There are times when you realise you are living in a different country by being here in Italy. This morning was one of those times.
The Messaggero a large national paper here had a piece on the front page about the death of a swimmer at Ostia near Rome yesterday. He got into difficulties after swimming out a way and by the time the rescue boat was called and reached him his body had slipped under the water.
He later washed up on the shore. However it wasn’t the tragedy that caught my eye but the reason given by the police for the death. He, explained the police chief, had eaten lunch and had not waited an hour before entering the water and must therefore have got cramp and drowned. Everyone including the medical man nodded sagely in agreement. Silly boy fancy taking such a chance.
Nobody knows where this particular old wives tale comes from but it is thought it started when parents wanted some time after their own meal before they had to go back to monitoring the kids playing in the sea. However in Italy it is gospel and firmly believed by most of the population and clearly many of the emergency services as well .
Italians have lots of these old wives tales that they all believe with a religious type zeal and are amazed that we Brits don’t seem to suffer from them . They have an intimate knowledge of their bodies and unlike most foreigners can point to where their stomach is and where their intestines are and are therefore able to differentiate between pains. We just get get tummy ache and point to anywhere from ” down there” to the start of our chests.
Ask a Brit how they feel and they will say ” mustn’t grumble” ask an Italian Nonna (Grandmother) how she is and you can sit back and know you will not get a word in for 20 minutes as she list the ailments she is presently suffering.
The biggy down here is colpo d’aria and we are all in terrible danger from it especially during the winter months. It can cause anything from pneumonia to death and is caused by either sitting in a draught or just being exposed to a wind. To prevent it you must dress up warm at all times and many believe you should wear a special woollen vest called a “maglia della salute” (a shirt of health). It is why in October you see people in Martina Franca, on what we would call a very warm summer’s day in the UK, walking about dressed like eskimos with huge puffer jackets and scarves. They are merely warding off an attack from the colpo d’aria just as their mamma before them said they must do.
Nor dare you go outside with wet hair at anytime. This leads to headaches or a chill, or an head cold or worse still the dreaded mystery Italian malady “la cervicale”. La cervicale is something to do with the neck and most italians suffer from it. We Brits are again immune to it as we have no idea what it is and clearly therefore can’t catch it wet hair or not.
There are plenty of other myths down here in Southern Italy as well. Italians don’t touch wood they touch iron ( tocca ferro) and you must touch iron when you see a nun. Not because they are unlucky but because they are associated with hospitals and we all know that once you are in one of those well less said the better. Some locals carry a nail in their pocket just in case they meet one.
Never take flowers when going to an Italian house. Flowers are for death so you will scare the living daylights out of your host by presenting her with a big bouquet of them . Take a plant instead, preferably a yucca which is considered very good luck . Also just in case you were going to don’t take them some peacock feathers either.
Italians believe the number 17 is really unlucky and here you will not find a 17th floor nor often room number 17 in an hotel. Why is it unlucky well it comes from the Romans again the roman numeral for 17 is XVII and as many of you will have already figures out with your knowledge of Latin an anagram of that is obviously vixi . Vixi means ………………………………….come on out with it Smith minor
Yes it means “I have lived” and therefore I am about to die . Amazingly Lufthansa the German carrier in an effort to attract more Italians have done away with row 17 and indeed for many of the rest of us they have done in row 13 as well. They will probably have to start naming their rows if they go on like this . Yes sir you are sitting in lederhosen A .
A funny Southwest Safety announcement to end