Life in a heatwave

  • 7 August 2022
  • Prue Scott

August weather arrived mid-May. Daytime temperatures shot past 30C, with high humidity, no cloud cover and no wind. That temperature climbed steadily and refused to dip below 29C at night.

This is August weather, we expats said. This is August weather, said the locals. This is not Mediterranean weather; it’s African weather, said another. They were all correct. Someone had been fiddling with the weather button.

It did not ease up and the rest, as they say, is history. No doubt you’ve seen the media coverage. Europe swelters while Australia and NZ are hit time and time again with snow, rain, wind and flooding.

Lucca has a micro-climate on account of its huge walls encompassing the historic centre. And that centre is made up of cobbled streets, flagstones and stone buildings – all of which attract, retain and reflect heat. At the same time. The only relief is a walk on the walls and yet another cold shower.

I went off to housesit three mad dogs in the hills above Lucca. Friends Steph and Dave were off to the much-delayed Pearl Jam concert in Imola: would I mind the dogs? A night in a stone village? I’m your person.

Dave does interesting things with yachts and boats in terms of fitouts, rebuilds and the like. In summer, it’s hot work. He waved a small sachet at me – electrolytes with potassium and magnesium. I was sweating so badly there was no need for a toilet. Seriously.

Back in Lucca, I started my new regime. I’ve never exercised hard enough or long enough to need electrolytes, but in this heat they became essential. I passed on the tip and pretty soon we were stripping the shelves in the supermarkets. It wasn’t just us; the locals were taking them, too. They were a lifesaver. I was starting to feel quite off colour, sleep was poor, the sweating wouldn’t stop, and no matter how much water I drank, I never quenched that thirst. Electrolytes solved the problem.

Of course, no one expected the problem to continue for 10 weeks and we are now all just one or two steps away from mayhem as the searing heat continues. Add to this the Lucca festival with its visitors and the tourist crocodiles wending their way through overheated streets (some of them twitching uncontrollably as they’re led out at the end of the day).

The heat continued. My ability to manage it continued to slip. Up early-ish, refill water bottles at fountain, make more ice cubes, buy more salad, retreat inside between 11am and 4pm. Coffee doesn’t help. Alcohol doesn’t help. Gelato doesn’t help. A swim in the river didn’t help because the water was WARM. Bathtub warm.

We talk about the heat because it’s turned our brains to the consistency of tomatoes and what have they ever said by way of anything interesting?

I’ve resorted to chemical help for sleep and drool over the British weather which says London will be a cool 26C (max) when I fly in on Sunday.

Thanks, Lucca, it’s been great, but never again with this heat. Now, where’s that tour brochure for the Arctic?


P.S. That's Robbie, sleeping through the heatwave.

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