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

3 thoughts on “Italian Life Rules – The Dreaded Draft or a Blast of Air

  1. I’ve been missing out on so many Italian rules!! I’ve only read three different rules and my mind is blown. No bread in olive oil? Don’t have it with pasta? Crazy! Thanks for the good cultural guidance!

  2. Ha! This is wonderful, and heaven forbid one should develop a fever! Death might be imminent. I am a new reader to your site, and I am enjoying every word.

  3. I cannot even with the colpo d’aria!! it makes me insane! My boyfriend had strep (a bacterial infection for crying out loud) and everyone, everyone!! said it was because air must have moved near him!! The first time I heard about colpo d’aria I couldn’t believe it could even be a thing. I’m Irish and love a bracing wind. My in laws are Italian and a gentle breeze on a summers day makes them sick. So when someone in the house gets sick we have to close up all the windows. Then when everyone else gets sick, it’s still the fault of moving air. I just cannot.

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