Old Wives’ Tales Are Not Just For the Old – The Italian Fear of Cold Drafts

After over a decade of living in Rome,  I have had the opportunity to watch and contemplate on several of the cultural peculiarities that really make Rome and Romans very different to the rest of the world. Coming from an Italian family such as mine, I am well used to the warnings that accompany some activities that you might considered to be totally harmless but to Italians if not headed could surly result in death! The following are an idea of some of these “dangerous activities”; drinking anything with ice, going out with wet hair, or being given the “malocchio” (evil eye) to name a few. Generally I would just ignore these superstitions and chalk them down to old roman wives tales, especially  the one about the not drinking anything with ice… I mean how are you expected to have an ice coffee without any ice I ask you?

The dreaded “colpo d’aria”(gust of air) which would have Italians wrapped in a scarf in the height of the summer for fear of getting a creak in their neck, I used to find this quite amusing and a quaint characteristic of Italians, but it  has now become a bit of a bone of contention. Thanks to global warming and climate change Rome has had one of its warmest Mays in years and no one was expecting the heat that arrived so as you can imagine hardly any of the stores  or other places of business had started to use their air conditioning, as I too was getting my bikini bod ready for the summer and had started to hit my local gym in preparation for the summer.

I know you think that its may be quite advanced for Italians to have air conditioning but its now quite widely available and not just  for the wealth Americans. When I first move to Rome though it was a different story back in the day of the Lira, Ac’s were few and far between so I have survived without it and I am sure will again at some stage, but one thing that I cant do without especially in a hot and sweaty gym while working out is a FAN! So intending only to endanger my own life, if you are to believe in the fear of the “colpo d’aria”, I head to a secluded corner of the gym to use a machine near the fan, at this stage no one else was in the area so my work out was conduct under the nice breeze of the ceiling fan near me. My sweaty workout was soon stopped by a woman I recognized from my step class, she strode right up and without pause for consideration just turned off the fan. As miffed as I was, I was not in the mood for getting confrontational so I just got off the machine and turned back on the fan to enjoy the rest of my work out, that’s when things started to heat up and I don’t mean from the work out!

Paranoid schizophrenic but otherwise lovely aerobics queen: (from here on out we will refer to her as PSBOLAQ): Excuse me, you can’t do that!

Me: Oh no? Funny, I don’t remember you asking would it be OK to to turn off the fan before you did, and seeing how I was here first, maybe you could come back in ten minutes when I’m done my work out  if you’re so worried about it.

PSBOLAQ: Everybody knows that it’s harmful! All I need is to get on that machine when a blast of air hits my neck and I’ll be laid up for a fortnight  with bronchitis!

ME: (trying to be nice) No, of course you don’t need that, but I came over to this abandoned corner just so that you and the rest of the people here would not have to take that fatal risk

PSBOLAQ: Yes, well naturally I cannot stay on the same machine all morning long, its not part of my gym routine I need to use all the different types of machines!

ME: Yes I understand your  need for the perfect gym body you will just have to put up with the fan if you want to use the machine near to it. I have exercised with a fan on for about 15 years now, and low and behold I am still alive to tell the story!

PSBOLAQ had had enough….before I knew it she had walked off to find the gym manager to report my attempted mass murder by exposing the gym to the small bit of fresh air that a ceiling fan can generate. To think that 2 grown women could not sort out the issue of the fan still annoys me, anyway back to the story, the manager obviously tying to avoid an all out cat fight in his gym tried to appease the both of us and opted to turn the fan to its lowest setting thus finding a happy compromise. So back to our work outs we went and as promised 10 minutes later I had left the area, on my way I did get to see PSBOLAQ dash off her stepper to turn off the fan before some other ‘crazy lunatic’ tried to kill her with some fresh air! I still don’t understand why they have fans there if we aren’t allowed to use them without having all that hassle!

While this scene was unfolding in the gym, I tried to scan the room to see how the other Italians reacted to it (Italians seem to enjoy getting involved whenever there is a “situation”). What I saw was a assortment of reactions…a few sympathetic smiles, a few pretending not to listen, and a few looking at me as if I were the mad hatter.

My question is this, If modern science has taught us anything, we know that colds and flus are transmitted by the spread of a virus or bacteria. Why then, do people still insist that they ride on the magic carpet of a gust of air? It’s going to be a long and very hot summer at that gym…



Source by Danielle Russo

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