If you thought that travelling to Italy would be a safe option, you were wrong. There are plenty of unique diseases which still defy science and that exist only in this unlucky peninsula. As there are no vaccines or medicines you can take before your trip, we will try to describe these diseases, as well as give some advice, straight from the locals, on how to avoid them.
This condition does not exist anywhere else in the world, so it’s not possible to provide a proper translation. While strolling through the beautiful Piazzas in the country, you may occasionally see people agonizing in corners, massaging their neck and whispering in pain “cervicale”. Unfortunately this strange mix of back and neck pain has many potential causes which makes it almost impossible to prevent: it can be genetic or caused by the infamous colpo d’aria (see below), by a sedentary life or excessive exercise, a stressful life or one that lacks stimuli, as well as by bad diet, arthritis, bad posture, or your football team losing an important match.
Taking a shower after a training session at the gym or a calcetto (5 a side football) match might seem like an easy task involving basically two items, a towel and soap. Not here in Italy, where you will also need: a pair of slippers to defend yourself from the fungi that have apparently colonized all changing rooms floors; a hairdryer, in order to avoid going outside with wet hair and thus risking the dreaded Colpo d’Aria (again, see below); as well as variety of cosmetics and creams to be applied before leaving the changing room.
While back home you have been able to sip an afternoon cappuccino without any serious consequences, this habit in the sunny peninsula will pose serious difficulties for your digestive system. Indeed, once the clock has passed midday, baristas will look at you with undisguised amazement if you try to order any beverage that involve mixing coffee and milk. Apparently the digestive system is unable to cope with such a load after a certain hour. This may seem arbitrary – and possibly the result of a certain degree of culinary provincialism – while much fatter foods with similar ingredients, such as tiramisù, are apparently welcomed by your digestive system at any time of the day or night.
It would be great if you could have a nice pizza at the beach, wash it down with a milk-free espresso, and then go straight for a refreshing swim, wouldn’t it? Of course it would, except that it would probably kill you. It’s true that some skeptics say that after meal “congestione” has no scientific basis, but most Italians know that you have to wait a certain amount of time – which seems to vary according to the family you were born in, possibly due to different genetic backgrounds – or the cold water will somehow block your digestion and prompt a premature and long-term visit to the local cemetery.
The most dangerous of all the aforementioned threats to your health is certainly the dreaded Colpo d’Aria, the “hit by air”. A badly placed open window at the restaurant, the barbarian use of air conditioning, or not wearing a jacket from September to May, will put you at serious risk of contracting this terrible disease. The list of symptoms is quite wide: you might be lucky and escape with a mere headache or stiff neck, but you could end up with a more serious earache or even a Colpo della Strega, the ”hit by the witch”, an acute lombalgia.
So, if you are planning to come to Italy to experience the joys of the Dolce Vita, be prepared to face more serious problems than the lack of an appropriate medium of exchange in shops and “Latin Lover” police officers. Hopefully now that you are now fully informed of the pitfalls awaiting you in Italy, you will be able to avoid these terrible diseases by adapting your diet to local practice, and wearing winter clothes during the summer, fasting before swimming in the sea and avoiding draughty corridors and rooms. If not, at least you will have the satisfaction of being able to complain about them like a local with the right pseudoscientific terminology.