Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Italians do it.. better? Why people (women) are so in love with Italy and Italians.

It's hard not to be captivated by Italy's charming towns, superb wines and delectable cuisine.. not to mention its iconic awe-inspiring historical sites. Falling in love with Italy has always been easy. For centuries travelers from all corners of the Earth have been drawn to this diverse country, which truly offers something for everyone, from stylish bustling cities, to the aah... postcard-perfect hills lined with vineyards and olive groves, to vertigo-inducing seaside towns perched on cliffs along the coast.

And just when you think you've seen the most beautiful places and experienced the most unique aspects of the culture, you feel irresistibly tempted to explore more of it.. because you know that an undiscovered whole-in-the-wall trattoria that makes the best fresh ravioli to be enjoyed from its amazing panoramic terrace, is waiting for you just around the corner. And this seductive, magnetic quality is what keeps bringing people back, it's what makes Italy so addictive... a sort of travel-crack.
Before you empty out your dryer with clothes from your last trip, you're already sitting with a cup of coffee in front of your computer looking at airfare.
For some people the fascination with this extremely popular destination does not fizzle out after forcefully showing photos, souvenirs, and telling every breathing being around them about each minute of their so-amazing trip. They are not satisfied with a simple "I'm glad you had a great time.", it just doesn't do it for them. What more could you want? Oh, I see, you want the fairytale.. hmm, where have I heard this before?

I was recently having brunch with a few friends one late Sunday morning and the conversation quickly converged on sharing thoughts about relationships and dating practices between Americans and Italians. After I finished posing a casual question on why Italian men seem to attract American women very easily and chomping on a colossal piece of pancake, my friend, who we'll call "Stephanie", swiftly takes off her shiny Gucci sunglasses, sets them on the table and holds her impeccably manicured hands out in front of me, takes a deep breath, then adamantly says "Listen, Italian men know how to make you feel like a woman. If they want to go out with you, they will ask you, they don't play games. They know what they want and know how to get it - they don't care if you speak Italian or not, if they're interested, they'll find a way to communicate."

Sure, Italians are usually outspoken and will tell you what they want, but is this enough to make them "better"? Some of them don't seem to have a filter.. thus suffering from a sort of "loose verbal squirting" that may seem a little offensive to those who are not used to it. However, they mean no harm and just want you to know what they're thinking (whether you want to or not). This goes for politics, religion, soccer, food, opera, and of course, love. Which makes being a shy Italian awkward, rare, and painfully uncomfortable.. kind of like a pair of tight, stone-wash jeans from the 80's.

Italians, men and women, young and old, are very much driven by the moment and can be spontaneous in organizing their social life. Want to get a quick coffee? Sure. Want to stop and see what Giorgio's doing at the bar? Sure! Want to drive to the beach after work and drive back before dawn? Absolutely. Want to get a gelato and make out in the middle of the piazza? Can't see why not.
Whatever Italians feel like doing, they do it. However, this nonchalance for instant social gratification has often gotten them into trouble. Like the common stereotype of naughty Italian men cheating, which is continuously being reinforced by the media. See for instance our Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, a chronic sufferer of "verbal loose stools" with his on-going collection of love mishaps and embarrassing speeches, somehow seems to become a sad but endearing caricature of things we love and hate about Italy. He's kind of like a cross between Hugh Hefner and Donald Trump.. need I say more?
Anyway, I digress. Let's go back to my brunch..

My "Italiaholic" friend is a sophisticated and attractive woman in her late 30's from North Carolina, a successful business owner who travels to Italy at least three times a year, and is so hopelessly in love with it that she's even thought about moving there. After four failed attempts for long-distance relationships with Italian men, she's still determined that when she finds her Mr. Right, he'll most certainly be from Italy.

"I was Italian in my past life." she says. "I know I belong there."

So what is it about Italian men that when a single girl from America lands in the Belpaese, she feels inspired by so much more than just the site of Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel? (ok, I didn't want to be raunchy and say the leaning tower of Pisa, he he).
Is it the heavy accent and the cheesy romantic cliche's? Is it the designer cologne and the hair? Is it the intrigue of being away from home? Is it the vino? Whatever it is, some people are convinced that somehow Italians do it better.. whether it's love or how they live.

But in Italy there is a stereotype that American women are easy..
"You see Nada, American women are deprived for compliments and attention, that's what they want and that's what an Italian man gives them." explains my Stephanie. Even experts say that a huge turn-on for women is to feel desirable, so for that alone, a good trip to Italy can be seen as great therapy.

On the other hand, Italian men are tired of being given the cold shoulder by local women who've gone cynical and are fed up with hearing their b.s. I mean, how could you blame them for having a chip on their shoulder? After all, the only choices an Italian woman has is either a future of folding laundry and cleaning up after a Mamma's boy, or being single and hearing about it for the rest of her life. Of course, this is Major generalization with a capital M, but it's also quite common for Italian men to be fascinated by American women with their smiling faces, energetic personalities, and curiously colorful fashion..

"American women talk to you, they say hello, they smile, they're not bitter." intervenes my other friend at the table who we'll call "Carlo". "It's easier to approach American girls, because they're friendlier than many Italian women who just ignore you." He's from Italy and has been living in the US for several years now. Our little brunch has now officially become an inter-cultural forum.

"I've been accused of being too needy and overbearing though. American women want their freedom, they're independent, they don't want to give anything up about their social life, work, and other commitments. You say you want attention, but when you get it, it's too much!", says Carlo.

The issues normally arise in an Italian-American relationship when there are difficulties in understanding each other's differences. Woo-hoo! What a revelation (not..)!!

Yes, Italian men have a bad reputation for being womanizers and "wham-bam, Grazie Signora!" kind of guys, but let's not forget that perhaps in the end, we're more similar than we like to think. Do names like Bill Clinton, Tiger Woods, Mark Stanford, David Letterman, Eliot Spitzer, and John Edwards sound familiar?

"You see, it's not just the men, Nada. Italians know how to enjoy life. Everything is an event. They know how to eat, drink, talk with friends. Not only do they value that time, they absolutely make it part of their day. They know how to live.", continues my friend Stephanie.

To conclude, this piece is not about determining who is better, Italian or American.. it's about living the dream.. the fairytale.. the fantasy.

Let's take a moment to remember a scene from "La Dolce Vita" (1960), which could make just about any woman with a pulse melt just like gelato in the August sun..
The smoky, deeply seductive stare of Marcello Mastroianni as he holds a voluptuous Anita Ekberg in his arms while dancing to the tune of "Arrivederci Roma" softly speaking to her:

"You are everything, Sylvia. You are the first woman on the first day of creation. You are the mother, sister, lover, friend, angel, devil, earth, home. That's what you are: home."

Oh yes, the fantasy is still alive and well!

Nada Vergili.

Click here to view the scene from La Dolce Vita.

Enjoy some of my favorite romantic movie clips:

- Even Lady could not resist Tramp's charm with the Italian chefs serenading her..(click here to view the clip)

- How could we forget the carefree ride through Rome with Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck in Roman Holiday? (click here to view the clip)

- And what about Roberto Benigni in La Vita e' Bella (click here to view the clip), taking advantage of each chance encounter to call his love "Principessa"!

So why not give it a shot and see if you can live the fairytale?!
Check out my Girls' Gone Italian trip coming up June 25 and the dream could come true!


  1. If you date an Italian man, he will pay the bill at the restaurant. This is something that often shocks the English women. Italian women are so accustomed to it that neither pay attention to it. Italian men love flirting. They are the best at doing it. That it’s just a one day (or night) relationship or not, he will love you, promise you the world, make you feel the queen of his world. Is that true? If some Italian woman is reading this article she will smile now. We know it’s not. At least, if this happens in the first half an hour. But this is part of their charm I guess. If dating an Italian man, you will get more compliments in one hour that you have received during all your life. But, I must admit, Italians have their charm. And after visiting many countries abroad I probably got why they are worldwide recognized to be the best lovers. So, why don't you visit Italy this summer ?

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