Did you know that the word for Malaria derives from the Medieval Italian term ‘mala aria’ literally meaning, bad air? Perhaps this is why the Italians dislike moving air so much. You will frequently hear them say, ‘che brutto tempo oggi, troppo vento’ the weather is bad today, too windy. But sometimes you need a breeze to cool things down a bit.
This strange obsession became more apparent than ever the other day whilst I was at the gym doing a Push Power class (aka Body Pump). It was rather warm in class that day and yes, I was working hard, as usual, and let’s say, glistening a little, when the instructor decided to close the outside door and leave it slightly ajar at the top (it was one of those multi close patio doors). ‘NO’ I thought. I welcomed the breeze and purposely placed myself right in front of the open door. I turned to my English friend and we laughed about it being too drafty! Then, five minutes later, she fully closed all the doors! I could barely feel a breath of air flowing through the small opening before she closed it, so how could she possibly think it was still too drafty! I commented about her closing the door, then she smiled at me and exclaimed ‘troppo vento’. Seriously? Well, my friend and I couldn’t stop laughing. What made it even more comical (for me anyway!), was the fact that she was glistening more than I was, so why on earth would she choose to be hot and bothered, instead of cooled by the pleasant breeze!
Until that point I hadn’t realised just how much the Italians obsessed about the wind. I think they take the word ‘mala aria’ (now-a-days written ‘mal aria’) to literally mean Malaria which is why it is to be avoided at all costs.
I witnessed another example of this displeasure just recently when I met-up with my business partner and her husband for lunch. We arrived at a café bar together and took a seat outside; it was about 25°C in the shade. I was wearing a light cotton vest top and white linen trousers (well I couldn’t turn up in my shorts, could I!) and she wore jeans, a long sleeved shirt and a jumper over her shoulders. ‘OMG you must be roasting in that’ I thought. Then her husband arrived, wearing pretty much the same, minus the jumper. She shouted to him from across the street, ‘bring your jacket’ (in Italian of course!) but this message was ignored. When he arrived at the table she insisted he return to his car to get a jacket. ‘But it’s hot, I don’t need a jacket’ he replied. Then she came out with those words ‘C’è vento, mal aria!’ Her husband and I just laughed and joked that he must be more British than Italian as he didn’t feel the need to be wrapped up in 25°C temperatures!