By Deacon Corey Close
On Friday, Feb. 3, we here in Rome had something unusual happen: it snowed.
Getting somewhere around a half-foot of snow which, amazingly, stayed on the ground for days afterwards, made this a rare occurrence indeed. Here at the North American College, we certainly did not miss out on the opportunities to take advantage of the white stuff! Many of us got together for snow football and then a snow Frisbee game in the midst of the blizzard, while others traveled to St. Peter’s Square to make snowmen. One group of men even built a sofa on our athletic field, life-sized. The snow was a particularly wet kind, making it perfect for this enterprise.
The city of Rome, of course, had no idea what to do. When it snows here, rare enough as is, the snow usually melts before the day is done. Without this self-solving problem, the city went into lockdown. As the sun rose on the tranquil, white
landscape the next day, the Romans were forced to try to deal with the white nemesis. I heard one friend’s account of his attempt to go to Naples that Saturday. He went to the train station, found almost all the train trips canceled, and then promptly returned. On his way, however, he noted the Romans’ desperate attempts to fight this foreign invasion. A few had shovels, probably covered with dust from the back of some storage cabinet, but most were not this well armed. The Romans resorted to brooms, brushes and even squeegees in their futile efforts to push back the snow. I even heard one account of someone using something suspiciously akin to a hair dryer to melt the snow. I saw with my own eyes Roman garbage workers throwing white pellets onto the snow, but any similarities they had to actual salt ended there. The white pellets did nothing.
Despite these trials, the city took on an amazingly beautiful look for a few, special days. Snow settled on the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica, palm trees bowed under the weight of their newly-fallen burden and flurries fell majestically through the oculus of the Pantheon. While some Romans fought the unknown menace, others accepted this rare guest. Like a scene from “A Year without a Santa Claus,” folks took to snowball fights in the streets, while restauranteurs built snowmen that held signs advertising the food of the day. I guess maybe the Heat Miser and the Snow Miser made a deal this year.
All-in-all, it was a great distraction during exam period (late January-early February is finals time here in Europe), as well as a nice birthday present for myself, since the snow fell on the eve of my birthday! I have heard that the Midwest has been relatively snowless this year. Well, here’s me, on behalf of the Roman people, thanking you for sending some our way.
(Deacon Corey Close is a fourth-year seminarian studying for the Diocese of Davenport at the North American College in Rome.)