Homeopathic doctors will tell you that illness starts as a psychological issue and has to do with your state of mind. Not only. It also has to do with the state you happen to be living in. Life on the peninsula has convinced me that health, in reality, is a cultural variable. Try, for example, to be sick in Italy. Just for the sake of cultural research complain that you have a pounding headache. Say that your eyes are redder than usual or that you have lacerating stomach pains. The closest you will get to sympathy is the ever-present Italian expression used to dismiss the ever-minor medical calamities, “Si vede che hai preso un colpo d’aria - it seems you have been hit by a gust of air.”
If you haven’t been living in Italy long, you might be unaware that air is a dangerous element. Hurricanes and tornadoes aside, you might still think that a little bit of good air can do a body no harm. Think soft summer breezes. Think wind rippling through amber waves of grain. Think open car windows on a summer drive through the country. Now forget about it. Italians will have none of it. According to popular consciousness, un colpo d’aria is the number one bearer of bad health in Italy, and should be avoided at all costs. Mention a dull ache at the back of your neck or a sudden pain in your lower abdomen. The culprit will always be found in the end. And usually air takes the blame as causa causorum of anything from sore gums to strep throat.