During a recent visit to Italy last week, I was shocked to realize how much media coverage was dedicated to the apparently unprecedented cold weather hitting the country.
Even before leaving I was warned by friends and family that this was to be "the worst winter since 1985" but I could not anticipate that the national television channels would literally be monopolized by alarmist talks about snow storms, frost, Siberian temperatures and all sorts of weather related apocalyptic scenarios.
Although the first week of February surely was remarkably cold for many countries in Europe and around the world, the Italian media chose to squeeze the topic as much as it could.
After landing on a perfectly clear runway in Bergamo (a 40 minutes drive from Milan), I started doubting that the images I had seen in news reports were actually taken from the streets of Italy.
Apparently the South of the country was doing much worse than the North, with regions such as Marche or Abruzzo in critical conditions for the quantity of snow quickly accumulating on the roads and the lack of vehicles clearing the way.
A peculiar exception was represented by Rome where, although the snow did not hit too hard, public offices and schools were closed as a precautionary measure.
The picture below depicts one of the few public buses brave enough to venture out in the open and continue its public service: typical for Roman humor, the driver changed the digital writing from the name of its destination into "Snowstorm I am not scared of you", and gained the attention of many passersby.
The days following the first snowflakes falling showed an impressive amount of tv correspondents being sent to the worst hit areas of Italy, knocking on villagers doors and asking how they were coping with the harsh weather conditions.
The warning of Siberian temperatures not leaving the country for a long time was kept high on national television while the population avoided travelling, and streets appeared much emptier than normal.
I could not help but noticing that prime time news reports on RAI or the Mediaset channels were 70% dedicated to the weather. Little or no mention to the facts happening in Syria, to the Eurocrisis or the latest decisions of the Monti government.
And while some feature reports, such as those featured on the Piazza Pulita program on LA7, did offer a more critical angle to the coverage of the effects of the weather, the majority of the news just reinforced the feeling of fear and catastrophe waiting to happen (and eventually did not) in the viewers.
A source of consolation is knowing that Italy is not alone in her unhealthy obsession with the weather; last year in December the BBC did exactly the same.
The Nordics must be laughing out loud.
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