Man on skis at St. Peter’s Square, Vatican City, 26 Feb 2018 (Casilli/Reuters)
Thanks to a cold Siberian air mass dubbed “Beast from the East”, about 10 cm of snow fell in Rome prompting Italian authorities to call in the army and help clear streets.
In St. Peter’s Square, priests from the Vatican threw snowballs at each other and students skied on a hill near the Colosseum.
The heaviest snowfall in Rome in six years forced schools to close, cancelled flights and drivers were urged to stay home.
While Rome barely climbed above freezing, temperatures fell as low as -35 C in the Italian Alps early today.
Temperatures across southern Europe have been so hot in recent days – climbing to more than 40 C in some areas – the heat wave has been called “Lucifer”.
Several deaths have been reported and severe weather warnings have been issued in Spain, France, Italy and the Balkan States.
Serbia’s capital Belgrade reached a scorching 39 C and train service in the southern part of the country was halted after rail tracks buckled in the extreme heat.
By contrast, northern Europe has been much cooler and wetter with the thermometer dropping as low as 4 C in the Scottish Highlands.
Snow falls along Mediterranean Sea at Javea, Alicante, Spain, 18 Jan 2017 (Facebook)
A combination of cold temperatures, flooding and lack of sunlight has been ruining crops across key agriculture areas in southern Europe.
The heaviest rain in 30 years has flooded the Murcia region of southeast Spain and severe cold and snow in central Italy have nearly wiped out vegetables such as lettuce, tomatoes, broccoli, peppers, eggplants and zucchinis.
The shortages have significantly increased food prices across northern Europe as suppliers scramble to meet demand.
Measurable snow has also blanketed the coast of the Mediterranean Sea for the first time since the early 1980s.
The cold snap has claimed more than 65 lives across Europe this month.