Il Tempo

Today is a gray, rainy day in Northern Italy. I took the above picture a few hours ago. So, I thought I’d make a post about the weather. But first, we’ll talk about the time. The two are related, I promise.

The 24-Hour Clock

In Italy the 24-hour clock is always used whenever times are written down. Everything from train and plane schedules, to the clock on the microwave, to store opening hours posted in the window, is written in this way. However, they also have the 12 hour clock. It’s still common to have an analog clock on your wall or on your wristwatch.


So, everybody in Italy understands both clocks with no issue. You can either say “5PM” or “17” and they’ll know what you’re talking about.

When I first arrived, I had little interest in using the 24-hour clock. But eventually it became a problem because I had to subtract 12 hours in my head whenever I wanted to know what time the restaurant closed or the last train left the station.

I eventually decided I had to cut the cord and change all my clocks to 24-hour. (When in Rome, right?) Here’s my cell phone screen:


At first it was a struggle, lots of mental math, but now I’m good. I simply know that 19 is 7 without thinking. Sometimes I mess up a little bit… particularly when I try to figure out what time it is at home. If it’s 19:17 now, that means it’s 13:17 in Ohio. It’s easy to confused that with 3:17, but no, it’s 1:17 in the afternoon. But overall, I have it down pat. Maybe my mental math skills will improve after years of over-relying on calculators.


Similarly to the 24-hour clock, I had little interest in Celsius when I arrived. In the smartphone era, we all have our own weather forecast device in our pockets. So I didn’t need to rely on the newspaper or the TV to get my weather.

But when I got to school, the students began to ask me how the weather was in Ohio. In order to be able to communicate with them, and with other people, I needed to switch. When in Rome, do as the Romans do. So like I did with the clock, I bit the bullet and switched the degrees on my phone.


Similar to with the time, at first I had a calculation. I knew from school that 0° Celsius is freezing, so 0° C = 32° F.

I looked a little bit online and figured out that a degree Celsius is about 2 degrees Fahrenheit. So if I saw 6° C, I multiplied it by two and added that to 32. So my guess would be 44° F. Google tells me it’s actually about 43° F, so not bad. If you go a little higher, it’s a bit less accurate.

I also remember from school that 20° C is room temperature, so about 70° F. Also, every 5° C is about 10° F, so you can use this rough scale to keep it really easy:

0° C = 32° F

5° C = 40° F

10° C = 50° F

15° C = 60° F

20° C = 70° F

25° C = 80° F

30° C = 90° F

But, like with the clocks, I don’t really think about this anymore. I just look at the weather every day and eventually you get an idea in your mind of what’s nice weather and what isn’t. In America I use Fahrenheit and in Italy I use Celsius. I have no idea what the Fahrenheit temperature is on any given day.

I remember I had an Italian professor in college who taught us that it’s better to think in Italian than to think in English and translate. The same applies to these examples. It’s better to think in Celsius than think in Fahrenheit and convert.

I’ve only been here for two months tomorrow, so it didn’t take too long to adjust. The human brain is an amazing thing.

I leave you with one interesting fact on the Italian language. Time and weather are the same word: “Tempo.” You know what the other person is talking about based on context.

“Fa bel tempo.” = “The weather is beautiful.”

“Tempo fa.” = “A long time ago.”


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