Italy issues red alert heatwave warning for 8 cities

South and central Italy set to sizzle while north-west to be hit by storms this weekend.

Italy's health ministry has issued a 'red alert' warning for eight cities due to a heatwave sweeping the country, with temperatures set to top 40°C in central areas of Sicily and parts of the southern Puglia region.

There are six cities on red alert for Saturday 31 July - Campobasso, Frosinone, Palermo, Perugia, Pescara and Trieste - with the same warning in place on Sunday 1 August for Bari and Catania.

The 'bollino rosso' alert indicates emergency conditions with possible negative effects on not just the elderly, sick or very young, but also on healthy and active people.

In addition, a lesser "code orange" warning is in place on Saturday in Bari, Bologna, Catania, Florence, Rieti, Rome and Viterbo, with the same warning for Ancona on Sunday. Temperatures in these cities are set to peak at 38°C.

The health ministry recommends avoiding exposure to the sun and outdoor activity in the middle of the day, as well as advising people to drink plenty of water, eat lightly and preserve their medication properly. Dogs should be walked early in the morning and late evening.

Tourists in Rome should be aware that the city's historic fountains are off-limits, no matter how hot it gets, with fines of €450 for those caught entering the waters.

Meanwhile there are thunderstorms, intense showers and strong winds expected tonight in the northwestern regions of Lombardia, Piemonte and Trentino.

This weekend "Italy will have to deal with a real boom of heat, with temperatures over 40°C, but also with strong thunderstorms, wind and hail, which between Saturday and Sunday will again sweep many regions," according to Il Meteo weather forecast website.