This month, in honor of Valentine’s Day, our COSI‘ blogging troupe couldn’t wait to share their experiences with amore all’italiana (love Italian style). That means that – FINALMENTE – my blog is living up to its name with an article about some SEX! Proceed with caution (and mom, go ahead and close this page now).
So, today, I pay homage to the most quintessential form of modern Italian romance: bumpin’ and grindin’ in a tiny-ass vehicle. Ah, l’amore. Nothing more romantic than that!
In all my days in Italy, I experienced and saw many a strange thing. But the timeless escapade of boy chases girl (or vice versa) takes on a special meaning as a young American expat in Italy. You get gawked at, whistled at, flirted at, mocked at, stalked at and adored – and all on the same street block. It’s almost overwhelming, at first.
My most favorite, overtly inappropriate pickup line of all time: I once stepped onto a public bus and took a seat within view of the driver’s rear view mirror. Without missing a beat, in front of everyone turned around and said: “Complementi alla mamma – ha fatto una meraviglia” (My compliments to the mother – she produced a wonder). Volevo morire (I wanted to die).
As a wise, informed American trying to fit in you realize Italian men make sweeping generalizations about American girls that are often unfair and untrue. But then you remember the drunken scenes in the middle of Campo dei Fiori after midnight and realize maybe they have a point. Sometimes you’re flattered, other times you’re disgusted. And you find yourself thinking, “How do the Italian girls get so much respect from their men?” (10 years later, I can say the answer is amanti [multiple lovers] – but that’s for another post!)
At twenty-three years old, it’s easy for anyone to give the wrong impression – but in Italy, it’s a given. In the minds of Italian men that age, American girls are absolutely certain to give it up immediately, like giving candy to a bambino. In their defense, someone must be proving them right for them to keep up their shenanigans, right? It’s as if they feel they can behave and say anything that they never would to the Italian girls they grew up with.
As a young woman actually attempting to date and have a relationship, it takes a long time to break through that stereotype and create a barrier of respect. Their directness is a jolt to the system, especially compared to their American counterparts. It really is a part of the Italian DNA to romance, flatter, and floor you into seduction.
However, one aspect of Italian culture I’ll never understand is the fixation with doing it in cars. And I’m not just talking about horny teenagers – I’m talking about grown thirty year olds. One of my funniest memories of those early days was being on a double date and deciding to pile four people into a Smart car to ride to the other side of the historical center and “park.” When we finally got there, no one knew what to do since one couple inevitably had to vacate the vehicle. Don’t remember who won that one…
But anyway, why the fetish with getting freaky in a Fiat? Someone, dimmi perche’ (tell me why)!
Ah ha! Here we go again. The answer to this is the same the explains so much about Italian issues: no jobs and/or bad salaries. What does that have to do with anything, you say? Everything. If you can’t work or earn decent money in your twenties, you can’t afford to rent your own shag pad. And, of course, you can’t get busy at mom and dad’s house – so where else can you go for some private time? Buckle up – beep, beep!
Let me tell you: you haven’t lived until you’ve seen a street lined with tiny cars, bumper to bumper, with newspapers plastered against all the windows, bouncing around like no tomorrow. I seriously could not believe my eyes. And I can now attest that the scene is common weekend practice throughout most of Italy (especially in the South).
And you’d think perhaps they’re all a bit embarrassed to be out in the open, all near each other, with no shame. There’s a reason for that, too: they actually all band together for safety, since apparently distracted lone lovers have been targets of thefts in the past.
So, some parting words of wisdom from one hopeless Italian romantic to the next: If the Peugeot’s a rockin’, don’t come a knockin’!
Buon San Valentino a tutti!
Check out the other COSI‘ romantics have to say about amore in Italia (links to be added as their posts are published). And if you’d like to join the conversation, use our hashtag #COSItaly to publicize it!
- Misty of Surviving in Italy – “Valentine’s Day: Seducing your partner the Italian way“
- Rick Zullo of Rick’s Rome – “Gods, Saints, and Other Valentines Myths”
- Georgette of Girl in Florence – “When your Love Story is best answered: ‘It’s Complicated‘”
- Gina of The Florence Diaries – “What it’s Like to Fall in Love with Italy”
- Rochelle of The Unwilling Expat –“Searching for San Valentino”
- Pete of Englishman in Italy – “How Pecora Nera wooed Mrs. Sensible or a Valentie Post“
- Maria of Married to Italy – “6 Italian Slang Sayings”