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  • Crazy Love
    It's easy to get lost in the arms of Italy - and an Italian. But modernity and a quickly evolving country are making l'amore downright complicated
    Our Paesani

    by Francesca Di Meglio

    Italy is a dangerous lover. Standing across from the Old Bridge in Firenze with the spring breeze blowing in your hair, your longing heart can't help but respond. Sitting in the sand on Maronti in Ischia, you will feel a passion that you never imagined coursing through your entire body. In Sicily, you'll lose your inhibitions amid the history. Even cold Milan has the power to move all of its chic people with its couture and Duomo. The only thing more beautiful than Italy itself is its people. Really, together - the country and its paesani - can either make or break you.

    Countless visitors fall in love and lose themselves in the land of l'amore. In fact, many of you have written to me saying you've fallen for an Italian - or you wish an Italian would fall for you. But love has never been so complicated for Italians or the people who have desperately surrendered to them. Consider this a warning.

    Last week, the research institute Eures revealed a poll that showed divorce happens every four minutes in Italy, a country that considers itself Catholic. In 2002, about 50,828 couples divorced, a 45 percent increase from 2000, according to the Observer, a U.K. publication. The Eures' poll also showed that mamma's boys - even the ones who marry - tend to divorce more than others. Meddling mother-in-laws was right up there with money troubles, marrying too young, and affairs as the top reasons for parting.

    Italy was already having trouble convincing young men to get married because life at home was too sweet. Having one of the lowest birth rates in the civilized world, Italy is already at risk of losing its population in the relatively near future. Now, the news has arrived that even the mammoni who marry don't stay married.

    Is there hope? Well, Italians definitely still search for love. Some even take courses to learn how to flirt and woo better. Recent reports and studies indicate that Italian patriarchs are starting to do housework - even if just a little bit - to help their wives and improve their lives. And all of you know how convincing an Italian can be when he or she wants you. (Wink! Wink!)

    Sex still rates high on the Italian priority list, even for the unmarried. Living with mom and dad makes it tough to have relations at home, but one town in Italy created a parking lot where folks could have sex in their cars as long as they covered the windows. Various reports have indicated that Italian men have fewer problems performing than those in other countries, and Italian women are generally satisfied with their sex lives.

    If you are in a long-distance relationship with an Italian (like I am), you have hope that things will work out in the end. These courtships can actually be more stable and last longer than traditional relationships between people in the same cities, according to a study by Mary Carole Pistole, an assistant professor at Purdue University. In other words, you don't have to beat yourself up for losing your head - and your heart - on that last vacation to Italia!

    Still, make no mistake about it. Love isn't easy anywhere - not even Italy. Marriage is even harder. The pope has lost control and the traditional values of yesteryear are as antiquated in Italy as the donkeys on old Sicilian postcards. Many Italian men are Peter Pan with no desire for the commitment or responsibility of marriage. Many Italian women are unsure of their role - do I go to work or do I stay home? Am I the Madonna or the whore? Many Italian parents are just fine with all of this because they can keep their children by their side longer, maybe even for as long as they both shall live.

    Italy - and Italians - might still inspire romance, lust, and even love. But they might not be able to sustain it. Through no fault of their own, the world keeps moving around them. It's hard to keep up with the euro and your heart, with the invasion of McDonald's and your heart, with college degrees for both sexes and your heart. It's hard to say good-bye to mamma and even harder to say hello to independence. It's just plain hard period. That's why even Italy and its Italians have stopped romanticizing romance. Now, we just need to stop romanticizing them.

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