lay undisturbed by the bustling cosmopolitan nightlife. By necessity, the waterproof Nimbus case slicks away the afternoon rains, protecting an unwieldy amount of lenses and notebooks as the journey from city centre to outer-reaches begins.
Cetona is a village located about an hour south of Rome by train, and with a population of only 2,000, allows visitors to become acquainted with a flavour of Italy that Rome does not. This sort of hospitality and accessibility is unique to small towns—in a tourist hub such as Rome, speaking with shop owners and locals both intimately and casually is rare. In the countryside, the heat is dry and unrelenting, and shops are built directly into the hillside on which the town resides. The roads are narrow, and the town itself is best explored on foot – a necessary inconvenience which provides a greater opportunity to become familiar with ancient hillsides and ruins.
Agrotourism gains popularity in the south of Italy, with bikes meandering down long, winding roads from farm to farm. This far inland, there’s no sea breeze or afternoon wind to cool the town, and the thunderstorms often bring such intense hail that cyclists and motorists alike are forced to take cover. Italy is often regarded as a soft paradise; a haven of languid afternoons and relaxation–and it is–but as evidenced by the temperamental weather, Rome’s vibrant population, and Cetona’s rough old edges, the country has much to offer for adventurers out there, too.
Written and photographed by Megan Jenkins