Monthly Archives: April 2013

Italian Life Rules – The Dreaded Draft or a Blast of Air

In no other part of the world is the air as dangerous as it is in Italy. Not because of pollution, although cities like Florence have some of the most polluted air in Europe, but because of the air itself — throughout the country — inside and outside. In fact, it seems to be more risky inside than out. And air conditioned air is the worst of all.

Beauty and protection - Italian women always carry a scarf
Beauty and protection – Italian women always carry a scarf

Tell an Italian that you have any of the following symptoms: headache, sore throat, indigestion, chest pain, toothache, earache, stiff neck; and the diagnosis will be the same — you have been attacked by air. Specifically you have experienced a blast of air or colpo d’aria. The incident of exposure could have lasted for seconds or hours, but must have occurred within the last week to cause your present malady.

The result of the dreaded draft will be a cervicale (sore cervical spine), torcicollo (stiff neck), mal di testa (headache), raffreddore (head cold), or congestione (stomach cramp). These relatively mild ailments could lead to pneumonia indigestion or death.

Even Italian dogs are protected from the dreaded draft
Italian dogs are protected from the dreaded draft

Not being Italian, the tourist is not in danger of contracting any of these ailments from the colpo d’aria. The tourist, instead, will be merely hot because the air conditioning will be off in the car, the train, or the restaurant, or suffocating because the windows cannot be open at night, or in a car, or in a train. Alone in a restaurant, trying to cool down on a sweltering hot August day, it is guaranteed that a group of Italians will arrive and within five minutes ask the waiter to turn off the AC “for their health.” Refrigerated air is considered more peril-filled than fresh air, but night air can claim the unwary sleeper.

Even the political candidates are subject to a colpo d'aria
Even the political candidates are subject to a colpo d’aria

Sweaty bodies are especially at risk, as are children emerging from the ocean onto a blistering hot beach. An Italian mother will always have a sweater, scarf, and socks (cotton in summer, wool in winter) in her humongous purse in case her treasured only child is threatened by air. Any part of the body (knees, liver, hips, gall bladder, heart and lungs), but especially the head and neck, is subject to the dangerous air

Only tourists will risk drying their hair au naturel, either inside or on the street (also a violation of the hair styling rules). Only tourists expose their tummies and shoulders to the errant breeze.

British designer Sibling will not sell well in Italy
British designer Sibling will not sell well in Italy

The benefit, of course, is that Italy produces the most beautiful scarves, sweaters, wraps, shawls, and other apparel in silks, cottons, cashmere and wool to protect the delicate neck and shoulders from the dreaded draft.

But it doesn’t end here. Ask your Italian friends about the saying: Sole di vetro e vento di fessura mandano l’uomo in sepoltura. It seems that sun through window glass and the dreaded draft will send a man to his grave. Beware!


Italian Food Rules: The BookItalian Life Rules (the book) is coming in Summer 2014. Italian Food Rules by Ann Reavis is available now. You can buy Italian Food Rules by using these links:

Amazon. com (U.S.) eBook for Kindle & Kindle Apps

Amazon. com (U.S.) paperback (United Kingdom) (Italy) (Germany) (France)

Barnes & Noble (U.S.) eBook for Nook

Dove Vai? – To Siena to See the Door to Heaven

Experience the extraordinary opening of the Porta del Cielo (Door of Heaven)  – or, at least, Siena’s version of it. From April 6 to October 27, 2013, if you happen to visit Siena, don’t miss this spectacular opportunity.

[Photo Credits: Opera - Civita Group]

For the first time, after extensive renovation, it will be possible to take a tour of the walkways in the vault of the Duomo of Siena. Internal passages, balconies (both inside and outside) and hidden attic spaces will be open to small, guided groups. Until now, these parts of the Cathedral were accessible only to the architects and builders in charge of maintaining the structure over the centuries.

photo credit:

The two massive towers on each side of the façade of the Duomo house spiral staircases that lead up into the roof where there is a series of walkways and rooms that provide astonishing views of both the interior of the Duomo and the city of Siena outside.

[Photo Credits: Opera - Civita Group]

You will be able to look down onto the marble intarsia floor of the main nave and understand its design in a way that until now could only be done through photographs. You will be able to traverse the walkway over the main altar and almost reach out and touch Duccio di Buoninsegna’s stained glass rose window. Finally, you will be able to walk along the balcony inside the dome of the cathedral from which there is a fabulous view of the high altar.

[Photo Credits: Opera - Civita Group]

The visiting itinerary “from above” will thus permit visitors to better understand the dedication of the Cathedral of Siena to the Assumption of the Madonna, and the strong connection the people of Siena have had with their ‘patron’ for centuries: Sena vetus civitas Virginis.

[Photo Credits: Opera - Civita Group]

The exterior views extend over the Basilica of St. Domenico, the Medici Fortress, the entire dome of the chapel of St. John the Baptist and the landscape of the surrounding Sienese hills.

The Door to Heaven Guided Tour (La Porta del Cielo)

6 April – 27 October, 2013

Reservations required: tickets per person €25, groups of max 17 people €400. Tel +39 0577 286300 (Monday – Friday 9am – 5pm) or email:

For all of the details of what to wear and what to consider before taking the tour see the official website.

Friend In Florence Gets a Nod From Dream of Italy

A favorite Italian-interest website (and newsletter), Dream of Italy, just named Friend In Florence and yours truly as one of Italy’s Best Local Tour Guides for 2013. A big GRAZIE to both founder Kathy McCabe and contributing editor Rebecca Winke (also of the fabulous Agriturismo Brigolante Guest Apartments in Umbria).

best-tour-guide-badge-largeOver ten years ago, Kathy McCabe had the brilliant idea of starting one of the first subscription travel newsletter on the Internet. She was passionate about all things Italy so it became Dream of Italy, The Insider’s Guide to Undiscovered Italy. The newsletter was awarded “Best Consumer Subscription Newsletter 2007” and has been recommended by USA TODAY, National Geographic Traveler, U.S News & World Report and BusinessWeek, among other major media outlets.

Kathy McCabe
Kathy McCabe

Through her newsletter and media appearances, Kathy has become well known as the travel expert for Italy. She has helped thousands of travelers “be Italian” for a day, a week, or a month. She was recently voted one of the “12 Top Travel Twitter Personalities for 2012.” She was also the editor for the recently released mobile app – Rome: Dream of Italy.

Kathy’s first-hand Italy reporting has included assisting in the production of buffalo mozzarella in Campania, partaking in truffle hunts in Piedmont and Umbria, soaking in magical hot springs in Tuscany, watching open-air opera in Verona, visiting ancient caves in Basilicata and reviewing Italy’s newest restaurants and hotels. She recently wrote about her visit to Francis Ford Coppola’s new venture, the exclusive hotel Palazzo Margherita in the Basilicata region, for The Huffington Post.

Rebecca’s blog is one of the wryest (and truest) looks at an expat’s life in Italy. When is she going to write that book?

Agriturismo Brigolante Guest Apartments
Agriturismo Brigolante Guest Apartments