It Just Must be Colder in Italy

Italians are funny about cold weather... even slightly cool weather. Whenever we visit Italy, we always seem to be flooded with the usual comments from relatives... "aren't you cold?", "don't forget to take a jacket" or "are you going out like that? You're naked!" Yeah... it's just part of life in Italy. Just take a ride on the metro in Rome during a cool but sunny March day and you'll be sure to see people covered head-to-toe with a cornucopia of scarves, wool coats, hats and more. It's enough to make you break into a sweat. Of course, one of the benefits of the cold are the ubiquitous chestnut sellers (to the left) in the centro storico of Rome. Roaster chestnuts are a traditional cold-weather treat and, just like the famous American Christmas song, a favorite holiday delight.

Italians are also good at blaming sickness on mysterious drafts, slight cooling sensations or even the teeniest bit of damp weather. A friend of ours was visiting Houston from Rome... During August, she became sick with a cold. Her reasoning? She stepped in a small puddle of water when she got out of the shower and must have caught a cold. Yes, the cold-weather plague extends beyond the cool months... it seems there's a little hypochondriac in every Italian (at least every one I seem to know).

Apparently, I'm not the only one who has noticed this tendency. David Gross, in his book Fast Company, makes a similar observation about a colleague at the Ducati factory...

Dino, the curator fo the museum, had a terrible fear of the cold. He began each morning by wrapping himself in layers of thermal protection - undershirts, down vests, sweaters - preparing for the daily zip over to the company on an old scooter that would send his multiple pale yellow and ivory silk scarves fluttering. In autumn, he looked like a late-season bumblebee that had miraculously survived a first onslaught of cold, with his black trousers, striped jumper, puff jacket, and his baldness... Even in the office, he kept his guard up, wary of drafty corners, removing a piece of clothing only as the day wore on and the heating system kicked in.

In Bologna that fleeing gust of seemingly innocent air - a draft - could trigger a rash of illnesses ranging from sore throat to even a slipped disk. It all depended on the atmospheric conditions, which Dino could recount like a precise human weather vane: "Attenzione! The wind has died in the hills. The sea is calm. The Pianura is a mass of still air, a breeding ground for disease."

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