The mercury is on the rise in thermometers across central and southern Italy as intensely hot, humid weather led authorities to issue warnings Monday.
Temperatures soaring above 42 degrees Celsius in southern regions pose a serious threat to the health of elderly people, the authorities said, and the nation's agriculture is also suffering.
Indeed, Agriculture Minister Mario Catania warned Monday that he may declare a state of emergency in some areas because of drought.
All this comes as a scorching weather system dubbed Nero is forecast to sweep up from the Sahara Monday and Tuesday, says forecaster Antonio Sano, director of the ilmeteo.it website.
Meanwhile, humid air from the Atlantic is triggering hail and heavy rainstorms in the north, where two elderly women were killed at the weekend in mudslides caused by torrential downpours.
Flash flood warnings were issued Monday afternoon in Piedmont, Lombardy, and the Trentino Alto Adige areas while "Nero" bakes the centre and south.
Sano said Tuesday could be the hottest day of the summer, with record heat leading to temperature spikes of 42 degrees Celsius in Puglia, Matera, Basilicata, and Calabria, and possibly 43 degrees in Sicily's Agrigento. Sardinia could see the thermometer hit 40 degrees, while on Monday, visitors to Rome and Florence will roast in 37 degrees weather, rising above 38 degrees C on Tuesday, forecasters say.
By Thursday, cooler temperatures could roll in, bringing back more normal temperatures and by the weekend, the country should return to plenty of sunshine, less humidity, and temperatures averaging 30 degrees C to 33 degrees C.
But for now, the intense heat and drought is destroying crops and authorities are considering how and where to respond.
"There are areas of the country where they will most likely be declared a state of natural emergency," Catania said Monday.
Parts of the Veneto have been hit hard and wide areas of the central and southern Italy is also suffering, he said.
The weekend illness of former premier Giulio Andreotti was cited as an example of how the weather can hurt the elderly.
Andreotti, 93, was admitted to hospital Saturday night for a cardiac arrhythmia.
The current weather is especially dangerous for people with cardio-vascular and lung problems, they warned.
It's not known if the hot, humid weather was a factor in Andreotti's illness.