Sweating in Italy

The big happening this week was our little “super” vacation to Isola D’Elba.  I say “super” because we’re already on vacation in Lucca and our trips away from here are vacations on top of our vacation.  Anyway, I wouldn’t say that this “super” vacation was “super” from the pleasure standpoint.

First, I should say that we went to Elba to spend a vacation with Andrea Banzi and his family.  Rachel met him in 1980 in Rome and I met him in 1984 in Palo Alto when he came to visit Rachel during his trip to the USA.  I remember liking Andrea very much and one episode demonstrated his generosity and friendliness.  When I admired his Italian shirt, he simply gave it to me.  I didn’t realize at the time that this small gesture of generousity was a sign of things to come.  Later, Andrea and his wife adopted two orphans from India and now they are 11 and 7 years old.  They are great kids.  It was so cool to observe Andrea with them as he is a gentle and wonderful father.  Eventhough he didn’t give me a shirt this time, I very much enjoyed seeing him both in Rome and at Elba.

You could ask then, what was the problem at Elba?  The answer is “sweat.”  I never could have imagined the Italian version of “hot.”  It’s very different from that of Seattle.  In Seattle, we rarely see 85 degrees and when we do, people tend to run from their air conditioned cars to air conditioned buildings.  Even people without air conditioning at home, like us, still do pretty well in Seattle heat as we don’t have humidity.  Therefore, we don’t sweat.

One sweats in Italy.  One would think that the Italians would have developed cute little energy efficient air conditioners.  They have.  Unfortunately, these neat little machines reside on store shelves, but not in apartments and homes.  The italians believe that air conditioning is bad for you.  What?!  I disagree very strongly with this belief system as much as I disagree, respectfully of course, that drinking cold drinks on a hot day is bad for you.  Unfortunately, I can’t change the opinion of an entire country.  As a result of this opinion, our hotel lacked air conditioning, the restaurants lacked air conditioning, the beaches lacked air conditioning.  Perhaps, the mosquitoes have conspired with the Italian government to promote the myth of dangerous air conditioning as they are only too happy to take advantage of the open windows, the only remaining defense we Americans have here against the heat.

I don’t like sweating, never have.  I guess it’s OK when it’s being done for a higher purpose like during a workout.   But then it’s only OK for brief periods followed by showers and not followed by the resumption of involuntary sweating.  As a doctor, I know that sweating is a natural response to the heat.  I still don’t like it.  The skin gets sticky.  It sticks to itself, it sticks to clothes, it sticks to furniture, it sticks to other people.  A light touch from Rose is a miracle without sweat, but a nuisance with sweat.

I thought that Lucca was hot but it has nothing on Elba.  On Elba, I sweated all the time except when I was in the air conditioned car or in the shower.  I sweated walking down to breakfast.  I sweated eating breakfast.  I sweated when Christopher got sick and  threw up on the floor of our hotel bedroom at 3:00am.  I sweated while I slept.  I sweated when I was unable to sleep.  But the grand finale of sweat was while we waited in our car in the bowels of the ferry for 30 minutes, not allowed to turn on the car (and the air conditioning), exposed to the glorious combination of the very hot and humid air of Tuscany and the exhaust fumes of the ferry.  At least there weren’t mosquitoes there, they were killed by the heat.

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