Rare snowfall blankets Rome as Arctic blast sweeps across Europe

Moscow saw temperatures plunge to minus 20C, while the army was called in to help clear snow in Croatia.


Romans have woken up to rare snowfall after an Arctic storm passing over much of Europe dumped enough snow to force schools to close and stall public transport.

Italy’s civil protection agency decided to deploy the army to clear streets in the capital after the snowfall paralysed Rome with just a few inches of snow.

Parks that usually stay green through the winter were blanketed with snow. Even the Circo Massimo became a hotspot for snowball fights, while Piazza Navona, with its famed Bernini fountains, turned into a snow-dusted winter wonderland.

Italy Weather
People walk past the ancient Colosseum in unusually wintry conditions by Roman standards (Alessandra Tarantino/AP)

Rome’s Mediterranean climate and proximity to the sea usually results in mild winters, with restaurants often keeping outdoor seating open even through the coldest months of the year. As a result, the Monday morning snowfall, though not huge in quantity, brought excited young Romans out to play in the snow or walk in the slush.

Mayor Virginia Raggi signed an ordinance on Sunday evening closing public schools as a precaution, with many private ones following suit.

Elsewhere in much of northern and central Italy, the storm also closed schools and disrupted transport.

Italy Weather
Snowball fights a go-go as students play in St Peter’s Square (Alessandra Tarantino/AP)

In Moscow, temperatures dropped to this winter’s lowest yet, despite the approaching spring. The mercury in the Russian capital dropped to nearly minus 20C on Sunday night, the coldest this winter.

Meteorologists are forecasting unusually low temperatures for early March. Roman Vilfand, chief of the Russian Meteorological Office, told the Interfax news agency that Muscovites should brace themselves for frosty weather in early March and could only “count on the warmth of the soul”, and not higher temperatures outside.

Croatia, meanwhile, has been gripped by freezing weather, with even towns along most of the Adriatic coast waking up to temperatures below freezing. The cold spell has closed schools in the north-west, and heavy vehicles were banned from all roads leading toward the coast.

Italy Weather
A view of St Peter’s Dome after a rare snowfall in Rome (Alessandra Tarantino/AP)

About 1,000 Croatian soldiers have joined efforts to clear the snow in the worst-affected areas where more than 5ft has been reported.

Towns along the Adriatic coast have also been hit by strong winds which also hampered sea traffic toward the islands. Only the southern part of the coast recorded temperatures above freezing on Monday morning.

Snow and freezing temperatures have a grasp on some parts of Germany as meteorologists reported a record cold for this winter of minus 27C on the Zugspitze mountain in the Alps.

Russia Weather
A couple walk along the frozen Moskva River, next to the Kremlin Wall, and the Christ the Saviour Cathedral, in Moscow (Alexander Zemlianichenko/AP)

The German Weather Service said overnight temperatures were also low in the south and east of the country, where they went down to minus 15C in parts. It was slightly warmer in the north-east, but traffic there came to a halt in some regions because of heavy snowfall.

The German news agency dpa reported that in the northern city of Bremen, at least 10 flights were cancelled due to snow. Along the Baltic coast in the state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern several cars crashed on icy streets, injuring at least four people.

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