A brutal cold snap has dug its claws deep into Europe, with icy winds from Siberia blowing across the continent. The “Beast from the East” dropped a rare two to four inches of snow on the Eternal City on Monday.

On Monday morning, temperatures were running as much as 30 degrees Fahrenheit below normal in Italy for this time of year. The combined cold and snow shut down schools and kept roads all but empty. Smart cars and Vespa scooters were coated in two to three inches of snow. From the Colosseum to Fori Imperiali, historic landmarks were painted white. Police advised people to stay home if possible, but many Italians braved the cold to enjoy the somewhat rare snow.

Students at American College and British College, both near the Vatican, took advantage of the snow day by staging a snowball fight in St. Peter’s Square. It snows in Rome only every few years. It was quick to turn to slush as the morning wore on and temperatures climbed to around 40 degrees.

Highs around 40 may not seem that terrible, but it’s extremely uncommon for Rome to experience prolonged periods of cold weather. The city, located on the west coast of Italy, is dominated by the warm influence of the Mediterranean Sea. Exceptional cold, the kind that much of Europe is experiencing this week, is possible for a long duration only when biting winds sweep in from Siberia in the east. Thus Europe’s nickname for this cold snap, the “Beast from the East.”

Temperature departures from normal on Monday, shown in degrees Celsius. In Fahrenheit, these departures translate to 10 to 30 degrees below normal. (pivotalweather.com)

The cold snap spread across Europe late last week and has become fully entrenched over the continent. Eastern Europe and Scandinavia are enduring the worst of this bitter winter weather, with temperatures running up to 35 degrees below average. Monday through Wednesday were expected to be the coldest days of the week, “about as cold of an end to February across Europe as you’ll get,” according to Scotland meteorologist Mark Vogan.

In Rome, temperatures will remain well below normal through midweek. At just 18 degrees, early morning temperatures on Wednesday will be the coldest of the week for Rome — 22 degrees below normal. Beyond that, more typical temperatures are in the forecast; highs on Friday will be a balmy 60 degrees.

A street covered by snow in Rome on Feb. 26, 2018. (Luciano del Castillo/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock)

The streets of Rome are covered by snow on Feb. 26, 2018. Temperatures will remain well below normal through midweek in the city. (Angelo Carconi/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock)

Rome’s Fori Imperiali is shrouded by snow on Feb. 26, 2018. (Angelo Carconi/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock)

St. Peter’s Square was a winter wonderland on Feb. 26, 2018. (Max Rossi/Reuters)

People walk in the snow near the Colosseum in Rome on Feb. 26, 2018. (Tiziana Fabi/AFP/Getty Images)

A woman at St Peter’s Square captures the moment as it snows on Feb. 26, 2018. (Tiziana Fabi/AFP/Getty Images)

Roofs are covered in snow in downtown Rome on Feb. 26, 2018. (Remo Casilli/Reuters)

Scooters are dressed up in snow in Rome on Feb. 26, 2018. An Arctic storm passing over much of Europe has dumped enough snow to force schools to close and public transport to reduce services. (Alessandra Tarantino/AP)

A man walks along a bridge during a snowstorm in Rome on Feb. 26, 2018. (Alessandra Tarantino/AP)

A view of Rome from Gianicolo Hill on Feb. 26, 2018. (Ettore Ferrari/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock)

Tourists play with the snow in St. Peter’s Square on Feb. 26, 2018. (Alessandro di Meo/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock)

People take part in a snowball fight in front of the Colosseum on Feb. 26, 2018. (Angelo Carconi/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock)

A view of Tiberina Island in Rome during snowfall on Feb. 26, 2018. (Alessandra Tarantino/AP)